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roman alphabet

Roman mythology ascribes to Evander the introduction of the alphabet into central Italy. Evander, who also appears in Virgilís Aenid, was a Greek who settled on the Palatine hill near the river Tiber not long before the Trojan war, before the founding of Rome.

Roman tradition also tells us that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus were educated and learned to write at a city called Gabii, 18km east of Rome (of course at that time they hadnít founded the city of Rome yet but according to tradition Evanderís city on the Palatine and that of Hercules on the Capitol would have already brought activity to the area).

Reality is probably not too distant from mythical tradition:

The earliest writing and alphabet likely arrived to central Italy around the 11th century BC from the Greek/Oriental world together with the exchange of goods and knowledge brought by tradesmen who met at the most convenient crossing point over the Tiber - rivers were the ideal route inland from the sea and hence attracted international trade.

Luck would have it that the earliest eastern letters to have been found by archaeologists in central Italy are pottery inscriptions from tombs at the site of Gabii Ė just where Romulus and Remus are said to have been educated. Livy (1.53) tells us that during the archaic period the Gabii and Rome were at war, and that Rome eventually prevailed, the peace treaty that was eventually struck was written on the skin of a bullock stretched over a wooden shield and displayed in a temple called the "Semo Sanctus".

Archaeology suggests that the first Greek settlement in Italy (Magna Grecia) was at Cumae around 8BC founded by people from the Greek island of Euboea. This was a colony to the NW of Naples. It is from Cumae that the Roman alphabet spread, first to the Etruscans and then the Romans. The Roman alphabet would therefore be a variant of Greek origin from the island of Euboea.

From the 7th century BC onwards writing was increasingly developed for use in Latin language as a means of recording events such as victories or treaties. Written documents are increasingly common particularly in sanctuaries and public areas from that time onwards.


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"roman alphabet" was written by Giovanni Milani-Santarpia for www.mariamilani.com - Rome apartments