The Ancient Greek Alphabet

Alpha Beta Gamma Delta
Epsilon Zeta Eta Theta
Iota Kappa Lambda Mu
Nu Xi Omicron Pi
Rho Sigma Tau Upsilon
Phi Chi Psi Omega

Although the Greeks were not the first to develop the art of writing, they were earliest people to devise a true alphabet, from which all other ancient and modern European languages are derived. The Greek alphabet contains 24 letters and is named after the first two letters, alpha and beta. It was first invented around 800 BC and was adapted from the Phoenician and Hebrew writing systems. Previous writing systems had been either syllabic, i.e. based on syllables, or pictographic, based on pictures, such as the hieroglyphic sacred carvings of the Egyptians, or the ideograms of the Chinese people.

An even more ancient writing system developed by the Greeks was called Linear B. This syllabic language was in widespread use by the advanced Mycenean civilization of Crete, and on the Greek mainland, from before 1200 BC to about 800 BC. Linear B was only deciphered by scholars in 1952 and consists of about 90 different symbols.

The Greek alphabet has two main branches or styles. The Ionic or, eastern, form was adopted by Athens and became what we know today as the classical Greek alphabet. The Chalcidian or, western form, gave rise to the Etruscan alphabet that forms the basis of the Latin or Roman alphabet that we use today. You can even type the letters of the Greek alphabet on your laptop or custom PC with special symbols in some word processing programs or by using a virtual keyboard.