One of the strangest and most cursed books in human history
The Codex Rohonczi is a collection of illustrated manuscripts, by an anonymous author, presenting an unknown writing system. The mystery of the Codex Rohonczi begins from the very moment it appeared in the 19th century. At the beginning of that century, the manuscript was donated to the Academy of Sciences in Rohonc, a small town in Hungary (now in Austria) by Count Gusztáv Batthyány, who donated it along with 30,000 other copies from his private library.
No one knows where it was before it belonged to the Hungarian count. There is only one possible reference to this mysterious manuscript in an entry in the 1743 catalogue of the Rohonc de Battahayánys library. That entry refers to a volume of Hungarian prayers whose size and contents seem to match those of the Codex.
Why is the Codex Rohonczi so difficult to decipher?
Since the beginning of the 19th century, many scholars have endeavoured to decipher the Codex Rohonczi.
The difficulty lies in its alphabet, which is unlike any other. While most alphabets have between 20 and 40 characters, the Rohonczi Codex has almost 200 separate symbols that can be seen throughout its 448 pages. In addition, some of the symbols appear very rarely. For all these reasons it is very difficult to use the usual system for deciphering unknown scripts, which consists of replacing the coded symbols with letters of our alphabet.
It has not even been possible to find out the geographical area of origin, and the hypotheses that have been worked out range from Hungary itself to India. It has also been suggested that the symbols depicted are a syllabary or a type of writing similar to Chinese writing based on ideograms.
A hoax or a real Codex?
Because of the complexity of the code used, the impossibility of deciphering it and its uncertain origin, 19th-century scholars engaged in the task concluded that it must necessarily be a 15th-century forgery.
In contrast to the 19th century, today’s scholars believe the Codex Rohonczi to be true. They argue that because of the regularities in the text it cannot be a forgery and that it could possibly be a cipher code, a calligraphic system or an artificial language.
Based on the illustrations and some identifiable characters such as the INRI of the cross, Gábor Tokai in 2010 hypothesised that in some of the chapters the codes of the evangelists can be identified and that they follow the biblical style. Other researchers, following this line, have claimed that the first chapters narrate the Passion of Christ.
Research has recently intensified. Benedek Láng argued that the codex is not a fraud, and that it is a coded text.
It could be a cipher, a system of calligraphy, or an artificial language.
The text complies with the so-called Zipf’s law, which states that “in known languages the length of words is inversely proportional to the number of times they appear”.
Language and hypothetical translations
The language in which it was written is unknown. Hungarian, Dacian, Romanian and others have been proposed.
There have been some attempts to decipher the meaning of the document.
None of the hypothetical solutions has been widely accepted in the scholarly community.
Attila Nyíri in Hungary after studying two pages, turned the pages upside down and converted the symbols into the letters that most resembled them
(sometimes one symbol was equivalent to different letters and vice versa) and then put them together to form words. The resulting text is possibly liturgical.
At the beginning it reads: Eljött az Istened. Száll az Úr. Ó. Vannak a szent angyalok. Azok. Ó.; translation: Your God has come. The Lord flies. Ó. There are holy angels. They. Oh.
Ottó Gyürk criticised Nyíri’s results for his overly permissive method of decipherment, and for assuming that the Hungarian language is descended from Sumerian without possessing much evidence to that effect.
A translation was proposed by the Romanian philologist Viorica Enăchiuc because of its similarity to the Dacian and Danubian scripts (c. 1500 BC). According to this translation, apparently related to Vulgar Latin, early Romanian and written in the Dacian alphabet, it would be the story of the wars of the Blaki (Vlach) people against the Cumans and Pechenegs; it mentions a solar eclipse
(1090 AD); place names and hydronyms such as Arad, Dridu, Olbia, Ineu, Rarău, Dniester and Tisa; as well as diplomatic contacts between Vlad and Alexius Comnenus and between Constantine X Ducas and Robert of Flanders.
The beginning of the chapter (page 244) reads (from right to left, bottom to top): Solrgco zicjra naprzi olto co sesvil cas; translation: Oh, Sun of life let write [what] encompasses time.
Deteti lis vivit neglivlu iti iti itia niteren titius suonares imi urast ucen’; translation:
In great numbers, in fierce battle, fearlessly go, go like a hero. Burst in with great noise, to attack and defeat the Hungarian!
On the one hand, they have criticised Enăchiuc’s method of translating.
Symbols in the same context were converted into different letters so that the original patterns of the code have been lost.
On the other hand, Enăchiuc is criticised as a linguist and historian and her glossary raises doubts about its authenticity, which means that her work does not qualify as scientific.
Mahesh Kumar Singh from India claims that the document is written from right to left and from top to bottom in a variant Brahmi script. He translated the first 24 pages to obtain a Hindi text which he then translated into Hungarian. He concluded that it is a kind of apocryphal gospel which in the prologue talks about the childhood of Jesus Christ. The first two lines read: he bhagwan log bahoot garib yahan bimar aur bhookhe hai / inko itni sakti aur himmat do taki ye apne karmo ko pura kar sake. In Hungarian: Óh, Istenem! Itt a nép nagyon szegény, beteg és szűkölködik, ezért adj nekik elegendő tehetséget és erőt, hogy kielégíthessék a szükségleteiket!. Translation: O my God, here the people are impoverished, sick and hungry, therefore give them sufficient strength and power [so] that they may satisfy their needs.
Singh’s work was criticised in the next issue of the Gazette. His translation lacks consistency and is considered a fraud.
Ancient Hungarian alphabet
Marius-Adrian Oancea considers the codex to deal with New Testament themes, the language of the codex to be Hungarian and the words to be encoded in a version of the Old Hungarian alphabet also known as székely rovásírás or székely-magyar rovás.
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