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Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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Session 1: The alphabet

Introduction

The Greek alphabet is the ancestor of the Roman alphabet, which is used today to write English and most European languages. Your first task is to learn the 24 Greek letters, upper and lower case, along with a small number of extra markings needed to read and write ancient Greek.

Activity 1 The Greek alphabet

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Spend a couple of minutes looking at the table of letters, which contains both capitals and lower case. You will find it helpful to have the alphabet constantly available, whether that’s by keeping it open it in a separate window, or using the printable version underneath.

Pay particular attention to any letters that look unfamiliar. You might like to highlight these on your own version.

Table 1 The Greek alphabet, capitals and lower case
Α α alpha Ι ι iota Ρ ρ rho
Β β beta Κ κ kappa Σ σ ς sigma
Γ γ gamma Λ λ lambda Τ τ tau
Δ δ delta Μ μ mu Υ υ upsilon
Ε ε epsilon Ν ν nu Φ φ phi
Ζ ζ zeta Ξ ξ xi Χ χ chi
Η η eta Ο ο omicron Ψ ψ psi
Θ θ theta Π π pi Ω ω omega
Sigma is written ς at the end of a word, but otherwise σ. For example, σοφος (sophos = wise).
Iota following eta, omega, and, sometimes, alpha, is usually written in miniature underneath (ῃ, ῳ, ᾳ). This form of iota is known as ‘iota subscript’. It is not usually pronounced.

If you would like a version of the alphabet for reference, either to print or to keep open in a separate window, follow this link: Alphabet Guide [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .