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EIRENEN.

RAGOUSI HELLENICALPHABET ITSORIGINS,USE,ANDEARLYFUNCTIONS

ThePhoenicianswhocamewithCadmusamongstwhomwere theGephyraeiintroducedintoGreece,aftertheirsettlementin thecountry,anumberofaccomplishments,ofwhichthemost importantwaswriting,anarttillthen,Ithink,unknowntothe Greeks.Atfirsttheyusedthesamecharactersasalltheother Phoenicians,butastimewenton,andtheychantedtheir language,theyalsochangedtheshapeoftheirletters.Atthat periodmostoftheGreeksintheneighborhoodwereIonians; theyweretaughttheselettersbythePhoeniciansandadopted them,withafewalterations,fortheirwonuse,continuingto refertothemasthePhoeniciancharactersaswasonlyright, asthePhoenicianshadintroducedthem.TheIoniansalsocall paperskins[papyrus]asurvivalfromantiquitywhenpaper washardtoget,andtheydidactuallyusegoatandsheepskins towriteon.Indeed,eventodaymanyforeignpeopleusethis material.InthetempleofIsmenianApolloatThebesinBoeotia Ihavemyselfseencauldronswithinscriptionscutonthemin Cadmeancharactersmostofthemnotverydifferentfromthe Ionian.1

But[Kadmos],bringinggiftsofvoiceandthoughtforallGreece, madetoolsthatechoedthetongue,minglingvowels[ (thingsthatexistinisolation)]andconsonants[(things thatconnect)],allinarow[]ofintegratedharmony. Heroundedoffagravent[]modelofspeakingsilence, havinglearnedtheancestralmysteriesofthedivineart.2

1 2

Herodotus,5.5860(trans.byA.D.Selincourt). Nonnos4.25964(trans.byB.C.Powell).

Alphabetisaformofwritingwhoseelementsrepresenttheactualsoundsof thespokenword.Thealphabeticsigns,whichrepresentsinglephonemes,when combined,translatetheaural,invisibleelementsofhumanspeechintographic, visiblesigns.3Thefirstalphabeticscriptdevelopedinthelateninthorearly eighthcenturyBC,formingtheHellenicalphabet.Thegreatmajorityofthesigns ofthisalphabetwereadoptedbythePhoenicianscript,aWestSemitic consonantalsyllabary.4Whichwasprobabledevelopedinca.1000BC.5 However,therevolutionarycharacteroftheHellenicalphabetwasachieved throughsomephoneticalterationsoftheexistingsignsandtheadditionofnew signs.WhereastheSemiticsyllabarywasexclusivelyconsonantal,theHellenic scriptevolvedintoaphoneticwritingwiththealterationoffivePhoenician consonantsintovowels.Inadditiontothat,foursignswereaddedphi(),psi (),chi(),andomega()tocoveralltherangeofsoundsintheHellenic language.6Thesealterationsandadditionsformedthefirstalphabet,which managedtocreateavisualrepresentationofallthephoneticelementsofspeech. SomescholarshavesuggestedthattheHellenicalphabetwasformedto facilitatethewritingofpoetry,intheeightcenturyBC.7Ontheotherhand, historicalandarchaeologicalevidencerevealthatthedevelopmentofthe Hellenicalphabetfacilitatedexchangeandcommercialactivities.Theinitial
3I.J.Gelb,AStudyofWriting(Chicago:UniversityofChicagoPress,1063)248;B.B.Powell,Homerandthe OriginoftheGreekAlphabet(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1991)2. 4Syllabaryorsyllabicwritingisawritinginwhichasignnormallystandsforoneormoresyllablesofthe language.Gelb,StudyofWriting,253. 5ForthedevelopmentoftheHellenicalphabetanditsforerunnersseeGelb,StudyofWriting,16683;R.S. Stroud,TheArtofWritinginAncientGreece,inW.M.Senner,ed.TheOriginsofWriting(Nebraska: UniversityofNebraskaPress,1989)10319;esp.11311;R.Harris,TheOriginofWriting(Illinois:OpenCourt PublishingCompany,1986);Powell.HomerandtheOrigin,68118;E.Havelock,TheLiterateRevolutionin GreeceandItsCulturalConsequences(Princeton:PrincetonUniversityPress,1982)6088. 6Stroud,ArtofWriting,113. 7L.A.WadeGery,ThePoetoftheIliad(Cambridge;CambridgeUniversityPress,1952)1114;K.Robb,The PoeticSourcesoftheGreekAlphabet,inE.Havelock&J.Hershebell,eds.CommunicationArtsintheAncient World(N.York:HastingsHouse,1978)2326;Havelock,LiterateRevolution;A.AchnappGourbeillon, Naissancedelecritureetfonctionpoetiqueungrecearchaique:quelquespointsderepere.AnnalesESC 37(1982):71423;Powell,HomerandtheOrigin.

functionoftheforerunnersofthealphabetthewordsyllabicandsyllabic scriptswastofacilitatealmostexclusively;administrativeandcommercial accounting.Inadditiontothat,theactualpatternoftransmissionofthe PhoenicianscriptinHellasandthefurtherdiffusionoftheHellenicalphabetin ItalyandinPhrygiarevealstheassociationoftheMediterraneancommercial networkwiththedevelopmentandtransmissionofthealphabetinthelateDark andArchaicAge.Finally,themajorityoftheearliestHellenicinscriptions illustratesproprietorialconcern,8pointingimplicitlytothecommercial functionofthenewscript.Thustheorigins,patternsoftransmission,andthe earlyusesofthealphabetsuggestthattheHellenicscriptwasformedtofacilitate exchangeandcommercialtransactions. ThecontroversyovertheoriginalfunctionoftheHellenicalphabetstartedin 1949andcontinuesintothe1990s.IntheJ.H.Graylecturefor1949,H.T.Wade Gery,stressingtherevolutionaryphoneticaccuracyoftheHellenicscript, suggestedthatthealphabetwasformedasanotationforHellenicverse.9This suggestioncametochallengetheolderviewthatstatedthattheinitialpurposeof thealphabetwastofacilitatetherisingcommercialactivitiesinthe MediterraneanbetweenHellenesandPhoeniciansintheeighthcenturyBC.10 AlthoughtheinitialreactionoverWadGeryssuggestionwasnegative,it finallygainedsupportersovertheyears.Examiningtheimportanceoforality andoralcompositioninarchaicHellas,E.Havelockconcludedthatthephonetic accuracyofthealphabetservedtopromoteagreaterdegreeofmemorizationof oralrecitation:
A.Johnston,TheExtentandUseofLiteracy:TheArchaeologicalEvidence,inR.Hagg,ed.TheGreek RenaissanceoftheEighthCenturyBC:TraditionandInnovation.ProceedingsoftheSecondInternational SymposiumattheSwedishInstituteinAthens,15June,1981(Stockholm;PaulAstromsForlag,1983)67. 9WadeGery,PoetoftheIliad,1114. 10A.MSnodgrass,TheDarkAgeofGreece(Edinburgh:EdinburghUniversityPress,1971)7884;Johnston, TheExtentandUseofLiteracy,6367;W.Harris,AncientLiteracy(Cambridge,Mass.:HarvardUniversity Press,1989)45.
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Weshouldratherask:giventhefactthattheepicenjoyeda purelyauditoryexistence,memorizedandrepeatedorally, whatwaslikelytobetheoriginalmotiveforbringingthis contrivedlanguageintocontactwiththesignsofthealphabet? Themotivewasmnemonic,aresponsetothesame psychologicalpressurethathadinspiredandgovernedtheoral technique;thealphabeticsignsofferedasupplementtothe energiesrequiredformemorization.Thisamountstosaying thatalphabetizationwasoriginallyafunctionoforalrecitation; thetwowereintermingled.11

Furthermore,K.RobbsuggestedthatthecreationorvowelsintheHellenic scriptwasassociatedwiththeirimportantfunctioninmeter.Thedactyl,the Hellenicepicmeterthatisformedbyalongsyllablefollowedbytwoshort syllablespresupposestheneedforbothconsonantandvowels.12Thus,according toRobb,alphabetizationwastheoriginalfunctionofepiccomposition:


ThepoeticunitinGreekepicmeteristhedactyl,whichis constitutedbyalongsyllablefollowedbytwoshortsyllables (uu).AtrootthenGreekmeterisafunctionofthesequence ofconsonantandvowel,sothatitisthevalueofthevowel,in itselfandinrelationshiptoaconsonant,whichdetermines whetherasyllableislongorshort.Itfollowsthattheonething towhichanadequatewrittenrecordofsuchalinecouldnever beindifferentisthesequenceofthevowels.13

Finally,B.Powellformulatedatheorythatholdstheepichexametricpoetry exclusivelyresponsibleforthedevelopmentoftheHellenicalphabet.The scholaradoptedtheviewofmonogenesis,whichstatesthatthealphabetwas adopted,developed,andtransmittedinitiallybythesameindividual.In additiontothat,hestressedthefactthatagreatnumberoftheearlyalphabetic inscriptionsrecordhexametricverses,sothatheassociatedoralpoetrywiththe

Havelock,ThealphabetizationofHomer,inTheLiterateRevolution,180. Robb,PoeticSources,2336. 13Ibid.,29.


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developmentofthealphabet.14Thus,holdingPalamedes,alegendaryfigure associatedwiththeintroductionofmanyinventionsincludingthatofwriting inHellas,astheactualadapterofthePhoenicianscript,Powellclaimedthatthis individualdevelopedtheHellenicalphabetinordertorecordtheHomericepics:


Behindfiguresofheroiclegendoftenstandrealmen.Asfor Palamedes,theGreeksespeciallyknewonethingabouthim:he wassocleverthathedevisedawaytowritedownGreek speech.InPalamedeswemayhavefoundtheadaptersvery name.Wecannotseparatedtherecordingofearlyhexametric poetryfromHomerHomersanghissongandtheadapter tookhimdown.Fromthismomentouseventcameclassical Greekcivilizationanditsachievements.15

Nevertheless,althoughthetheorywhichholdsalphabetizationtheoriginal offspringoforalitytheoralcompositionhasbeengradualelaboratedoverthe years,itstillleavesmanyimportantquestionsunanswered:whytheforerunners ofthealphabetwerealmostexclusivelyemployedinadministrativeand commercialaccounting?WhytheadoptionofthePhoeniciansignsandthe transmissionofthealphabettookplacealongtheancientMediterraneantrade routes?WhyalphabetizationoccurredthesametimethattheHellenicworld reenactedandexpandeditscommercialactivities?Whythemajorityofthe earliestalphabeticinscriptionsrecordownership?Theanswerstoallthese questionsrevealanexplicitassociationbetweenalphabetizationandpatternsof exchangeintheancientMediterraneanworld.Thusthispaperwillexaminehow theorigins,patternsoftransmission,andearlyusesofthealphabetrevealthat theoriginalfunctionoftheHellenicalphabetwastofacilitateexchange. ThesyllabicscriptsandforerunnersofthealphabetLinearA,LinearB,and thePhoeniciansyllabarysharedacommonfunction.Theywereallusedalmost
Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,11986;idem,WhywastheGreekAlphabetinvented:TheEpigraphical Evidence,ClassicalAntiquity8.2(Oct.1989):32150. 15Idem,HomerandtheOrigin,23637.
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exclusivelyinadministrativeorcommercialaccounting.Thepalacecentered economyoftheMinoanandMycenaeancivilizationswasstructuredarounda highlydevelopedadministrativesystemwhichrecordedtheincoming commoditiesintothepalacesandthedistributionofgoodsinthesurrounding areas.16HencethebureaucracyoftheMinoanpalacescouldnothavebeen achievedwithoutthedevelopmentofascript,whichmadepossiblethepalace bookkeeping.SurvivinginscriptionsinLinearA,17ascriptthatdevelopedoutof thelinearpictographicinCreteinthesecondmillenniumBC,revealtheexplicit useofthisscriptinrecordinglistsofobjects,commodities,andpersonnel.18 Similarly,themajorityofthesurvivinginscriptionsinLinearB,19theofficial scriptofMycenaeanpalacesinthesecondhalfofthesecondmillenniumBC, includelistsofcommoditiesandaccountsandrecordtheincomingandthe sendingoutofcommodities.20 TheexclusiveuseofLinearAandBintheMinoanandMycenaeanpalace administrativeaccountingcanalsobeattestedbythecompletedisappearanceof theuseofthesescriptsafterthedestructionoftheMinoanandMycenaean palaces.ThedestructionofKnossos,thecentralpalaceofMinoancivilization,in 1380BC,andtheburningoftheMinoanpalaceofPyloswerefollowedbythe completedisappearanceofLinearA.Accordingly,thedestructionofthe MycenaeanpalacesobliteratedLinearB.ThusthedevelopmentofLinearAand BwasexclusivelyassociatedwiththedevelopmentoftheMinoanand Mycenaeanpalacebureaucracies.Whenthepalacesandwiththemtheneed
16ForthepalacecenteredeconomyoftheMinoanandMycenaeancivilizationsseeD.B.Small, HandmadeBurnishedWareandPrehistoricAegeanEconomics:AnArgumentforIndigenous Appearance,JournalofMediterraneanArchaeology3.1(1990):325. 17Linearwritingwasaformofwritingusinglineardesignsornonrecognizablepicturesassigns. 18Stroud,ArtofWriting.106. 19LinearBwasalinearwritingdevelopedoutofLinearAwithwhichitsharesalargeproportionofits signs.Itemploys90signstorepresenttheGreekvowelsandcombinationsofaconsonantandavowel. Stroud,ArtofWriting,108. 20Ibid.,109.

foradministrativeaccountingweredestroyed,theuseofthesescriptsseizedto exist:
Literacyendedwhenthe[MinoanandMycenaean]palacesand allthatwentwiththem,particularly[when]account keepingended.Itprobablydisappearedalmostovernight.21

WhereastheMinoanandMycenaeaneconomiesdependeduponthepalace bureaucracies,andtheadministrativeaccountingwastheworkoffewofficial whoknewtheexistingscripts,Phoenicianeconomywasdevelopedaroundthe commercialactivitiesofindividualtraders.Intheabsenceofacentral administrativebureaucracy,theindividualtraderswereresponsibleforthe recordingoftheirpersonaltransactionsandthekeepingoftheiraccounts.This increasedthenumberofpeopleinvolvedinaccountingand,accordingly,the numberofpeoplewhoshouldknowhowtouseascript.ThePhoenicianscript, whichdevelopedduringaperiodofincreasingPhoenicianinvolvementin commercialtransactionsintheMediterranean,wassimplerinitsusethanthe complexMinoanandMycenaeanscripts.Thiswouldhaveenabledmore individualstolearnandemploytheWestSemiticscript,makingpossiblethe processofbookkeepingandtheindicationofownershipbythePhoenician traders. TheHellenicarchaiceconomiesweredevelopedalongthesamelines.Inthe absenceofpalacebureaucracies,afterthedestructionofthepalacecentered economiesandthedisappearanceofcommercialactivitiesandofwriting, patternsofexchangereemergedinthelateDarkandearlyarchaicHellas,when individualstooktheinitiativetotrade.Thisbroughttheneedforthe developmentofascriptthatwouldfacilitatetransactionsmadebyindividual traders.SincetheMediterraneantraderoutesintheninthandeighthcenturies
21

S.Dow,TheCambridgeAncientHistoryII.13rded.Cambridge;CambridgeUniversityPress,1973)605.

wereprimarilycontrolledbyPhoeniciantraders,22itwasinevitablethatthe tradersfromHellaswouldcomeintocontactbothwithPhoeniciansand eventuallywiththeirscript.ItwasalsoinevitablethattheHellenictradersor craftsmen,whocametoknowthefunctionsofthePhoenicianscriptand borroweditssings,wouldalsoadoptitsfunctionsincommercialactivities. TheborrowingofthePhoenicianscriptbytradersofcraftsmenfromHellas haslongbeenestablishedbothbythesurvivingancientsourcesandbystudiesof linguistsandhistorians.23Meanwhile,themajorityofscholarsagreethatthe adaptionoccurredinthelateninthorearlyeighthcenturyBC.24Scholarsalso agreethattheactualplaceoftheadoptionhadtobeacommercialcenter,where HellenesandPhoeniciansintermingled. Amongthemanysuggestionsreferringtotheplaceofadoptionofthe PhoeniciansignsbytheHellenesandthedevelopmentofthealphabetmost possiblearetheislandsofRhodes,Crete,andCyprusandthetradingcolonyat alMinainnorthSyria.However,recentarchaeologicalevidencesuggeststhat Cyprus,anislandsituatedontheEastWestMediterraneantraderoutesandone ofthemajorgradingcentersintheMediterraneanworldintheninthandeighth centuriesBC,shouldbeconsideredastheactualplaceoftheadaptionbyvisiting tradersfromHellas,whocreatedthealphabetinordertofacilitatetheir mercantiletransactions. ThisprocesspresupposesPhoenicianandHelleniccoexistenceintheplaceof theinitialadaptionandknowledgeoftheHellenicpopulationofthePhoenician script,sothattheywouldhaveexplaineditsusetothevisitingtradersfrom
S.Sherratt&A.Sherratt,TheGrowthoftheMediterraneanEconomyintheEarlyFirstMillenniumBC, WorldArchaeology24.3(1992):36169. 23Herodotus5.58,Nonnos4.25964;F.Cross,TheOriginandEarlyEvolutionoftheAlphabet.EretzIsrael 8(1967):824;L.Jeffery,TheLocalScriptsofArchaicGreece(Oxford;OxfordUniversityPress,1961)512; Powell,HomerandtheOriginoftheAlphabet,13;Stroud,ArtofWriting,11011;Havelock,TheLiterate RevolutioninGreece,187. 24Stroud,ArtofWriting,11415;Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,1820.
22

Hellas.ArchaeologicalexcavationstestifytotheexistenceofbothHellenicand PhoeniciansettlementsonCyprus.TheHellenicsettlementsdatebackasearlyas theBronzeAge,whilePhoeniciansettlementsontheislanddatetoasearlyasthe ninthcenturyBC.Thesecanbeattestedbytherecentfindingsofalateeleventh centuryBCbilingual,Cypriotsyllabary25andanearlyninthcenturyBC bilingual,CypriotPhoenicianinscriptiononCyprus.26Meanwhile,recent excavationsontheislandhaverevealedaPhoeniciansettlement,datedtothe ninthcenturyBC.27Duringtheperiodoftheadaption,Hellenes,especially Euboeans,wereinclosecontactwithCyprusanditsHellenicandPhoenician settlements.Inadditiontothis,itisimportanttonotethatintheHellenic Cypriotsyllabarythereweresignsforthedesignationofvowels,indicatinghow theideaofanexclusivelyphoneticscriptcouldhavebeenachieved.Therefore, theHellenicpopulationofCyprus,whoknewboththeCypriotandPhoenician scripts,taughtvisitingHellenesboththePhoenicianscriptanditsmercantile functionaswellastheemploymentofphoneticelementsinwriting.Then,the visitingHellenes,adaptingthePhoeniciansingsintheirnewformasexclusively phoneticelements,createdthealphabetandspreaditalongtheirtravels:
TherecentdiscoveryofaCypriotsyllabicinscriptionofthelater eleventhcenturyatPalaipaphos(Kouklia)goessomewayto closingthegapthatexistsbetweenthesyllabariesoftheBronze AgeandofthedevelopedIronAge.Greekspeakersarrivingin theninthoreighthcenturyatPaphosorSalamis,orevenKition, AmathousorKourion,wouldseewritingandbetold,inGreek, ofitsuses;suchwritingwouldbebothsyllabicGreekand quasisyllabicPhoenician.ThefactthatthevisitingGreeksthen adoptedthePhoeniciansignsmaybeexplainedbythefactthat

ThyCypriotscriptwasaHellenicsyllabarysimilartothelinearsyllabicscriptsoftheMinoanand Mycenaeans. 26Johnston,TheExtentandUseofLiteracy,66;Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,13. 27Johnston,TheExtentandUseofLiteracy,66;L.Jeffery,LocalScripts,8.


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theyhadmoredynamicdealingswiththeeasternersthanwith theindigenousGreekspeakingpopulation.28

Thepatternsofthefurthertransmissionofthisnewphoneticscriptinthe eighthcenturyBCindicatethatthesevisitingHellenesweretradersfromEuboea, oneofthemostflourishingHellenicregionsandfounderofthemajorityofthe HelleniccoloniesintheeighthandearlyseventhcenturiesBC.Inadditionto that,itsfastspreadalongtheestablishedtraderoutesofthisperiodrevealsits importantmercantileroleintheeighthcenturyBCpatternsofexchangeinthe Mediterraneanworld. Lefkandi,aprominentcityonEuboeaintheeighthcenturyBC,istheplace wheretheearliestalphabeticinscriptionhasbeenfound,datedtoca.775BC.29 OnNaxos,aneighthcenturyBCEuboeancolony,whichheldstrongtrade connectionswiththerestoftheCycladesaswellaswithCyprusandwiththe PhoenicianLevant,archaeologicalexcavationshavebroughtintolightan inscribedsherd,datedtoca.770BC.30Furthermore,Pithekoussai,colonyoftwo EuboeancitiesKhalkisandEretriaandsituatedonthemodernislandof IschiainthebayofNaples,hasproducedmanyinscriptionsonpottery,datedto ca.750BC.AmongthesefindingstherewasalsothefamouscupofNestor(ca. 740BC),mentionedintheIliad,31whichhasathreelinemetricalinscriptiononit similartothatdescribedintheIliad.32Similarly,AtticaandthecityofAthens, whichhadcloseculturalandcommercialtieswithEuboea,haveproduceda greatmajorityoftheearlysurvivinginscriptions,amongwhichthefamous

Johnston,TheExtentandUseofLiteracy,66. M.Popham,L.Sackett,&P.Themelis,eds.,LefkandiI:TheIronAgeintheBritishSchoolatAthensSuppl.11 (197880):12. 30B.Lambrinoudakes,AnaskapheNaxou,Praktica(1981):29395. 31HomerIliad11.63141. 32Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,15;Snodgrass,DarkAge78;A.Graham,TheCambridgeAncientHistoryIII.3 2nded.(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress,1982)99100.


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DipylonOinochoedatedtoca.740BC.33Finally,atCumae,acityontheItalic mainlandacrossthebayofNaples,settledbyEuboeans,Boeotians,andcolonists fromPithekoussai,excavationshaverevealedtheearliestexamplesofEtruscan writing,datedtoca.700BC.34Thesealphabeticinscriptionsindicatehowthe Etruscans,thenativepopulationofItaly,whotradedwiththeHellenicsettlers, borrowedtheHellenicalphabetandlaterbequeathedittotheRomans.35 Similarly,AeoliansfromCumaetransmittedthealphabettothePhrygiansonthe coastofAsiaMinorthroughtrade.36 Therefore,allthesepiecesofevidenceindicatetheexplicitassociationof EuboeaandEuboeantraderswiththeadaptionandtransmissionofthealphabet alongtheestablishedtraderoutesintheeighthcenturyBC.Thisalsoimplies thatsincethealphabetwasdevelopedandtransmittedbytraders,itwouldhave initiallybeenemployedbythemforthefacilitationoftheirmercantileactivities inthisperiod. Thelastevidencethatimplicitlyrevealstheoriginalmercantilefunctionofthe alphabetcomesfromthenatureoftheearliestsurvivingalphabeticinscriptions. Ithasbeenargued,asstatedintheearlypagesofthispaper,thatthemetrical characterofasignificantpartoftheearliestinscriptionssignifiesthat alphabetizationwastheoriginalfunctionoforalcomposition,andthusthatthe alphabetwasformedtorecordoralpoetry.37Inordertosupportthistheory, Powellhasdoneasystematicstudyofagreatpartofthesurvivingepigraphical evidence.38

Coldstream,GeometricPottery,358;Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,15. Jeffery,LocalScripts,23637;Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,15. 35Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,1617. 36Ibid. 37Seepp.36above. 38Powell,WhywastheGreekAlphabetInvented,32348;idem,HomerandtheOrigin,164.


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Powellsstudyahsshownthatmanyoftheearlyinscriptionswereindeed writteninhexametricverseamongwhicharethecupofNestorfrom PithekoussaiandtheDipylonOinochoefromAthens:


IamthecupofNestor,ajoytodrinkfrom.Whoeverdrinksthis cupstraightwaythatmanthedesireofbeautifulcrowned Aphroditewillseize.39

Whoeverofallthedancersnowdancesmostfriskilyofhim this40

Nevertheless,themajorityoftheearliestepigraphicalevidencerecordsthe writingofisolatedletters,namesorpartsofnamesaswellasthewritingof phraseswhichindicateownershiportheagentofmanufacture.41Thussingle namesandphrasessuchasIorthisbelong(s)toXorXmademeorIam plusanouninthegenitiveanotherindicationofownershipmakethe majorityofthesurvivingepigraphicalevidence.42Eventhetwometrical inscriptionsstatedabovedocontainalsophraseswhichindicateownership.The phraseIamthecupofNestorbelongsintheinscriptionsoftheformIam plusanouninthegenitive,whereastheindicationofhimthisonthe DipylonOinochoebelongsintheinscriptionsoftheformIorthisbelong(s)to X. Ontheotherhand,metricalinscriptionsseemtocomeafterthesecondhalfof theeighthcenturyBC,whereastheinscriptionsfromthefirsthalfoftheeighth centuryBCindicatealmostexclusivelyownership.Theremainingepigraphical evidence,whichstateseitherthenameofadeityoranofferingtoagod,or recordsacurse,indicates,whetherimplicitlyorexplicitly,property.Inscriptions
Jeffery,LocalScripts,236;Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,164. Jeffery,LocalScripts,1516,68,76;Powell,HomerandtheOrigin,159. 41R.Thomas,KeyThemesinAncientHistory;LiteracyandOralityinAncientGreece(Cambridge:Cambridge UniversityPress,1992)5859;Johnston,TheExtentandUseofLiteracy,63,67. 42Jeffery,LocalScripts,238;Thomas,LiteracyandOrality,5859.
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thatstatesomeformofthewordgodindicatedivineproperty;theofferings, whichareintheformXdedicatedthistoy(god),indicatetheinitialownerand thefinalreceptor.Thusbothformsdeclareownershiphumanordivineand signifyatypeofexchange.Finally,inscriptionsthatstateacurseserveasa protectionofproperty:IamthelekythosofTateie;maywhoeverstealsmebe blind.43 Therefore,themajorityoftheearliestsurvivingepigraphicalevidencereveals preoccupationwiththeindicationofownershipeitherasanattempttolabel propertyorasaformofadvertisement,orasawaytoprotectproperty.Though noneoftheseformsofwritingindicateinanexplicitmannerthemercantile originalfunctionofthealphabet,theinscriptionsthatindicateownershipdo manifestthecloseassociationofthealphabetwithpatternsofexchangesince exchangeitselfpresupposesownership.Moreoverthelabeling,advertising,and protectionorownershipfacilitatesexchange. Theabsenceofearlyinscriptionswithrecordsofcommoditiesorrecordsof accountingmayappearasanindicationofthenonmercantilefunctionofthe alphabet.However,reviewingthesurvivingLinearAandBinscriptionsand examiningthenatureoftheemployedwritingmaterialintheeighthcenturyBC revealsthattheabsenceofsuchinscriptionsdoesnotnecessarilyindicatethat theyneverexisted. ThesurvivingLinearAandLinearBBronzeAgeinscriptions,whosescripts wereemployedalmostexclusivelytorecordtheadministrativeaccountingofthe MinoanandMycenaeanpalacecenteredbureaucracies,wereinscribedon unbakedclay.44Thisindicatesthattherewasnointentionfromthepartofthe palaceadministrativeofficialstopreservethesetablets.Ontheotherhand,the
43 44

Stroud,ArtofWriting,103. Stroud,ArtofWriting,109.

factthattheseinscriptionswerefinallypreservedwasaccidental.Thetablets thathavesurviveddowntouswerefoundinBronzeAgesiteswhichhadbeen destroyedbyfirepalaceofPylos,45afactthatledtotheiraccidental preservationsincetheclaywasbakedbythefire.Furthermore,thesurviving tabletsweredatedbymonths,notbyyears.46Thesepiecesofevidence,coupled withthefactthatallofthetransactionsrecordedonthemhadtakenplaceinthe currentyear,47suggestthatrecordsoftransactionsandlistsofadministrative bookkeepingwerekeptfromonemonthtooneyearatthemostandthenwere destroyed.Therefore,ifthecomplexpalacebureaucraciesweredestroyingtheir accountsafterthepassingofayear,theindividualtradersofthearchaicperiod wouldhavepreservedtheirsforthesameperiodoftimeor,morepossible,for lessthanayear. ScholarshavealsosuggestedthatinthelateDarkandearlyArchaicAges, sincepapyruswashardtoget,48informalwritingwasinscribedonwaxedtablets andpotsherds,49whereasmoreformalwritingwasinscribedonpotteryand stone.Archaeologicalevidencehasrevealedthatwaxedtabletswereindeed usedbytheEtruscansandPhoeniciansintheseventhcenturyBC.50Thus,if therewasnointentionbytheindividualtraderstopreservetheiraccountsfor morethanayear,theiraccountswouldhavebeeninscribedonperishable materialsuchaswaxedtabletsandpotsherds,whichmayexplaintheabsenceof recordsandaccounts.Finally,itshouldalsobekeptinmindthatwhat archaeologicalexcavationhasrevealedthroughouttheyearsdoesnotnecessarily

Ibid.,103,109. Ibid.,109. 47Ibid. 48Herodotus5.58. 49Thomas,LiteracyandOralityinAncientGreece,67. 50Ibid.


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formacompletelistofallthealphabeticinscriptionsduringtheexamined period. Althoughfurtherfindingsmayofferadditionalinformationabouttheoriginal functionofthealphabetandmayalsohelptoclearthecontroversies,theexisting materialindicatesthattheHellenicalphabetwasinitiallyformedinorderto facilitateexchange.Orality,memorization,andthusaneedofmnemonicdevices characterizedallancientsocieties,notonlyHellas.Thusmemorizationcouldnot havebeenresponsibleforthedevelopmentoftheHellenicalphabet.Onthe otherhand,theCypriotsyllabarydesignatedvowelslongbeforethealphabet did.Hence,ifthealphabetwasdesignedtorecordepicpoetry,which presupposesthecreationofvowels,theHelleneswouldhavedonesoby modifyingtheCypriotsyllabary.Finally,theoriginsofthealphabetandthe functionofitsforerunnersinadministrativeandcommercialaccountingaswell asitspatternsoftransmissionalongthetraderoutesoftheeighthcenturyBC anditsoriginalfunctioninthelabeling,advertising,andprotectingproperty suggestthatthealphabetwasformedinordertofacilitateexchangeinthe growingcommercialtransactionsintheeighthcenturyBCMediterraneanworld.