Early Greek Literacy w. Dr Adam Schwartz

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After an evidential hiatus of a few hundred years, an alphabet arrived in Greece, and with it, literacy. Dr Adam Schwartz, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen, returns to the show to talk about early literacy in Greece.

Dr Schwartz appeared on the podcast in the previous episode Greek Hoplites w. Dr Adam Schwartz (May 7, 2021)

Some topics explored

  • Linear B preceding the alphabet found in the Archaic period, but no evidence existing that the Linear B was used after the Mycenaeans from the Bronze Age
  • How Linear B is different from the Archaic period alphabet that appeared
  • The early Greek alphabet being a derivative of a Phoenician alphabet (the Phoenician alphabet not technically being considered a full alphabet because it doesn’t have “vowel signs”)
  • The Phoenician language being considered a Semitic language
  • In tradition, Cadmus, a Phoenician prince, founded the ancient Greek city Thebes and introducing the alphabet in Greece
  • Theories and evidence about how the alphabet arrived in Greece
  • Greek traders role in the alphabet arriving in Greece
  • Differences between the Greek alphabet and the Phoenician alphabet
  • How the alphabet was constructed and functioned
  • The Greek alphabet coming into existence circa 9th century BCE (appearing in the records between 800-750 BCE)
  • Early inscriptions that have been preserved: ceramics (fired or not), rocks and stones, graffiti on a rock face, bone, and lead (letters were written on lead)
  • The earliest known attestation of this early form of writing being in Euboea, Greece; and early attestations being found in the Bay of Naples (Greeks colonized this region in this period of time) and Syria
  • Greek city-states having different versions of the early alphabet, but overall being similar
  • Law texts being found cited from the 6th century BCE. The earliest one thought to be at Dreros, Crete, being inscribed into the walls in a city
  • The early script appearing on coinage
  • How and to what degree literacy affected oral communication
  • How the alphabet was promulgated in the early years
  • Its first postulated attestation as literature in a wine mug in c. 725 BCE
  • Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey
  • Later societies influenced by this early Greek alphabet (mentions included Etruscans, Romans, Cyrillic alphabet)
  • The Ionic alphabet being adopted by Athens in 403 and replacing the Attic alphabet, and becoming the dominant alphabet
  • Doric alphabet—a western Greek alphabet—and how it relates to this conversation
  • The modern alphabet being a derivative of this nascent alphabet

Listen to the episode

The episode can be streamed below and is available on major podcast apps: Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Amazon Music.

Show Notes

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