Euboean Greek to Etruscan to Latin.

Nick Kampouris writes about the path the alphabet took on its way to us:

As early as in the 8th century BC, Chalkideans sailed to Italy and established the first Greek colony on the peninsula, the city of Cumae (Κύμη). In what is now an ancient site near the town of Cuma (whose name was derived from ancient Cumae) lies the secret of the creation of the alphabet which is currently used by most of humankind. […]

The Greeks of Cumae spread their Greek culture throughout Italy and introduced the Euboean alphabet, the one their ancestors were using on Euboea, Greece, to the local people. The Etruscans, whose civilization came into direct contact and interrelation with the Greek settlers, were heavily influenced by Cumae and the rest of the nearby Greek settlements. Thus, from approximately 650 BC up until around 100 BC, the Etruscans adopted and used the Euboean alphabet introduced to Italy by the Cumaean Greeks, to create a written form for their own, Etruscan language. […]

The Etruscans, of course, added their own elements, shaping the Euboean alphabet in a way that would suit their own language, thus creating the precursor of the alphabet the Romans would eventually use. […] The Romans, along with their complete conquest of the Italian peninsula, adopted the Etruscan alphabet to use it as a written form of their own, Latin language, which soon became the lingua franca of Italy, eclipsing the Etruscan language and other dialects.

There are more details, as well as some great images and a fair amount of hot air (“The journey of any alphabet or language is far more complicated than we could ever even imagine…”), at the link. Thanks, Trevor!

Comments

  1. Neither “Cuma” nor “Ischia”, mentioned as places in Italy, are shown on the map of Etruscan-era Italy, which is annoying.

    There is also a lot of repetitive waffle like “The alphabet adopted by the Etruscans was almost identical to Euboean Greek, which in its turn, was very similar to the Greek alphabets used at that time in ancient Greece.” (Yes, we already got that.)

    BUT, since I only had a vague idea of how the Greek alphabet turned into the Latin, it was eye-opening for me. Well, perhaps I’d just forgotten, but that’s where this kind of article has its own value. Instead of general statements like “The Romans got the Greek alphabet through the Etruscans”, it focuses on the route, the places, and the time scale. It would have been nice to see more examples of how the alphabet was adapted by the Etruscans and then the Romans (rather than constant repetition of the fact that they “adapted it to their own needs”). But it was interesting to find out (or be reminded) that the split between ‘п ‘ and ‘p’ was due to the Etruscans.

  2. There’s a very neat animation of the evolution of the alphabet here:
    https://imgur.com/TI8cX45

  3. January First-of-May says:

    But it was interesting to find out (or be reminded) that the split between ‘п ‘ and ‘p’ was due to the Etruscans.

    As I understand it, it’s basically that the original Greek letter had one long leg and one short leg (it appears in Unicode as 𐅃 GREEK ACROPHONIC ATTIC FIVE, which is of course just the first letter of the Ancient Greek word for “five”), and the Etruscans started bending the short leg inwards (which resulted in something shaped a lot more like P, though without the join in the middle).
    Sometime around the 2nd century BC, the Greek version got the other leg lengthened, for a symmetric П shape; and in the 1st century AD, the Latin version got its join in the middle, to make the modern P.

    Any further development was reverted in modern times; both Greek and Latin letters (the capitals, at least) are now essentially the same as they were 1900 years ago (despite extensive later variations), aside from a few (particularly in Greek) that got reverted to even older forms.

  4. There is also a lot of repetitive waffle

    You say “waffle,” I say “hot air,” but we’re annoyed by the same thing!

    BUT, since I only had a vague idea of how the Greek alphabet turned into the Latin, it was eye-opening for me.

    Yes, that’s what I was hoping for. It’s got just enough detail to be enlightening if you can get past the waffle.

  5. waffle; hot air It’s journalism.

  6. Aka “paid by the word.”

  7. David Marjanović says:

    in the 1st century AD, the Latin version got its join in the middle

    …which is still absent in some serif fonts.

  8. Trond Engen says:

    … and in the løkkeskrift handwriting I was taught at school.

  9. Paid by the word doesn’t describe any of my freelancing, nor my wife’s salaried journalism. My pieces may have had a set rate for a set length, but if I tried padding with crap, the editor would have just sent it back for revision. I think it’s an unfair insult.

    That tone is likely just what the editor wanted for an audience most of which rarely reads Lanuage Hat.

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