Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


edited by: Anna Cannavò (translation revised by Melanie Rockenhaus)

  • Introduction
  • Ancient Writing Systems

Cypriot is a dialectal variety of Greek, belonging to the Arcado-Cypriot group, attested in Cyprus from the 11th century BC to the Hellenistic period, and written in the local syllabic script.
The Arcado-Cypriot isoglosses, partially common also to the Cretan and the Pamphylian dialects, have some important common points of contact with the Mycenaean. The most accepted hypothesis is that the Arcado-Cypriot group separated from the Mycenaean during a relatively late phase of this latter, and after the end of the Mycenaean civilisation, spread to Arcadia (in the centre of the Peloponnese) and to Cyprus, after some interactions with the Cretan dialect and the Pamphylian language.
Cypriot, after its introduction to the island, developed some peculiarities that differentiate it from the other Greek dialects:

- Linguistic peculiarities: some aspects are specific to Cypriot, not only in regard to the other Greek dialectal groups or the Mycenaean, but also in regard to Arcadian (for example, as regards the phonetics, the rendering of the labiovelars).

- The adoption of a syllabic script (the Cypro-syllabic script, an evolution of the local syllabic script of the 2nd millennium BC, the Cypro-Minoan script) compared with the adoption, in all the rest of the Greek world, of an alphabetic script, derived from the Phoenician alphabet, in different epichoric variants.

For a detailed description of the Cypriot dialect – phonetic, historical grammar – the best reference today is the work of Markus Egetmeyer, Le dialecte grec ancien de Chypre, Berlin 2010. As concerns the use of the Cypro-syllabic script for transcribing the Cypriot dialect, see the synthesis of O. Masson, Les inscriptions chypriotes syllabiques, Paris 1983 (2nd ed.), p. 68-80.

Ancient Writing Systems

  1. Cypro-Minoan
  2. Cypro-Syllabic