Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources

Greek alphabets

- 8th century BC - Current era

List of symbols

I. From the Greek alphabet to the Phoenician alphabet (from M. Guarducci, Epigrafia greca, I, Roma 1967, 74)


from the Greek alphabet to the Phoenician alphabet



II. The Greek alphabet in the archaic and classic period (before the ‘Euclidean reform’)

from L. Jeffery, The Local Scripts of Archaic Greece, Oxford 1961


archaic and classic periodarchaic and classic period


From A. Kirchoff, Studien zur Geschichte des Griechischen Alphabets, 4 ed., Gütersloh 1887





colour-coded map


II. The Greek alphabet after the ‘Euclidean reform’


from M. Guarducci, Epigrafia greca, I, Roma 1967, 368- 383



A. General phenomena:


     a) end of 5th cent. B.C. ‘Geometric’ shapes


5th century


     b) 4th cent. B.C.


     - Bending of certain straight lines and round letters shrinking (Θ Ο Ω)


4th century


     c) from the mid-3rd cent. B.C. (approximately)


     - Use of apicatures


3rd century


     d) Hellenistic and Imperial Age


     - Starting from the 3rd/2nd cent. B.C., lunate letters specific to cursive writing on papyrus are also used in stone writing, as far as the letters epsilon, sigma, omega are concerned.


hellenistic 1


     - Roman Imperial Age     


           Square shapes:


hellenistic 2


           Angled shapes:


hellenistic 3


           Upward extension of oblique lines for some letters:


hellenistic 4




B. Significant changes in single letters:


alpha simbolo
epsilon simbolo
zeta simbolo
eta simbolo
theta simbolo
my simbolo
ny simbolo
xi simbolo
pi simbolo
rho simbolo
sigma simbolo
ypsilon simbolo
phi simbolo
omega simbolo



III. Writing in manuscripts


Greek Paleography. From Antiquity to the Renaissance             © 2022 Vatican Library




1. Biblical Majuscule


Biblical Majuscule

 Vat. gr. 1209 (4th cent.)



2. Alexandrian Majuscule


Alexandrian Majuscule

 Vat. gr. 2125 (700 A.D. ca.)



3. Ogival Majuscule


- slanted ogival


slanted ogival



-upright ogival


upright ogival

 Vat. gr. 749 (9th cent.A.D.)



4. Liturgical Majuscule


Liturgical Majuscule

 Vat. gr. 351





The Greek Minuscule Alphabet


the Minuscule Alphabet


- 9th-10th cent. minuscules


1. Old round minuscule


Old round minuscule (beginning of 9th cent.)


2. Old square minuscule


Old square minuscule

 Oxon. Clark 39 (895 A.D.)


3. Old sloped minuscule


Old sloped minuscule

 Pal. gr. 220, f. 14v (beginning of 10th cent.)


4. Old angular minuscule


Old angular minuscule

Oxon. Chr. Ch. 5


5. “Philosophical collection” type


philosophical collection type

 Vat. gr. 2197 (9th cent.)


6.‘Baanes’ type


Baanes type

 Vat. gr. 218 (10th cent.)


7. ‘Efrem’ type


Efrem type

 Vat. gr. 124 (second half of the 10th cent.)


- Bouletée minuscule (10th cent.)


bouletée minuscule

 Urb. gr. 15 (10th cent.) f. 105v.


- Perlschrift (10th-13th cent.)



 Vat. gr. 1613, p. 124 (1000 A.D. ca)


- Italo-Greek scripts (10th-12th cent.)


1. Ace of spades minuscule


Ace of spades minuscule

 Vat. gr. 1553, f. 119v


2. Minuscule of the School of St. Nilus the Younger


Minuscule of the School of St. Nilus the Younger

 Ott. gr. 251, f. 50r


3. The “Rossano” style


The Rossano style

 Vat. gr. 364, f. 132v


4. The “Reggio” style


The Reggio style

 Vat. gr. 2290, f. 75r


5. Italo-Greek scripts with cursive elements


Italo-Greek scripts

 Vat. gr. 1611, f. 106v



- 13th cent. scripts


1. The ‘Beta-Gamma’ style


The beta-gamma style

 Vat. gr. 1899, f. 148r (second half of the 13th cent.)


2. Fettaugenmode



 Vat. gr. 690, f. 17r (13th cent.)


3. Palaeologan Mimetic hands


scritture mimetiche età paleologa

 Ott. gr. 426, f. 27v