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The inscription of Nestor's Cup, found in Ischia; Cumae alphabet, 8th century BC.
Distribution of "Western" alphabets is marked in red after Kirchhoff (1887).
The Marsiliana abecedarium (ca. 700 BC) shows an archaic variant of the Etruscan alphabet practically identical to the Western Greek alphabet, except for the presence of a Ξ or Samek, and shape of Z still close to Phoenician zayin.

The Cumae alphabet was a western variant of the early Greek alphabet, used between the 8th to 5th centuries BC. It was specifically used in Euboea (including the towns of Kymi and Chalkis) and the areas west of Athens, especially in the Greek colonies of southern Italy. It was this variant that gave rise to the Old Italic alphabets, including the Latin alphabet. In Greece it was replaced by the standard Greek alphabet, which is based on eastern Ionic Greek variants from the 4th century BC.

Contents

Letter inventory

  • shown in the following diagram,
Cumea-01.jpg
  • expressed in standard (Ionic) Greek letters,
Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ϝ Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ο Π Ϻ Ϙ Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ

i.e. including digamma (Ϝ), san (Ϻ) and qoppa (Ϙ), but lacking Ξ and Ω. Of these, Δ was written more like Latin D. Σ is actually the Western variant, taken from Phoenician shin, as opposed to Eastern lunate sigma Ϲ. In some variants, Ρ resembled Latin R.

Some letter values were different from those of the Eastern variant: Η was the consonant [h] (as in Old Attic), and Χ was [ks], the value taken by Eastern Ξ, while Ψ was [kʰ], the value of Eastern Χ. Apart from the omission of samek (Ξ) and the addition of ΥΧΦΨ, the alphabet is identical to the Phoenician alphabet. Υ and Χ were introduced as variants of waw and samek respectively, so that Φ and Ψ are the only genuinely Greek innovations.

Sources

  • Helmut Engelmann. Die Inschriften von Kyme (=Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 5). Bonn, 1976. ISBN 3-7749-1418-4

See also

External links

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