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Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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Session 3: Writing


You have been introduced to Greek through reading, in Session 1, and through speaking and listening in Session 2. This session will emphasise a third skill, that of writing.

The earliest surviving examples of the Greek alphabet date from the eighth century BCE. It is possible that the alphabet is older than this, but the majority view is that it is an eighth-century BCE invention. It was based on a pre-existing script used by the ancient Phoenicians (a sea-faring people from the Eastern Mediterranean), but with some changes and simplifications. The major Greek innovation was the use of letters to mark the sound of vowels. In this respect, the Greek alphabet was an advance over its predecessors because it could represent speech precisely, making it easier to read unfamiliar words on sight.

Take a look at Figure 1. On this tablet from the second century CE, a teacher has written two lines of Greek. Underneath, a student has copied the lines twice.

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Figure 1 Greek homework book