This article is from the Greece FAQ, by Nikolaos (Nick) C. Fotis, firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
From: email@example.com (R. Wallace)
[ Regarding the last post... ]
This is almost, but not quite, right.
There were in fact many Greek alphabets. I suspect every city had its
own variant. and even within cities there is not total consistency. They
do, however, fall into families, and the division between east and west
The origin of the letter c is rather odd. The Romans got their alphabet
from the Etruscans, who got it from the Greeks. There is a dispute as to
whether the alphabet the Etruscans adopted was a west or east Greek
alphabet. Common sense would suggest that they got it from the nearest
Greeks to them, those in Cumae, who used a variant of the west Greek
alphabet. On the other hand, the occasional use of the east Greek letter
samech is evidence against this view. It was not, however, the Athenian
alphabet; it contained, for example, the letter Koppa, which became the
ancestor of our Q. Etruscan did not distinguish between voiced and
unvoiced gutturals (K and G), and so used both of those letters for the
same sound. The Romans, however, did (like us) make the distinction, but
instead of doing the rational thing and reinstating the original uses of
the Greek letters, they marked the gamma to signify when it was
unvoiced. So: C is originally a gamma (write a capital gamma leaning a
bit and you will see how it happened); G is a gamma with a marker to
show that it really is a gamma. And that is why the Roam alphabet
acquired 3 letters for the same sound: K,C and Q.
Just to make life complicated, in some forms of Greek writing the sigma
is written a bit like our c. This has been adopted by some modern
scholars (we call it the lunate sigma) especially by epigraphists who do
not want to beg questions about where words end.
[ In another post, regarding Greek alphabets ]
Lambros Skartsis (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
: email@example.com (R. Wallace) writes:
: >... The Romans got their alphabet
: >from the Etruscans, who got it from the Greeks. There is a dispute as to
: >whether the alphabet the Etruscans adopted was a west or east Greek
: >alphabet. Common sense would suggest that they got it from the nearest
: >Greeks to them, those in Cumae, who used a variant of the west Greek
: Richard, wasn't Cumae a colony of the greek city called Cyme, in Euboea?
: (the colony retained the name Cyme, Cumae being the latin version).
: That is the only theory I am aware of (I can't pretend to have much
: knowledge on the
: topic!), i.e., that Etruscans took their alphabet from Cyme. But did
: the mother-city (metropolis) in Euboea use the west form of the alphabet?
There is a tradition the Cumae was founded from the Greek city Cyme in
Aeolis in Asia Minor (just a bit north of Smyrna). Strabo says it was a
joint foundation of Chalcis and Cyme in Euboea, which explains its name
(he says that they did a deal that the city should be called after Cyme,
but be a colony of Chalcis) , but he also records traditions that it was
a colony of Chalcis alone, and gives another explanation for the name. I
would guess that this means that the Cyme stories are just attempts at
etymology (but who knows?).
Anyway, none of this is relevant, because they did use a version of the
Chalcidian alphabet in Cumae. I think the Chalcidian alphabet is
classified as a Western alphabet, isn't it?
[ He checked, in David Diringers 'The Alphabet' (3rd edition I think), and
he seems right ]