Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


edited by: Emiliano Fiori (translation revised by Melanie Rockenhaus)

  • Introduction
  • Ancient Writing Systems
  • Further information

Syriac is an Aramaic dialect belonging to the so-called late Eastern branch, to which Mandaic, Jewish-Babiylonian Aramaic and Manichaean Aramaic are classified as belonging as well. The origins of Syriac are in the region of Edessa, Osrhoene, in Northern Mesopotamia. Its earliest written examples are of non-literary nature, in stone inscriptions, incantation bowls, bills of sale etc. The first Syriac literary corpus is commonly thought to be the Peshitta, i.e. the “simple”, the “common” version of the Old Testament, likely compiled by the Edessene Jewish communities and dated to the end of the 2nd/beginning of the 3rd century CE. The collection of 42 “Odes of Solomon”, classified among the Old Testament apocrypha, can be dated to approximately the same time: they are already very refined on a stylistic level. In the 4th century, Syriac reached the form which is known as “classical Syriac”. First expressions of it are the poems and prose works by Ephrem the Syrian and the Demonstrations of Aphrahat. In this literary form Syriac would remain a language of current use until the 13th - 14th centuries, in a great number of writings, mainly of religious content.

Ancient Writing Systems

  1. Syriac

Further information

  1. Bibliography