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γράμματα. H.'s theory that the Greek alphabet, as he knew it, was of Phoenician origin is borne out by comparing the forms, names, and order of the early Greek and Phoenician letters (Roberts, Greek Epigraphy, § 4 f.). It contrasts favourably with the ascription of the invention to mythical heroes, such as Palamedes (Stesichorus), Prometheus (Aesch. P. V. 460 f.), Musaeus, Orpheus, or Linus. Of course H. Knew nothing of the primitive Cretan and Mycenaean scripts (A. J. Evans, J. H. S. xiv, xvii, and Scripta Minoa), which being earlier must probably have contributed to the formation of the Phoenician alphabet. His connexion of the earliest Greek alphabet with Cadmus and Boeotia is simply a part of his theory of Phoenician settlement, as is the hypothesis that it spread first among Ionians. H. has not the learning to distinguish the alphabets of Eastern and of Western Hellas, or to recognize that the Ionic alphabet in its final form is a late development of the former.

ῥυθμόν = σχῆμα, shape. Cf. Ar. Metaph. i. 4. 985 b ῥυθμὸς σχῆμά ἐστινδιαφέρει γὰρ τὸ μὲν Α τοῦ Ν σχήματι. So below, μεταρρυθμίσαντες, ‘changing the shape’.

H. seems unaware of the three most important modifications:

(1) The utilization of some Phoenician consonants, aleph, he, yod, ayin, to represent the vowels a, e, i, o, with the subsequent addition of u, ē, and ō (Roberts, § 5).

(2) The evolution of double letters, the three new ones being ph, ch, ps (Roberts, §§ 9, 11).

(3) The disappearance of certain unnecessary sibilants (Roberts, § 6). H. does, however, record the survival of San alongside of Sigma (cf. i. 139 n.).

Clearly his interest is more in the form than in the sound of the letters. Yet though he records (ii. 36. 4 n.) that Egyptian writing went from right to left, he is clearly unaware that the same is true of the Phoenician, and of the earliest Greek inscriptions (Roberts, § 4, No. 1), nor does he notice the transitional βουστροφηδόν style (cf. Paus. v. 17. 6; Roberts, No. 42. 133 f.).

ἐφάτισαν ... κεκλῆσθαι, ‘gave them the name.’ Cf. ch. 68 ad fin. ἐπωνυμίην ποιεύμενοι κεκλήσθαι, Pind. Ol. vi. 56.

Φοινικήια. Not an adjective but a substantive in Ionic=‘letters’; cf. Inscription of Teos, circ. 470 B. C. (Hicks, 23, § 6) ὃς ἂν . . . Φοινικήϊα ἐκκόψει. H. justly uses the name as an argument for his view of the origin of letters, just as he makes the survival of the name διφθέρα for ‘book’, in conjunction with the continued employment of skins as writing material among the barbarians, a proof of their early use among the Ionians.

βύβλων. Byblus or papyrus, made from the marsh-plant Byblus (cf. ii. 92. 5 n.), had been in use in Egypt from the earliest times (circ. 3500 B. C.). It cannot have been introduced into Greece till the opening of Egypt to foreigners by Psammetichus (ii. 154 n.) circ. 650 B. C., but was clearly in common use in the days of H., and was employed for keeping accounts when the Erechtheum was being rebuilt 407 B. C.; cf. Maunde Thompson, Palaeography, ch. iii; Kenyon, Papyri, ch. ii. It continued to be in ordinary use throughout classical times, and was grown and used in Sicily as late as 1300 A. D.

διφθέραι: leather rolls were used by the Egyptians occasionally, by the Jews, and by the Persians. Diodorus (ii. 32) mentions βασιλικαὶ διφθέραι followed by Ctesias. The manufacture of parchment or vellum is a later improvement ascribed by Varro (Plin. N. H. xiii. 68) to Eumenes II of Pergamum (197-158 B. C.). No doubt Pergamum was the centre of the trade, but parchment superseded papyrus very slowly, its use for books is mainly late Roman, Byzantine, and mediaeval.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (4):
    • Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 460
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.17.6
    • Pindar, Olympian, 6
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 13.21
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