The Latin alphabet traveled through all the cultures of the Mediterranean, first from Uruk and Ishtar, then from the pharaonic courts, then from the Phoenician ports. Ancient Greek historians say that it was a prince who took him to Greece: Cadmus.
The letters we use today to communicate, to write a message or write this news, have a thousand-year history. Our alphabet has deep roots in Egyptian civilization,—Phoenicians and Greeks through—, to the present day.
Before, there had already been Sumerian cuneiform—probably influential in Egypt—Sanskrit in India and the Chinese alphabet. The history of writing, or what we know about it, has as its first copy the epic of Gilgamesh. But, let’s put the departure date a little later.
In Egypt, monuments and temples were inscribed with hieroglyphs. Mysterious images that told stories and that, for a long time, remained without translation. It was not until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone that the key to deciphering them was found. Now, let’s do the trip in reverse.
Imagine a Phoenician boat—with a curved prow adorned with a painted eye protecting the sailors—sailing through the waters of the Mediterranean, carrying not only merchandise, but the germ of what would become our alphabet. In it there are also Egyptian vessels and utensils, decorated with hieroglyphics, telling stories of pharaohs and gods.
Los Phoenicians They founded Gádir (Cádiz), Ulissipo (Lisbon) or Malakata (Málaga). These people not only exchanged tangible goods, such as copper, ceramics, and even purple pigment, but they were also bearers of knowledge, traditions, and, most importantly for our story, their writing system. It was this system that would influence the creation of the Greek alphabet.
Herodotus, the father of history, tells how the alphabet came to Greece
800 years before the Trojan War, in 2000 BC. C., a prince named Cadmus—brother of Cilix, Phoenix and Europa and founder of Thebes—would have arrived on the coasts of Greece. This is how Herodotus, the Greek historian, tells and dates it. However, other records place it almost contemporaneously with this well-known event, according to GreekReporter.
Cadmus, “brave in Greek,”—the one who collaborated with Zeus to defeat Typhon—would come from a lineage from Argos that fled to Egypt and later to Canaan—or Phenicia. He brought the alphabet, and Herodotus, through his chronicles, tells how the Greeks adopted and adapted it, giving it their own twist: adding vowels, something the Phoenician original lacked. (Which could mean that Arabic does not have them).
Subsequently, the transition from the Greek to the Latin alphabet has its origins in the expansion of the Roman Empire. The Romans, upon conquering Greece, were impressed by its culture and knowledge.
Although Latin already had a writing system, it was enriched and adapted by Greek influence. The versatility of the Latin alphabet made it the basis for many modern languages, including Spanish.
The Latin alphabet traveled from end to end of the Mediterranean
Writing is not static; It changes and adapts according to the needs and influences of the people. Just as the Phoenicians and proto-Semitic peoples adapted and transported cuneiform and hieroglyphic signs from the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures—the basis for Coptic that allowed the translation of the Rosseta stone—the Greeks and Romans modernized and expanded it in turn.
Every letter we writeevery word we read, here too, is an echo of past civilizations, of trips on Phoenician, Greek or Latin boats that crossed unknown seas, of Egyptian monuments that kept secrets and of Greek texts that narrated exploits and wisdom.