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Archaic Letters

Ancient Abecedaries
Wau/Digamma/Stigma (Ϝ, Ϛ)
Koppa (Ϙ, Ϟ)
Sampi (Ͳ, Ϡ)
San (Ϻ)
Regional Variants
Local Variants
Ionic Ascendency
Heta (Ͱ)

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters, the Milesian numeral system has 27. The three additional numeric letters stigma (Ϛ), koppa (Ϟ), and sampi (Ϡ), used to represent six, ninety, and nine-hundred respectively, occur in alphabetic usage and in their archaic forms (Ϝ, Ϙ, Ͳ) in early Greek inscriptions and abecedaries, along with another archaic letter, 'M'-shaped san (Ϻ).

Ancient Abecedaries

Fayum Alphabet
Marsiliana Tablet
Abecedarium of Heraion

The Greek abecedaries below mirror the right-to-left direction of the Phoenician alphabet, from which both the Greek and Hebrew (and) alphabets are derived. Archaic Greek inscriptions variously ran right-to-left, left-to-right, and boustrophedon (back-and-forth, alternately right-to-left and left-to-right), before eventually settling on left-to-right: Writing in the Ancient Mediterranean [pp.10-12].

Fayum Alphabet (9th Century BCE, ca. 800)

The earliest known Greek alphabet is the Fayum Alphabet, a ninth-century BCE (ca. 800) abecedarium found in Egypt inscribed on a set of four copper tablets* shows 'F'-shaped wau following epsilon, with 'M'-shaped san and 'Q'-shaped koppa between pi and rho, but ends at tau. The Fayum alphabet is the only known Greek abecedary to end at tau, mirroring the Phoenician alphabet. All others end at minimum in upsilon.

Fayum Alphabet | Tom Jensen

Fayum Alphabet; Tom Jensen. Source: The Schøyen Collection.1

* Woodard: Four copper plaques, purported to have come from the Fayum in Egypt. Three of the four (two from the Schøyen collection in Oslo and one from the University of Wurzburg Museum) have been examined carefully at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. An analysis of the physical remains reveals the plaques and the alphabets inscribed on them to be of great antiquity but does not permit an exact dating.2

Woodard: The [Fayum] alphabet is epigraphically that it ends in the letter tau (Τ), just as does the Phoenician precursor of the Greek alphabet. It is the only known Greek alphabet which matches the Semitic template in this manner, all others having the vowel letter upsilon (Υ) added after tau ... and may represent the earliest form of the Greek alphabet.3

1. Image: The Schøyen Collection, MS 108: The Earliest Greek Alphabet (n.d.), (accessed ...), Earliest Greek Alphabet | MS 108 (2).

2. Note: Roger D. Woodard, The Ancient Languages of Europe, (accessed 19 November 2018), 2.3.4 The Fayum alphabet, pp. 56-57.

2. Note: Ibid.

Marsiliana Tablet (8th Century BCE, ca. 700)

The Marsiliana Tablet, an eighth-century BCE (ca. 700) Etruscan* abecedarium (from Marsiliana, Tuscany), has wau, san, and koppa, plus the addition of phi, chi, and psi following upsilon (though with phi and chi reversed). The Etruscan alphabet, from the Latin alphabet was derived, was adopted from the Euboean Western variant of the Greek alphabet, which has phi, chi, and psi, but not omega.

Marsiliana Tablet

Marsiliana Tablet. Source: Traveling in Tuscany.1

* Lo: There were many variants of the early Greek alphabet, each suited to a local dialect. Eventually the Ionian alphabet was adopted in all Greek-speaking states, but before that happened, the Euboean variant was carried to the Italic peninsula and adopted by Etruscan and eventually the Romans.2

Bonfante: The Etruscan alphabet derives, like the Latin, from the Western type of Greek alphabets.... On the other hand, the Etruscan alphabet also seems to preserve the traces of a very early Greek alphabet, older in part than the split between ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ Greek alphabets, since it preserves all three Phoenician sibilants....3

1. Image: Traveling in Tuscany, Art in Tuscany (n.d.), (accessed ...), The earliest Estruscan abecedarium, the Marsiliana d'Albegna tablet, which dates to c. 700 VCE.

2. Note: Lawrence Lo, Ancient Scripts, Greek, (accessed 7 October 2018).

3. Note: Giuliano Bonfante and Larissa Bonfante, The Etruscan Language: An Introduction, Revised Edition, (accessed 19 November 2018), The Spread of the Alphabet, p. 52.

Abecedarium of Heraion (7th Century BCE, ca. 660-650)

A seventh-century BCE (ca. 660-650) abecedarium reconstructed from fragments of a mug found in the Heraion of Samos (a temple dedicated to Hera on the Greek island of Samos) shows 'T'-shaped sampi (Ͳ) following omega, but no san.

Heraion of Samos | Hans Walter (1963)

Later reconstruction (1963) with sampi, above, by Hans Walter. Source: Psychoyos.1

Earlier reconstruction (1959)* without sampi, below, by Klaus Vierneisel and Hans Walter. Source: Psychoyos.2

Heraion of Samos | Klaus Vierneisel, Hans Walter (1959)

* Psychoyos: The first restoration of the graffito by Vierneisel and Walter in 1959 reached only as far as Ω and it was only in 1963 that the new publication by Walter restored the real form of this unique find, whose significance has been underestimated: numerous references, even recent ones, that is 30-40 years after its publication, present the abecedarium as ending at Ω and not at Ϡ.3

1. Drawing: Dimitris Psychoyos, The Forgotten Art of Isopsephy and the Magic Number KZ (n.d.), (accessed 04 November 2018), p. 183, Figure 2. The Abecedarium of Samos ending at Sampi (Walter 1963; Je¨ery and Johnston1990: plate 79).

2. Drawing: Ibid., p. 182, Figure 1. The Abecedarium of Samos ending at Ω (Vierneisel and Walter 1959; Guarducci 1967, 1987).

3. Note: Ibid., pp. 182-183.

Wau/Digamma/Stigma (Ϝ, Ϛ)

Mantiklos Apollo

Stigma (Ϛ) evolved from archaic wau (Ϝ) which represented a \w\ sound that disappeared from Greek. It later became known as digamma on account of its double-Γ 'F'-shape, but is properly called wau \wow\ or vau \vow\* though also sometimes referenced as fau \fow\ on account of its 'F'-shape.

* Smyth: Ϝ: ϝαῦ, vau, called digamma (i.e., double-gamma) from its shape...was pronounced like w. ... Vau was in use as a genuine sound at the time the Homeric poems were composed, though it is found in no Mss. of Homer. Many apparent irregularities of epic verse ... can be explained only by supposing that ϝ was actually sounded.1

Hobbs (B-Greek, 1997) [corrected]: The letter-name ‘digamma’ (from its shape) was actually called FAU (to use their spelling), pronounced ‘fow’ (rhymes with ‘cow’); it looked like our letter capital ‘F’, and was pronounced like our letter ‘w’. Later on, as cursive characters came into use, the ‘stigma’ form was pressed into use (as a cursive form of FAU, written F in uncial). Hence, it is usually called by paleographers ‘digamma’ when in an uncial MS., and ‘stigma’ when found in a cursive.2

1. Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges (New York [etc.]: American Book Company, 1920), (accessed ...), 3 and 3 D.

2. Edward Hobbs, Copy of my reply to Pothier, on Numbers, B-Greek Mailing List Archives, 17 August 1997, (accessed 15 February 2007), and ‘Typo’ in ‘End-form Sigma’ post by me. B-Greek Mailing List Archives, 20 August 1997, (accessed 15 February 2007).

Mantiklos Apollo (7th Century BCE, ca. 700-675)

A seventh-century BCE (ca. 700-675) Theban sculpture (from Thebes, Boeotia), the Mantiklos Apollo (detail here and here), spells ἑκηβολοι and χαρίεσσαν (inscribed on its legs in boustrophedon text) with archaic wau as FΕΚΑΒΟΛΟΙ and ΧΑΡΙFΕΤΤΑΝ:

Mantiklos Apollo
Mantiklos Apollo Inscription | Michael Lahanas

Mantiklos Apollo.

Mantiklos Apollo Inscription.
Source: Hellenica World.2

Mantiklos donated me [Μάντικλός μ’ ἀνέθηκε] to the far shooter [ϝεκαβόλοι (ἑκηβολος, far-shooting)],* the bearer of the silver bow [ἀργυροτόξωι (ἀργυρότοξος, with silver bow)], as a tithe [τᾶς δεκάτας] . You, Phoebus (Apollo) [τὺ δὲ φοῖβε] give me [δίδοι] something pleasing [χαρίϝετταν/χαρί[ϝ]εσσαν (χαρίεις)] in return [ἀμοιβάν].

*, † Ἐκηβολος, meaning far-shooting, and ἀργυρότοξος, meaning with silver bow, are Homeric epithets of Apollo from the Iliad.3

1. Image: SHAPES & COLOURS, Mantiklos - Apollo, 6 February 2013, (accessed ...), Apollo, Mantiklos - c.680BC, approx. 20cm high, bronze.

2. Drawing: Michael Lahanas, Archaic Greek Art: The offer of Mantiklos to Apollo, Hellenica World, 23 December 2018, (accessed ...), Facsimile of the Elibaal Inscription.

3. Note: Edwin D. Floyd's Homepage, The Manticlos inscription from near Thebes (n.d.), (accessed ...).

Additional reference: Nick Nicholas, Greek Unicode Issues, (accessed 14 February 2007) (accessed 07 October 2018), Non-Attic Letters, Digamma.

Koppa (Ϙ, Ϟ)

Death of Achilles

'Q'-shaped archaic koppa (Ϙϙ) represented \k\ before ο and υ, while kappa was \k\ before other vowels. Eventually koppa was replaced by kappa before all vowels.*

* Nicholas: Phoenician had a velar plosive, kap̱ (Hebrew kaf, כ), and a uvular plosive, qôp̱ (Hebrew qof, ק). When the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, they took both letters on. Greek does not have a uvular; but the /k/ before back vowels was pronounced slightly retracted, as one would expect: []. So the Greeks spent a couple of centuries writing /ko/ and /ku/ as ϙο, ϙυ; this happened throughout Greece (Jeffery 1990:33). Gradually, though, Greeks realised that [] and [k] are the same phoneme, and should be written as the same letter.`1

1. Nick Nicholas, Greek Unicode Issues, (accessed14 February 2007) (accessed 07 October 2018), Non-Attic Letters, Archaic Koppa.

Death of Achilles (6th Century BCE, ca. 540)

A lost sixth-century BCE (ca. 540) Chalcidian amphora (from Chalcis, Euboea) depicting Greek Ajax fending off Glaucos, Laodocus, and other Trojans following the death of Achilles* (detail here) spells Γλαῦκος and Λεωδόκος (inscribed right-to-left) with archaic koppa as ΓΛΥϘΟΣ and ΛΕΟΔΟϘΟΣ.

Death of Achilles

Death Of Achilles; Andreas Rumpf, Kathleen Vail. Source: Wikimedia Commons.1

* Pharr: Achilles, who has been shot through the heel by Paris, lies dead in the midst of the fray.... In order for the soul of the deceased to obtain rest, it was necessary that the body be buried, or cremated, with the proper funeral rites. If the enemy gained possession of his foe's body, as a mark of the worst he could do, he might give it over to the dogs and birds to devour. ... The Trojans have pounced on his body, eager to drag it within their own lines. Glaucus, one of their number, while attempting to tie a thong on the foot of Achilles, falls mortally wounded by Ajax, who is stoutly defending the corpse. Other Trojans, including Paris, Aeneas, Laodocus, and Echippus, have joined the battle.2

1. Image: AishaAbdel, DeathOfAchilles Rumpf ChalkidischeVasen colorized in the manner of the inscriptions painter, Wikimedia Commons, 18 February 2017, (accessed ...).

2. Note: Clyde Pharr, Homeric Greek: A Book For Beginners (Boston [etc.]: D. C. Heath & Co., 1920), (accessed 23 November 2018), 63. 4., p. 23.

Sampi (Ͳ, Ϡ)

Ephesian Plaque
Nessos Amphora

'T'-shaped archaic sampi (ὡς ἄν πῖ, like pi)* occurs in limited alphabetic usage in place of σσ.

* Smyth: Another s, called san, is found in the sign ϡ, called sampi, i.e. san + pi.1

   Smyth: For 900, ϡ sampi, probably for san, an old form of sigma, + pi.2

   Woodard: It appears that the symbol [ͳ] ... is probably to be identified with the Greek character which would later be called by Byzantine grammarians sampi (ϡ)—so called because it is shaped like pi (ὡς ἄν πῖ).3

Psychoyos: The Ϡ in the Abecedarium of Heraion is the oldest known sampi in Greek inscriptions: all the other appearances of Ϡ in inscriptions are dated after 550 BC. The use of it from then onwards is extremely limited: it has been located in only five inscriptions between 550-450 BC, all of which come from Ionia (Ephesus, Kyzikos, Teo, Erythraea, Halicarnassus) and with a phonetic value [ss] which is noted in the same region by ΣΣ too.4

   Jeffery: Its known period of activity, according to the inscriptions, ranges from ca. 550 to ca. 450; it was apparently given up during the second half of the fifth century (except, of course, in the numeral system), in favor of σσ or ξ.5

1. Note: Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges (New York [etc.]: American Book Company, 1920), (accessed ...), §3.

2. Note: Ibid., (accessed ...), §348.

3. Note: Roger D. Woodard, Greek Writing from Knossos to Homer (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), (accessed 02 November 2018), Ͷ, Ͳ, and San, p. 179.

4. Note: Dimitris Psychoyos, The Forgotten Art of Isopsephy and the Magic Number KZ (n.d.), (accessed 04 November 2018), 3.1. Samos, Poseideion, Athens, p. 183.

5. Note: L. H. Jeffery, Local Scripts of Archaic Greece [LSAG] (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), (accessed 31 October 2018), (i) sampi, p. 39.

Additional References: The Local Scripts of Ancient Greece, Jeffery L.H. and Johnston, A.W. (1990), see "Look inside", Plate 66, 53. Silver Plaque (obverse only); and Plate 79, 7. Ionic Dodekapolis 1a. Graffito on vase, ca.660 - 650. (Jump to Back Cover and scroll up.)

Ephesian Plaque (6th Century BCE, ca. 550)

A sixth-century BCE (ca. 550) Ephesian silver or lead plaque found in the Temple of Artemis (in Ephesus, Ionia) that records contributions of gold and silver spells τεσσεράκοντα [forty] with archaic sampi and archaic koppa as ΤΕͲΑΡΑϘΟΝΤΑ, and τέσσαρες [four] as ΤΕͲΑΡΑΣ.

Fix Me

Inscribed metal plate; David George Hogarth. Source: Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg.1

Fix Me

Metal plate inscription; John H. Kroll. Source: De Callataÿ (2013).2

* Hogarth: pp. 120-121: The fragments [of a thin silver plate] were found partly doubled up, split along the creases, and in very bad condition. Almost all metallic quality has been lost from the silver, and the surface is greatly corroded in many places. Expert cleaners have not ventured to flatten out or rejoin the fragments; but photographs were taken with these as nearly as possible in their relative positions (Plate xiii), and the sounder parts were squeezed with foil. On tracings from these squeezes the facsimile [reconstructed inscription] based, the unsqueezed parts having been copied by hand. ... [The] not give very satisfactory representations of the corroded and crumpled surfaces.3

* Kroll: Long before silver and pure gold were ever minted into coins, they too had served as monetary metals in the economy of western Asia Minor. Documentation on this point comes from IGSK Ephesos 1, the extraordinary opisthographic lead tablet that D. G. Hogarth excavated in fragments from the foundations of the archaic Artemisium at Ephesus in 1904/5. The earliest surviving monetary account in Greek, the tablet records receipts in gold and silver from several revenue sources. ... The tablet was found deep in the foundations of the temple, however, and since it had been folded over without regard to the text, indicating that it was apparently discarded or lost as metal scrap, its inscribing and use ought to date before work on the temple had proceeded very far, if construction had begun at all.4

* Kroll: Hogarth mistakenly assumed that the tablet was made of silver. I am preparing a new publication of the tablet based on examination of it in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.5

* Kroll: Unlike the even mina weights of Side A, some of the weights on Side B are expressed in fractional units below the mina: hemimnaion, stater(es), hekte, and hemihekta. Although the last three of these were later employed as coin weights, they do not here refer to coins.6

* de Callataÿ: Previous practice was to use gold and silver as the means of exchange and units of account. And it still remained the case after the birth of coinage, as proved by the lead accounting tablet discovered at Ephesus (IEph 1) dating to c. 550 BC.7

1. Image: David George Hogarth, Excavations at Ephesus: The Archaic Artemisia (London: British Museum, 1908), (accessed 02 March 2022), Plate XIII: Inscribed Silver Plate.

2. Drawing: François de Callataÿ, White Gold: An Enigmatic Start to Greek Coinage, American Numismatic Society [ANS] Issue 2 (2013), (accessed 23 June 2021), p. 10, Fig. 4: Inscription (IEph. 1) written on a lead sheet.

3. Note: Hogarth, pp. 120-121

4. Note: John H. Kroll, The Monetary Use of Weighted Bullion in Archaic Greece, in The Monetary Systems of the Greeks and Romans, ed. W. V. Harris (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), (accessed 02 March 2022), Fig. 29. pp. 18-20, and Note 22.

5. Note: Ibid., pp. 18-19

6. Note: Ibid., p. 19, n.28

7. Note: de Callataÿ, p. 9

Nessos Amphora (7th Century BCE, ca. 620-610)

A seventh-century BCE (ca. 620-610) Athenian amphora (from Athens, Attica) depicting Heracles/Hercules fighting the centaur Nessus spells Νέσσος with a 'T'-shaped character that may be archaic sampi—is it ΝΕΤΟΣ or ΝΕͲΟΣ?

Nessos Painter | Μαρσύας

Nessos Amphora; Marsyas. Source: Wikimedia Commons.1

1. Image: Marsyas, NAMA Héraclès & Nessos, Wikimedia Commons, 29 December 2005, (accessed ...).

San (Ϻ)

Corinthian Amphora

'M'-shaped san was never contemporaneous with 'M'-shaped mu, nor with sampi. (Where san and mu co-existed, mu was not yet 'M'-shaped.)

San competed with sigma for \s\. In the Phoenician language, sigma and san had different sounds, which the Greeks didn't differentiate. Although the earliest Greek alphabets retained both characters,* in practice the Greeks only used one or the other: areas that used sigma did not use san; Corinth and Crete used san but did not use sigma.

* Nicholas: In Attic, [z] did not have phonemic status; it was an allophone of /s/ before voiced phonemes (Bubenik 1983:80-81). So Greek does not seem to have had a phonemic distinction between /s/ and /z/, to represent with a san as distinct from sigma. What ended up happening is that abecedaria (inscriptions of ABC's) preserved both san and sigma into the sixth century BC—Greeks slavishly repeating what they were taught by the Phoenicians; but actual inscriptions used only one letter, depending on the region: sigma in most of Greece, san in Crete and Corinth. (Jeffery 1990:33 speculates that in those regions /s/ was realised as [z]; Buck 1955:18 admits that the phonetic value of the early Cretan glyph for xi, I, is uncertain.) By the fifth century Crete was the only region that held on to san, and sigma is unattested there (Jeffery 1990:308)—until the epichoric Cretan alphabet yielded to the Milesian.1

1. Nick Nicholas, Greek Unicode Issues, (accessed 14 February 2007) (accessed 7 October 2018), Non-Attic Letters, San.

Corinthian Amphora (6th Century BCE, ca. 550-500)

A sixth-century BCE (ca. 550-500) Corinthian amphora (from Corinth, Argolis) depicting Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the sea monster Cetos spells Περσεύς and Κῆτος (both inscribed right-to-left) with 'M'-shaped san (and 'B'-shaped epsilon) as ΠBΡϺϺ and ΚBΤΟϺ.

Corinthian Amphora | Montrealais

Corinthian Amphora; Montrealais. Source: Wikimedia Commons.1

1. Image: Montrealais, Perseus and andromeda amphora, Wikimedia Commons, 13 June 2009, (accessed ...).

Regional Variants

Archaic Greek alphabets varied by locale, in both number of characters and usage of glyphs. The variances in alphabet length and usage are broadly color-coded* by region: red, Western; light and dark blue, Eastern; and green, Southern.

Greek Regional Alphabet Types | Future Perfect at Sunrise

Archaic Greek Alphabet Types; Future Perfect at Sunrise. Source: Wikimedia1.

The green Southern type alphabets (which included Crete, Melos, and Thera) ended at upsilon. In place of Φ, Χ, and Ψ, they used ΠΗ for [pʰ], ΚΗ for [kʰ], ΠΣ or ΠϺ [pi-san] for [ps], and ΚΣ or ΚϺ [kappa-san] for [ks] (ignoring Ξ).

The blue Eastern types and red Western types extended the alphabet with new glyphs for [pʰ] and [kʰ], but used different glyphs.

Light blue (which included Attica [e.g., Athens]) added Φ for [pʰ] and Χ for [kʰ], and used Ξ, ΚΣ, or ΧΣ for [ks], and ΠΣ or ΦΣ for [ps].

Dark blue (which included Argolis [e.g., Corinth] and Ionia [e.g., Ephesus]) added Ψ for [ps].

Red (which included Boeotia [e.g., Thebes] and Euboea [e.g., Chalkis]) likewise added Φ for [pʰ], but Ψ for [kʰ], and used Χ for [ks] (instead of Ξ for [ks] and Χ for [kʰ]), and ΠΣ or ΦΣ for [ps]. (See ΑΨΙLLΕVΣ and ΕΨΙΠΠΟΣ for Ἀχιλλεύς and Ἔχιππος on the Chalcedian vase above.)

α..νXi (ξ)ο..υPhi (φ)Chi (χ)Psi (ψ)
Southern, GreenΚΣ or ΚϺΠΗΚΗΠΣ or ΠϺ
Eastern, Light BlueΞ, ΚΣ, or ΧΣΦΧΠΣ or ΦΣ
Eastern, Dark BlueΞ, ΚΣ, or ΧΣΦΧΨ
Western, RedΧΦΨΠΣ or ΦΣ

* Wikipedia: These four types are often conventionally labelled as "green", "red", "light blue" and "dark blue" types, based on a colour-coded map in a seminal 19th-century work on the topic, Studien zur Geschichte des griechischen Alphabets by Adolf Kirchhoff (1867).2

Wikipedia: With the exception of the early Fayum alphabet, which does not fit into the tripartite scheme, all abecedaries add Υ to the Phoenician inventory. The green alphabets have only this; the red add Φ for [pʰ], Χ for [ks], and Ψ for [kʰ]; and the blue add Φ for [pʰ], and Χ for [kʰ], with a dark blue subgroup (Corinth and Rhodes) also having Ψ for [ps].3

1. Image: Future Perfect at Sunrise, Ancient Greek epichoric alphabets, Wikimedia Commons, 12 September 2010, (accessed ...).

2. Note: Wikipedia, s.v. Archaic Greek alphabets, (accessed ...), Aspirate and consonant cluster symbols.

3. Note: Wikipedia, s.v. History of the Greek alphabet. (accessed ...), Epichoric alphabets.

Local Variants

François Vase
Gortyn Code
Corinthian Krater

Within the regional variants (i.e., alphabet types), local glyph differences created a range of Greek epichoric alphabets (from ἐπιχώριος, meaning specific to [on] a region or area).

Gamma (γ) could be Γ, Λ, or C. Zeta (ζ) was usually 'I'-shaped. Eta (η) could be used either for consonantal \h\ or vocalic \ay\ and was either Η or 𐌇 or both. Iota (ι) could be 𐌉, reverse-Z, or Σ. Lambda (λ) could be Λ or L. Upsilon (υ) was a 'Y'-shape verging on V. Chi (χ) and xi (ξ) could be, respectively, Χ and Ξ; or Χ and ΧΣ; or + and Σ; or Ψ and Χ (or in the case of the Mantiklos Apollo above, Ψ and ΧΣ):

  • See CLΥϘΟΣ for Γλαῦκος ('C'-shaped gamma and'L'-shaped lambda) on the Chalcedian vase above;
  • Compare 𐌇ΕΡΑΚLΕΣ (𐌇 for consonantal \h\) on the above Athenian vase for Ἡρακλῆς [Heracles/Hercules] vs. 𐌇ΝΕΙΧΤ𐌈ΗΣΑΝ (both 𐌇 and Η for vocalic \ay\) for ἠνείχθησαν [ἀνέχω] on the above Ephesian silver plaque;
  • On the Mantiklos Apollo see ΨΑΡΙFΕΤΤΑΝ for χαρί[ϝ]εσσαν and ΑΡΓΥΡΟΤΟΧΣΟΙ for ἀργυροτόξῳ;
  • See also the hapless François Vase below.

Crete (green) and Corinth (dark blue), both of which used san instead of sigma for \s\, are the most discombobulating epichoric variants, as illustrated by the Cretan Gortyn Code and Corinthian krater below. Crete used a 'Λ'-shaped gamma, 'S'-shaped iota, 'Γ'-shaped lambda, 'C'-shaped pi, and 'V'-shaped upsilon. Corinth used 'Corinthian Beta' for beta and a 'C'-shaped gamma, 'B'-shaped epsilon, 'Σ'-shaped iota, and 'Γ'-shaped lambda.

François Vase (6th Century BCE, ca. 570-560)

The sixth-century BCE (ca. 570-560) François vase (and here) is a many-times broken* Attic krater found in an Etruscan tomb near Chiusi, Tuscany, Italy.

It depicts 270 mythological figures with 121 inscriptions that span the full alphabet, including IEVΣ for Ζεύς ('I'-shaped zeta and 'V'-shaped upsilon) (here) , ΜΕLΕΑΛΡΟΣ for Μελέαγρος ('L'-shaped lambda and 'Λ'-shaped gamma) (here), and ΤΟAthenian ChiΣΑΜ𐌉Σ for Τοξαμις (here).

François Vase François Vase | M. Tiverios, Elliniki Techni

François Vase. Source:

François Vase; M. Tiverios, Elliniki Techni. Source: Classical Art Research Center.2

François Vase | Sailko
François Vase | Sailko
François Vase | Sailko

Detail: Ζεύς; Sailko. Source: Wikimedia Commons.3

Detail: Μελέαγρος; Sailko. Source: Wikimedia Commons.4

Detail: Τοξαμις; Sailko. Source: Wikimedia Commons.5

* Wikipedia: The Francois Vase was discovered in 1844 [by Alessandro François].... It remains uncertain whether the krater was used in Greece or in Etruria, and whether the handles were broken and repaired in Greece or in Etruria. Perhaps the François Vase was made for a symposium given by a member of an aristocratic family in Solonian Athens (possibly for a special occasion, such as a wedding), then broken and, after being carefully repaired, was sent to Etruria.6

   Beazley: [The François vase] was discovered just outside the Etruscan city of Chiusi.... The tomb in which it had been placed had been robbed in antiquity; the robbers had taken the objects in precious metal, but had contented themselves with shattering the clay vase and scattering many of the pieces far and wide outside the tomb. In his search for these, it was estimated at the time that Alessandro François had dug an area equal to that of the Colosseum at Rome. Long after, one of the fragments still missing was turned up by a ploughman; and it is not impossible that others may still come to light.7

   Belozerskaya: On September 8, 1900, a deranged guard attacked the François Vase.... Forty-five-year-old Giuseppe Maglioni, serving as a guard at the Florentine Museum and known for his mental instability, flew into a rage at the director who had reprimanded him for not showing up to work for twelve days. Maglioni drew a knife, stabbed the director three times, then turned his anger on the masterpiece of the collection, throwing a stool at the case in which it was displayed. Crashing to the ground, the vase smashed into 638 pieces.8

1. Image:, abrupt clio team.folder > panorama de l'histoire de l'art.folder, 09 July 2016, (accessed ...), 216[].

2. Image: Classical Art Research Center (University of Oxford), Attic black-figure: François Vase, 24 November 2013,,_cratere_françois,_570_ac_ca._giochi_funebri_per_patroclo_03.JPG (accessed ...).

3. Image: Sailko, Kleitias, decorazione del vaso françois, 570 ac ca., nozze di peleo e teti, 01, Wikimedia Commons, 09 July 2016,,_decorazione_del_vaso_françois,_570_ac_ca.,_nozze_di_peleo_e_teti,_01.jpg (accessed ...).

4. Image: Sailko, Kleitias e vasaio ergotimos, cratere françois, 570 ac ca. giochi funebri per patroclo 03, Wikimedia Commons, 20 March 2014,,_cratere_françois,_570_ac_ca._giochi_funebri_per_patroclo_03.JPG (accessed ...).

5. Image: Sailko, Kleitias e vasaio ergotimos, cratere françois, 570 ac ca. danza degli ateniesi liberati da teseo, Wikimedia Commons, 20 March 2014,,_cratere_françois,_570_ac_ca._danza_degli_ateniesi_liberati_da_teseo.JPG (accessed ...).

6. Note: Wikipedia, s.v. François Vase, (accessed ...).

7. Note: John Davidson Beazley, The Development of Attic Black-Figure, Revised edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), (accessed ...), Three: The François Vase, p. 24.

8. Note: Marina Belozerskaya, Medusa's Gaze: The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farnese (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), (accessed ...), p. 220.

Gortyn Code (5th Century BCE, ca. 450)

The Gortyn Code,* a fifth century BCE (ca. 450) Cretan code of law (inscribed in boustrophedon text) has ΕCSΒΑΓΓΟ𐌍ΤΕϺ for ἐπιβάλλοντες (Beck, line 181); ΑΤΑ𐌌Ε𐌍ΟϺ for ἀταμένος (Beck, line 182); ΔΕΚϺΑΘΑS (δεκσαθαι) for δέξασθαι (Beck, line 185); ΔVΟ for δύο (Beck, line 186); ΚΑΤΑFΕΓ𐌌Ε𐌍Ο𐌍 (καταϝελμενον) for καταϝελμένων [κατειλημένων] (Beck, line 187); ΚΑS for καὶ (Beck, line 189); Α𐌍ΕΒΟϺ (ανεβος) for ἄνηβος (Beck, line 201); and ΕΛΡΑΕ (εγραπσε) for ἔγραψε (Beck, line 201).

Gortyn Code

Gortyn Code; Mykenik. Source: Wikimedia Commons.1

Agora of Gortyn | Marc Ryckaert

Agora of Gortyn; Marc Ryckaert. Source: Wikimedia Commons.2

Gortyn Code Wall; Olaf Tausch. Source: Wikimedia Commons.3

* CREWS Project: Crete ... looks a bit different from other areas of the Archaic Greek world in terms of its written record. It is home to the earliest Greek legal codes, which were displayed on stone in public spaces.... By contrast, we have relatively few of other kinds of text, like graffiti or dedications.4

   interkriti: The Great Inscription lies at the same site where it was discovered 120 years ago, at the Roman Odeum within the central archaeological site at Gortyn. It is housed in a small vaulted brick construction, built by the Archaeological Service in 1889. Visitors can now view it through an iron fence. The inscription is hewn on ashlar blocks, which were initially built into another circular building, possibly the public Ekklesiasterion (boulefterion or law-court) of the Archaic and Hellenistic period.5

† For a transcription of the Gortyn Code, see Jana Beck, The Law Code of Gortyn: The Text and a Commentary on Its Morphology and Syntax (2010),

1. Image: Mykenik, Gortyn1, Wikimedia Commons, 28 August 2007, (accessed ...).

2. Image: Marc Ryckaert, Gortys R02, Wikimedia Commons, 15 June 2009, (accessed ...).

3. Image: Olaf Tausch, Gortyn 6, Wikimedia Commons, 19 June 2007, (accessed ...).

4. Note: Pippa Steele, The Dolphin Stone and the Cretan Alphabet, CREWS Project, 24 November 2017, (accessed 11 November 2018).

5. Note: interkriti, Gortyn Ancient town: Gortyn Inscription (n.d.), (accessed ...).

Corinthian Krater (6th Century BCE, ca. 2nd Quarter)

A sixth-century BCE (ca. 2nd quarter) Corinthian krater has 𐌇ΣΠΠΟ𐌌ΑΧΟϺ (ηιππομαχος) for Ίππόμαχος; ΚBΡΣΟ𐌍ΑϺ* (Κεβριονας) for Κεβριόνης; 𐤎Α𐌍ΘΟϺ for Ξάνθος, ΔΑΣΦΟ𐌍ΟϺ (Δαιφοvος) for Δηίφοβος; ΠΟΓΥΞB𐌍Α (Πολυξενα) for Πολυξένη; and KA𐌍ΔΡΑ (Κεσανδρα) for Κασάνδρα.

Corinthian Krater | Teegee

Corinthian Krater; Teegee. Source: Teegee: Essays.1

* Note: For an additional example of the Corinthian beta, see 𐌇ΣΠΠΟCorinthian BetaΑΤΑϺ (ηιπποβατας) for ἵπποβάτης on note, dwg and partial transliteration of 131.10 NC 482 in the L.H. "Anne" Jeffery Archive at Oxford University's Poinikastas website (stylized as CΟS𐌍SΚΑϺΤΑϺ in Cretan script).

The Scythian Phoenix: Scene: An old man [Πριαμος (Priam, King of Troy)] and a woman [Ϝεκαβα/ΗΕΚΑΒΑ (Hecuba, Queen of Troy)] to r. are facing a warrior [Εϙτορ/ΕΚΤΟΡ (Hector, son of Priam and Hecuba)]. Behind his back two women to r., [Αινοι] and [Κιανις], are facing a quadriga to l., of which only one horse is named [Ϙοραξς/ΚΟΡΑΞ (raven or crow)]. Beyond the horses there are two unnamed women to r. facing a warrior [Ηιππομαχος (Hippomachus)]. In the chariot there is the charioteer [Κεβριονας (Kebriones, illegitimate son of Priam)] and behind the chariot an unnamed warrior seems to be about to climb up. Behind his back there are two white horses to l., of which one is named [Ξανθος (Xanthus)], and the other carries a horseman, next to whom a warrior is standing, also facing l.; only one of these two men is named, viz. [Δαιφονος (Deiphobus, son of Priam and Hecuba)], written under the horse. They are being followed by two women [Πολυξενα (Polyxena, daughter of Priam and Hecuba)] and [Κεσανδρα (Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba)]. On the other side there are three youths on a black, a white, and another black horse, respectively. The middle horseman is named [Ϝιονις/ΙΟΝΙΣ], the label starting behind his back and running down the horse’s back and tail.2

1. Image: Teegee: Essays, To Punctuate the Series, 22 November 2011, (accessed ...), Louvre E 638.1

2. Note: The Scythian Phoenix, Making Sense after Rudolf Wachter V. (Corinth 3.), (accessed ...), @ COR 70.

Ionic Ascendency

Athens formally adopted the Ionian alphabet for official usage by act of law ca. 403 BCE,* dropping alphabetic wau and adopting Ξ for ΧΣ, Ψ for ΦΣ, Η for long Ε (dropping Η for \h\), and Ω for long Ο.

By 300 BCE the epichoric Ionian alphabet was standard across the Greek world. (The Euboean variant, from which the Latin alphabet evolved, leaked into Italy before that occured.)

* Wikipedia: In 403/2 BC, following the devastating defeat in the Peloponnesian War and the restoration of democracy, the Athenians voted to abandon the old Attic alphabet (Pre-Euclidean alphabet) and to introduce a standardized variant of the eastern Ionic alphabet, after a proposal by archon Eucleides. This Euclidean alphabet included eta and omega, which concluded the process of adapting the Phoenician script so that all vowels could be written systematically, thus becoming the first 'true' alphabet.1

   D'Angour: The Decree did not introduce a radical innovation to the practice of Athenian writing per se, but proposed simply the official adoption of a form of the Greek alphabet already widely used for some decades on inscriptions and perhaps standard since much earlier times in literary manuscripts in Attica.2

Wikipedia: The classical twenty-four-letter alphabet that is now used to represent the Greek language was originally the local alphabet of Ionia. By the late fifth century BC, it was commonly used by many Athenians. In ca. 403 BC, at the suggestion of the archon Eucleides, the Athenian Assembly formally abandoned the Old Attic alphabet and adopted the Ionian alphabet.... By the end of the fourth century BC, it had displaced local alphabets across the Greek-speaking world to become the standard form of the Greek alphabet.3

1. Note: Wikipedia, s.v. History of the Greek alphabet, (accessed ...), Standardization – the Ionic alphabet.

2. Note: Armand D'Angour, Archinus, Eucleides and the Reform of the Athenian Alphabet (1999), (accessed ...), p. 110.

3. Note: Wikipedia, s.v. Greek alphabet, (accessed ...), Archaic variants.

Heta (Ͱ)

On the "Phoenician Letters": The Case for an Early Transmission of the Greek Alphabet from an Archaeological, Epigraphic and Linguistic Perpsective:as much as 33 different versions of the alphabet have been distinguished

Wikipedia: The absence of a letter for [h] was of no consequence for the Ionic dialects, but sometimes led to ambiguities in Attic, which had retained the sound. A symbol based on the left-hand half ( ├ ) of the letter Η was therefore sometimes used to indicate the presence of [h] where necessary, and its absence was indicated by a symbol based on the right half.

Nick Nicholas: 5. Greek /h/.

Nick Nicholas' Unicode proposal.

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