Assemani family were pioneers in Syriac studies

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The name of an illustrious Maronite family of Mount Lebanon, four members of which, all ecclesiastics, distinguished themselves during the eighteenth century in the East and in Europe. For their zeal, learning, and unbounded attachment to the Roman See, they were held in great esteem by the Popes, who conferred upon them many well-merited ecclesiastical dignities and offices. Oriental, but especially Syriac studies owe more to them than to any others; for it was through their researches, collection of manuscripts, and voluminous publications that Syriac studies, and in general the history, hagiography, liturgy, and literature of the Oriental Churches were first introduced into Europe. Therefore they can be justly regarded, if not as the creators, certainly as the most illustrious pioneers, of modern Oriental studies. In this work they were preceded by other Maronite scholars, known to Orientalists under their latinized names of Echellensis, Sciadrensis, Sionita, and Benedictus. To these and to the Assemanis we owe the fact that the characters, vowels, and pronunciation of Syriac, first introduced by them in Europe, were after the so-called Western Syriac, or Jacobite system, and not as would have been more original and correct, of the Eastern Syriac, or Nestorian. This anomaly, however, is easily explained by the fact that, as the Western Syriac system is the one used by the Maronite Church, to which these scholars belonged, it was but natural that they should adopt this in preference to the other. You can read about the four Assemanis in the coming chapters.

 By: ArDO Research Group