How Greek Letters Were Written In The 16th Century


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  1. That oddly-rendered theta symbol used to bug the daylight out of me when I would come across it in texts. The same is true for the digamma when talking about Greek word roots.

    • I think that digamma is interesting. Atypically it represents the soft g in the Cyrillic Azeri orthography (now discarded in favour of the Latin one). However, according to Wikipedia (which in this instance I’m inclined to believe) it represented in Greek the labio-dental voiced fricative and from its shape is derived not only the “F” (our dear Head of Classics at school thought the digamma WAS “F” in ancient Greek – he never thought it might be “v”), but the upsilon. If the latter is true, then the way today’s Greeks pronounce the upsilon following alpha and epsilon, i.e., as a “v”, might well be the way it was pronounced by the ancient Greeks (e.g., Paul was always Pavlos and thank you was always evchristo – incidentally, I wonder whether the -mega and -micron of omega and omicron referred to the extent of opening of the mouth rather than the length of the vowel; if so, the second vowel of Nazareth and Nazoraios might have sounded more similar than we tend to think)!

  2. I don’t know whether the antiquity or otherwise of some of the more unfamiliar (to us) representations is of interest here, but I would have thought it might be. The Cyrillic alphabet, developed from the Greek around the turn of the 1st millennium, might provide a clue. I think the third representations of the beta, delta and,most obviously, the sigma look more like the Cyrillic than the representations used today. Not, however, that funny theta.

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