Writing in the West

13. Alphabet - Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan, Latin

Alphabetic systems aim to represent each separate sound of a spoken language by a single symbol or letter. The earliest version of our current alphabet probably emerged between 1700 and 1500 BCE among groups of speakers of a Semitic language living along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. For our purposes the most important of these groups were the Phoenicians who occupied the coastal areas and who were involved in extensive trading across the Mediterranean from 1300 BC to about 900 BCE. The combination of trade and travel ensured that the alphabetic system was widely and quickly distributed during this period. By the ninth or eighth century BCE there is evidence of Greek being written in a script directly derived from the Phoenician forms. Etruscan seems to have been derived from this early Greek and, though Etruscan, Latin.