Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


- first half of the 4th B.C. - first half of the 1st centuries B.C.

Online resources

Web sites of general interest

  1. Wikipedia - Osci
    Page of the Italian Wikipedia, which offers a sufficiently valid outline of the Oscan people and also gives some bibliographical indications.
  2. Herentas' key
    Tourist site with detailed information drawn from the site of the town of Tufillo about the archaeological discovery commonly called "Herentas' key" (represented by a key with an Oscan inscription on it) which was found in the territory of Tufillo.
    Amateur site, quite well made especially in the bibliographic section and very useful for information about the Samnites.
  4. Temples and sacred places
    Amateur website in Italian which is quite interesting and full of curiosities although not all the sections are updated on a regular basis and are well functioning. The site is divided into three parts (Archaeology, Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy). The most interesting and maintained is Archaeoastronomy which, besides a list of the workshops and the cultural activities organised by S.I.A. (Società Italiana di Archeoastronomia), includes the section “Sacred buildings of the past” in which there are peculiar insights on the sacred places in ancient Italy and on the temples of the peoples of Oscan language concerning the relationship between astronomy and building orientation.
    Site in Portuguese which contains general information on Oscan, elements of phonology, information about inscriptions. There is also an interesting table comparing the symbols of the Etruscan, Campano and Sabine alphabets, and a mini-glossary for the Oscan language.
  6. The Samnites
    Site made under the patronage of the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Molise, which, although not updated recently, offers a broad view on the Samnites, with particular sections on the people, religion, language, weapons and so on, all with an ample bibliography.
  7. Wikipedia - Oscan language
    Page on Italian Wikipedia on the Oscan language, with history, classification, elements of phonology, information on the inscriptions, bibliography and links with some mini-dictionaries of Oscan and sites containing summary reports of the alphabetic symbols of Oscan in different graphic variations.
  8. Hypotheses on the Oscan lexicon
    Word list in Oscan accompanied by a number of possible translations, both in Italian and in English, the editor of which is unknown. The different translations result from many possible hypotheses derived by the Oscan current knowledge but they are neither certain nor unambiguous. The link is meant to give an idea of a possible Oscan lexicon.
  9. Omniglot - Old Italic Alphabets
    Online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages: the page is devoted to the alphabets of ancient Italy, with very brief commentaries and a few errors in the transcription and attribution of the letters.
  10. Encyclopedia Britannica
    Short encyclopedic entry in English devoted to the Italic languages.
  11. Enciclopedia Treccani online
    Encyclopedic entry devoted to the Oscan-Umbrian language group.
  12. Enciclopedia italiana
    Encyclopedic entry devoted to the Samnites, edited by Giacomo Devoto (1936), with contents on language and epigraphic documentation.
  13. Romano Impero
    Page on Samnites on a site containing historical information on Rome and its empire, with content of varying quality, but often useful and well-informed. It may also be worthwhile to consult the general page on Italic peuples.
  14. Oscan language (Glosbe)
    Short encyclopedic entry on Oscan as part of an open-access online dictionary built by combining data from various sources on the web.
  15. Summa Gallicana
    Page in Italian and English devoted to "Osci or Oscans," within a rather heterogeneous encyclopedic lexicon edited by Elio Corti, whose texts are mostly taken from Wikipedia.

Online documents

  1. Didramma da Nuceria
    Amateur site, rather inaccurate, which contains the photo of a didramma found in Nuceria, with a coin legend in Oscan characters on both the front and the back giving information about Nuceria.
  2. Istituto di Studi Atellani
    Amateur site of an institute founded by Prof Sosio Capasso, an admirer of the territory of ancient Atella. Aside from the real scientificity of the contents, the site has the advantage of offering a number of curiosities about the Campania area, especially about ager atellanus. It also offers pdf versions of both a number of ancient sources that are directly or indirectly related to Campania and works by amateurs on the Atellan and neighbouring territories. Slightly more interesting among the latter is the work of Prof Capasso himself, which makes a careful and sometimes personal excursus of the Oscan-speaking population using direct and indirect sources, from those of ancient historians and geographers, widely mentioned, to modern historians and archaeologists. There is particular attention given to linguistics in the perspective of the phonetic, morphological and lexical peculiarities which are still present in the dialects in the South of Italy. Beyond the personal interpretation, the work is interesting because it gives a broad overview of this population and an important, even though dated, bibliography. The pdf linked here is the work “Gli Osci nella Campania antica”.
  3. Il sannita by A. L. Prosdocimi
    Comprehensive and structured article of considerable interest written by A. L. Prosdocimi entitled Il sannita and published in Studi sull'Italia dei Sanniti, Rome 2000, pp. 208-213, in which, in addition to precisely indicating the main characteristics of the languages of ancient Italy, the relationships of dependence and kinship are also illustrated, linking the different Italic languages to each other, with a conclusive hypotheseis on the development of Samnite.

Institutions, centers for study and research

  1. Titus
    Titus (acronym for Thesaurus Indogermanischer Text- und Sprachmaterialien) is a website dedicated to Indo-European languages in general and presents a bibliography on Italic linguistics as well as some examples of texts written in Oscan and in Umbrian. In addition, you can download free fonts for these languages and it offers some interesting hyperlinks.
  2. Project on the Constitutions of ancient Italy in the pre-Roman age
    ARCAIT - ARchivio delle Costituzioni Antiche in ITalia - is the upgraded version of the website FWF, funded by the Austrian Institute "Fonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung" and dealing with the Constitutions of ancient Italy in the pre-Roman age. The old site offered a rich bibliographic selection concerning the constitutions, the courts, the political institutions and the communities of ancient Italy as far as they can be rebuilt starting from the epigraphic data. This upgraded version contains both additional sections and further documents which can be consulted. ARCAIT is now an interdisciplinary tool for bibliographic research, study and in depth information on the political and constitutional history of the communities in ancient Pre-Roman and Roman Italy and Sicily (about 8th century BC - 4th century AD). The site is structured into three sections (bibliographic, documentary and image archives) which include a modern bibliography (more than 9000 titles), literary and epigraphic documentation and images (photos and maps) about the communities of ancient Italy and Sicily on specific historical, political and institutional topics. The project is housed at the Institute of Roman Law of the University of Vienna and continues to be directed by Prof. Loredana Cappelletti.
  3. Sanniti. Archeologia dell’antico Sannio
    Site devoted to Samnite archaeology and created under the auspices of the Superintendence of Molise. A special section is devoted to the language and a specific page on the Agnone Tablet can be found. The page on the Oscan language can also be found at this link.
  4. The Oscan Alphabet
    Page devoted to the writing systems in use to note the Samnite languages, with graphic content drawn in part from the Mnamon portal, as part of a larger collection of open data devoted to archaeology.
  5. Province of Campobasso
    Historical popular page in the official website of the province of Campobasso devoted to the events of the Samnite period, with particular regard to the Pentri and Frentani: a special section is dedicated to the Oscan language with brief historical and epigraphic information.


  1. Samnitium
    Site of Samnite Archaeology by G. De Benedittis offering updates on some issues concerning Sannio and Samnite archaeology. Where there are the words "WRITE IN SANNITA", there is also the possibility to download the font to write in Oscan alphabet.
  2. Oscan inscriptions
    The site, although it presents comments containing interpretative conjectures of the documents and somewhat dated conclusions, has the merit of showing a fairly good gallery of famous inscriptions in Oscan with historical information, photographs, transcriptions, interpretive conjectures and bibliography.
  3. Article by Cesare Letta
    Article by Cesare Letta on the links among the Italic peoples after an examination made on the basis of Origines by Cato. This article contains a very rich bibliography of historical, archaeological and linguistic nature on the Italic people.
  4. Article by Ugo Fantasia
    Article by Ugo Fantasia in which the relations between Sicily and people speaking Oscan are evident.
  5. Georg Friedrich Grotefend, Rudimenta linguae Oscae (1839)

  6. Jacob Henop, De lingua Sabina (1837)

  7. Carl Richard Lepsius, Inscriptiones Umbricae et Oscae (1841)

  8. Adolf Kirchhoff, Das Stadtrecht von Bantia (1853)

  9. Ludwig Lange, Die oskische Inschrift der Tabula Bantina und die römischen Volksgerichte (1853)

  10. Philipp Eduard Huschke, Die oskischen und sabellischen sprachdenkmäler: Sprachliche und sachliche erklärung, grammatik und glossarium (1856)

  11. Sophus Bugge, Altitalische Studien (1878)

  12. Georg Philipp Eduard Huschke, Die neue oskische Bleitafel und die pelignische Inschrift aus Corfinium (1880)

  13. Robert von Planta, Grammatik der oskisch-umbrischen Dialekte (1892)

  14. Lionel Graham H. Horton-Smith, Two papers on the Oscan word anasaket (1897)

  15. Robert Seymour Conway, The Italic dialects (1897)

  16. Carl Darling Buck, A grammar of Oscan and Umbrian: with a collection of inscriptions and a glossary (1904)

  17. Ugo Fantasia, Entella, Etna, Galaria. Greci e non Greci in Sicilia fra Dionisio I e Timoleonte (2003)

  18. Gianluca Tagliamonte, L’iscrizione CIE 8806 da Vico Equense (2010)
    Scientific paper published in the Proceedings of the conference in tribute to Paola Zancani, Montuoro, Sorrento e la penisola sorrentina tra Italici, Etruschi e Greci nel contesto della Campania antica, edited by Felice Senatore and Mario Russo, Rome 2010, pp. 103-121.
  19. Matteo Calabrese, Lingua e cultura degli Enotri alla luce dell'iscrizione paleoitalica di Tortora. Dissertation (2014-2015)

  20. Palaeohispanica
    Open-access online publication of the proceedings of the international congress Lenguas y culturas epigráficas paleoeuropeas. Retos y perspectivas de estudio (Rome, March 13-15, 2019): the Sabellian language and writing systems are treated in the essays by Paolo Poccetti (403-494), Daniele F. Maras (923-968) and Ignasi Xavier Adiego (1017-1065).
  21. L’osco, questo strano conosciuto
    Good quality popular paper on the Oscan language and its related writing systems.
  22. Parole osche nel dialetto salvanese
    Short popular contribution of local interest that seeks to identify some Oscan etymology in the dialect of San Salvo (CH), without a real scientific basis (in many cases the words are common to several central-southern Italian dialects).
  23. The language of the Samnites
    Very brief page on the language included in a historical section in a site devoted to Samnnium enterprises for the purpose of a cultural digression.
  24. Tuttostoria
    Popular page devoted to the Samnites in a site devoted to Italic history, with content of varying quality.
    Collection of titles and publications on Italic languages and writing systems, in many cases accessible to registered users of the site: registration is free and the collection is progressively updated by new contributions from scholars registered on the portal. Research on other related topics is available as needed: for example, specifically on the Oscan language, one can consult the collections: or

Museums and collections

  1. museoarcheologiconazionale.campaniabeniculturali - Epigraphic collection
    Official site of the National Archaeological Museum in Naples with an important epigraphic collection, including a number of documents in Oscan language.


  1. Bibliography on the Samnites
    Ample and precise bibliographical review compiled by the Historical Association of Medio Volturno from Piedimonte Matese (CE), and in this particular case by the member Mario Nassa, showing a bibliography of the Medio Volturno area which is integrated with national and foreign texts referring to the entry word Samnites.
  2. Bibliography on magistratures and political institutions of Italic peoples
    Large, diverse and rich site edited by the researcher Loredana Cappelletti where there are several references to the Italic Institutions and Judiciaries in general and, in the long list of items, you can also find specific publications on the Institutions of ancient Italy in several languages and in connection with the populations which inhabited Italy more than two thousand years ago.