Greek diacritics

Greek orthography has used a variety of diacritics starting in the Hellenistic period. The more complex polytonic orthography (Greek: πολυτονικό σύστημα γραφής, romanizedpolytonikó sýstima grafís) notates Ancient Greek phonology. The simpler monotonic orthography (μονοτονικό σύστημα γραφής, monotonikó sýstima grafís), introduced in 1982, corresponds to Modern Greek phonology, and requires only two diacritics.

Polytonic orthography (from polys (πολύς) "much, many" and tonos (τόνος) "accent") is the standard system for Ancient Greek and Medieval Greek. The acute accent (´), the circumflex (ˆ), and the grave accent (`) indicate different kinds of pitch accent. The rough breathing () indicates the presence of the /h/ sound before a letter, while the smooth breathing (᾿) indicates the absence of /h/.

Since in Modern Greek the pitch accent has been replaced by a dynamic accent (stress), and /h/ was lost, most polytonic diacritics have no phonetic significance, and merely reveal the underlying Ancient Greek etymology.

Monotonic orthography (from monos (μόνος) "single" and tonos (τόνος) "accent") is the standard system for Modern Greek. It retains two diacritics: a single accent or tonos (΄) that indicates stress, and the diaeresis (¨), which usually indicates a hiatus but occasionally indicates a diphthong: compare modern Greek παϊδάκια (/pajˈðaca/, "lamb chops"), with a diphthong, and παιδάκια (/peˈðaca/, "little children") with a simple vowel. A tonos and a diaeresis can be combined on a single vowel to indicate a stressed vowel after a hiatus, as in the verb ταΐζω (/taˈizo/, "to feed").

Although it is not a diacritic, the hypodiastole (comma) has in a similar way the function of a sound-changing diacritic in a handful of Greek words, principally distinguishing ό,τι (ó,ti, "whatever") from ότι (óti, "that").[1]


Codex Sinaiticus-small
The Lord's Prayer in a 4th-century uncial manuscript Codex Sinaiticus, before the adoption of minuscule polytonic. Note spelling errors: elthatō ē basilia (ΕΛΘΑΤΩΗΒΑΣΙΛΙΑ) instead of elthetō ē basileia (ΕΛΘΕΤΩ Η ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΑ).

The original Greek alphabet did not have diacritics. The Greek alphabet is attested since the 8th century BC, and until 403 BC, variations of the Greek alphabet—which exclusively used what is now known as capitals—were used in different cities and areas. From 403 on, the Athenians decided to employ a version of the Ionian alphabet. With the spread of Koine Greek, a continuation of the Attic dialect, the Ionic alphabet superseded the other alphabets, known as epichoric, with varying degrees of speed. The Ionian alphabet, however, also only consisted of capitals.

Introduction of breathings

Byzantinischer Maler um 1020 003
An example of polytonic text with ekphonetic neumes in red ink from a Byzantine manuscript, of 1020 AD, displaying the beginning of the Gospel of Luke (1:3–6)

The rough and smooth breathings were introduced in classical times in order to represent the presence or absence of an /h/ in Attic Greek, which had adopted a form of the alphabet in which the letter Η (eta) was no longer available for this purpose as it was used to represent the long vowel /ɛː/.

Introduction of accents

During the Hellenistic period (3rd century BC), Aristophanes of Byzantium introduced the breathings—marks of aspiration (the aspiration however being already noted on certain inscriptions, not by means of diacritics but by regular letters or modified letters)—and the accents, of which the use started to spread, to become standard in the Middle Ages. It was not until the 2nd century AD that accents and breathings appeared sporadically in papyri. The need for the diacritics arose from the gradual divergence between spelling and pronunciation.

Uncial script

The majuscule, i.e., a system where text is written entirely in capital letters, was used until the 8th century, when the minuscule polytonic supplanted it.

Grave accent rule

By the Byzantine period, the modern rule which turns an acute accent (oxeia) on the last syllable into a grave accent (bareia)—except before a punctuation sign or an enclitic—had been firmly established. Certain authors have argued that the grave originally denoted the absence of accent; the modern rule is, in their view, a purely orthographic convention. Originally, certain proclitic words lost their accent before another word and received the grave, and later this was generalized to all words in the orthography. Others—drawing on, for instance, evidence from ancient Greek music—consider that the grave was "linguistically real" and expressed a word-final modification of the acute pitch.[2][3][4]

Stress accent

In the later development of the language, the ancient pitch accent was replaced by an intensity or stress accent, making the three types of accent identical, and the /h/ sound became silent.


At the beginning of the 20th century (official since the 1960s), the grave was replaced by the acute, and the iota subscript and the breathings on the rho were abolished, except in printed texts.[5] Greek typewriters from that era did not have keys for the grave accent or the iota subscript, and these diacritics were also not taught in primary schools where instruction was in Demotic.

Official adoption of monotonic system

Following the official adoption of the Demotic form of the language, the monotonic orthography was imposed by law in 1982. The latter uses only the acute accent (or sometimes a vertical bar, intentionally distinct from any of the traditional accents) and diaeresis and omits the breathings. This simplification has been criticized on the grounds that polytonic orthography provides a cultural link to the past.[6]

Modern use of polytonic system

Some individuals, institutions, and publishers continue to prefer the polytonic system (with or without grave accent), though an official reintroduction of the polytonic system does not seem probable. The Greek Orthodox church, the daily newspaper Estia, as well as books written in Katharevousa continue to use the polytonic orthography. Though the polytonic system was not used in Classical Greece, these critics argue that modern Greek, as a continuation of Byzantine and post-medieval Greek, should continue their writing conventions.

Some textbooks of Ancient Greek for foreigners have retained the breathings, but dropped all the accents in order to simplify the task for the learner.[7]


Polytonic Greek uses many different diacritics in several categories. At the time of Ancient Greek, each of these marked a significant distinction in pronunciation.

Monotonic orthography for Modern Greek uses only two diacritics, the tonos and diaeresis (sometimes used in combination) that have significance in pronunciation. Initial /h/ is no longer pronounced, and so the rough and smooth breathings are no longer necessary. The unique pitch patterns of the three accents have disappeared, and only a stress accent remains. The iota subscript was a diacritic invented to mark an etymological vowel that was no longer pronounced, so it was dispensed with as well.

Acute Acute,
Άά Έέ Ήή Ίί Όό Ύύ Ώώ ΐ ΰ Ϊϊ Ϋϋ

The transliteration of Greek names follows Latin transliteration of Ancient Greek; modern transliteration is different, and does not distinguish many letters and digraphs that have merged by iotacism.


Greek acute.svg Greek gravis.svg
Acute Grave
Greek circumflex tilde.svg Greek circumflex breve.svg
Circumflex (alternative forms)

The accents (Ancient Greek: τόνοι, romanizedtónoi, singular: τόνος, tónos) are placed on an accented vowel or on the last of the two vowels of a diphthong (ά, but αί) and indicated pitch patterns in Ancient Greek. The precise nature of the patterns is not certain, but the general nature of each is known.

The acute accent (ὀξεῖα, oxeîa, 'sharp' or "high")—'ά'—marked high pitch on a short vowel or rising pitch on a long vowel.

The acute is also used on the first of two (or occasionally three) successive vowels in Modern Greek to indicate that they are pronounced together as a stressed diphthong.

The grave accent (βαρεῖα, bareîa, 'heavy' or "low", modern varia)—''—marked normal or low pitch.

The grave was originally written on all unaccented syllables,[8] but now only replaces the acute at the end of a word if another accented word follows immediately without punctuation.

The circumflex (περισπωμένη, perispōménē, 'twisted around')—''—marked high and falling pitch within one syllable. In distinction to the angled Latin circumflex, the Greek circumflex is printed in the form of either a tilde or an inverted breve. It was also known as ὀξύβαρυς oxýbarys "high-low" or "acute-grave", and its original form (like a caret: ^ ) was from a combining of the acute and grave diacritics. Because of its compound nature, it only appeared on long vowels or diphthongs.


Greek asper.svg Greek lenis.svg
Rough Smooth
Greek asper acute.svg Greek lenis circumflex breve.svg
Combined with accents

The breathings were written over a vowel or r.

The rough breathing (Ancient Greek: δασὺ πνεῦμα, romanized: dasù pneûma; Latin spiritus asper)—''—indicates a voiceless glottal fricative (/h/) before the vowel in Ancient Greek. In Greek grammar, this is known as aspiration. This is different from aspiration in phonetics, which applies to consonants, not vowels.

  • Rho (Ρρ) at the beginning of a word always takes rough breathing, probably marking unvoiced pronunciation. In Latin, this was transcribed as rh.
  • Upsilon (Υυ) at the beginning of a word always takes rough breathing. Thus, words from Greek begin with hy-, never with y-.

The smooth breathing (ψιλὸν πνεῦμα, psilòn pneûma; Latin spiritus lenis)—''—marked the absence of /h/.

A double rho in the middle of a word was originally written with smooth breathing on the first rho and rough breathing on the second one (διάῤῥοια). In Latin, this was transcribed as rrh (diarrhoea or diarrhea).


Greek coronis crasis
Coronis, marking crasis in the word κἀγώ = καὶ ἐγώ

The coronis (κορωνίς, korōnís, 'curved') marks a vowel contracted by crasis. It was formerly an apostrophe placed after the contracted vowel, but is now placed over the vowel and is identical to the smooth breathing. Unlike the smooth breathing, it often occurs inside a word.


Greek iota placement 03 Greek iota placement 01 Greek iota placement 02
Greek iota placement 04 Greek iota placement 05 Greek iota placement 06
Different styles of subscript/adscript iotas

The iota subscript (ὑπογεγραμμένη, hypogegramménē, 'written under')—''—is placed under the long vowels , η, and ω to mark the ancient long diphthongs ᾱι, ηι, and ωι, in which the ι is no longer pronounced.


Next to a capital, the iota subscript is usually written as a lower-case letter (Αι), in which case it is called iota adscript (προσγεγραμμένη, prosgegramménē, 'written next to').


Greek diacritic non-diphthong capitals
Diaeresis, used to distinguish the word ΑΫΛΟΣ (ἄϋλος, 'immaterial') from the word ΑΥΛΟΣ (αὐλός 'flute')

In Ancient Greek, the diaeresis (Greek: διαίρεσις or διαλυτικά, dialytiká, 'distinguishing')—'ϊ'—appears on the letters ι and υ to show that a pair of vowel letters is pronounced separately, rather than as a diphthong.

In Modern Greek, the diaeresis usually indicates that two successive vowels are pronounced separately (as in κοροϊδεύω /ˈðe.vo/, "I trick, mock"), but occasionally, it marks vowels that are pronounced together as an unstressed diphthong rather than as a digraph (as in μποϊκοτάρω /boj.koˈtar.o/, "I boycott"). The distinction between two separate vowels and an unstressed diphthong is not always clear, although two separate vowels are far more common.

The diaeresis can be combined with the acute, grave and circumflex but never with breathings, since the letter with the diaeresis cannot be the first vowel of the word.[9]

In Modern Greek, the combination of the acute and diaeresis indicates a stressed vowel after a hiatus.

Vowel length

In textbooks and dictionaries of Ancient Greek, the macron—''—and breve—''—are often used over α, ι, and υ to indicate that they are long or short, respectively.


In some modern non-standard orthographies of Greek dialects, such as Cypriot Greek and Griko, a caron (ˇ) may be used on some consonants to show a palatalized pronunciation.[10][11] They are not encoded as precombined characters in Unicode, so they are typed by adding the U+030C ◌̌ COMBINING CARON (HTML ̌) to the Greek letter. Latin diacritics on Greek letters may not be supported by many fonts, and as a fall-back a caron may be replaced by an iota ⟨ι⟩ following the consonant.

Examples of Greek letters with a combining caron and their pronunciation: ζ̌ /ʒ/, κ̌ /c/ or /t͡ʃ/, λ̌ /ʎ/, ν̌ /ɲ/, ξ̌ /kʃ/, π̌ /pʲ/, σ̌ ς̌ /ʃ/, τ̌ /c/, τζ̌ /t͡ʃ/ or /d͡ʒ/, τσ̌ τς̌ /t͡ʃ/ or /t͡ʃː/, ψ̌ /pʃ/.

Position in letters

The diacritics are written above lower-case letters and at the upper left of capital letters. In the case of a diphthong or a digraph, the second vowel takes the diacritics. A breathing diacritic is written to the left of an acute or grave accent but below a circumflex. Accents are written above a diaeresis or between its two dots. When a word is written entirely in capital letters, diacritics are far less used; the word  (or), is an exception to this rule because of the need to distinguish it from the nominative feminine article Η. Diacritics can be found above capital letters in medieval texts. The diaeresis is always written.


The Lord's Prayer
Polytonic Monotonic

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς·
τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·
καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν,
ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·
καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

Πάτερ ημών ο εν τοις ουρανοίς· αγιασθήτω το όνομά σου·
ελθέτω η βασιλεία σου·
γενηθήτω το θέλημά σου, ως εν ουρανώ, και επί της γης·
τον άρτον ημών τον επιούσιον δος ημίν σήμερον·
και άφες ημίν τα οφειλήματα ημών,
ως και ημείς αφίεμεν τοις οφειλέταις ημών·
και μη εισενέγκης ημάς εις πειρασμόν, αλλά ρύσαι ημάς από του πονηρού.

Computer encoding

There have been problems in representing polytonic Greek on computers, and in displaying polytonic Greek on computer screens and printouts, but these have largely been overcome by the advent of Unicode and appropriate fonts.


While the tónos of monotonic orthography looks similar to the oxeîa of polytonic orthography in most fonts, Unicode has historically separate symbols for letters with these diacritics. For example, the monotonic "Greek small letter alpha with tónos" is at U+03AC, while the polytonic "Greek small letter alpha with oxeîa" is at U+1F71. The monotonic and polytonic accent however have been de jure equivalent since 1986, and accordingly the oxeîa diacritic in Unicode decomposes canonically to the monotonic tónos—both are underlyingly treated as equivalent to the multiscript acute accent, U+0301, since letters with oxia decompose to letters with tonos, which decompose in turn to base letter plus multiscript acute accent. For example: U+1F71 GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH OXIA

Below are the accented characters provided in Unicode. In the uppercase letters, the iota adscript may appear as subscript depending on font.

Upper case

Accent Vowel Rho
  Α Ε Η Ι Ο Υ Ω Ρ
Acute ´ Ά Έ Ή Ί Ό Ύ Ώ        
Grave `        
Smooth ᾿  
Circumflex Ἷ  
Diaeresis ¨ Ϊ Ϋ
Macron ˉ
Breve ˘

Lower case

Accent Vowels Rho
α ε η ι ο υ ω ρ
Acute ´ ά έ ή ί ό ύ ώ  
Grave `  
Smooth ᾿
Diaeresis ¨ ϊ ϋ
Acute ΅ ΐ ΰ
Macron ˉ
Breve ˘
Greek Extended[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1F3x Ἷ
U+1FBx ᾿
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also


  1. ^ Nicolas, Nick. "Greek Unicode Issues: Punctuation Archived 2012-08-06 at". 2005. Accessed 7 Oct 2014.
  2. ^ Probert, Philomen (2006). Ancient Greek accentuation. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN 9780199279609.
  3. ^ Devine, Andrew M.; Stephens, Laurence D. (1994). The prosody of Greek speech. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 180. ISBN 0-19-508546-9.
  4. ^ Allen, William S. (1987). Vox graeca. London: Cambridge University Press. pp. 124–130.
  5. ^ Alkis K. Tropaiatis; Telis Peklaris; Philippos D. Kolovos (1976). Συγχρονισμένο ορθογραφικό λεξικό της νεοελληνικής (Contemporary Orthographic Dictionary of Modern Greek) (in Greek). Κέντρον Εκπαιδευτικών Μελετών και Επιμορφώσεως. p. 11.
  6. ^ Χαραλάμπους, Γιάννης. "Καλῶς ὁρίσατε στὸν ἱστοχῶρο τῆς Κίνησης Πολιτῶν γιὰ τὴν Ἐπαναφορὰ τοῦ Πολυτονικοῦ Συστήματος".
  7. ^ Betts, G. (2004). Teach Yourself New Testament Greek. London: Teach Yourself Books. ISBN 0-340-87084-2.
  8. ^ Smyth, par. 155
  9. ^ Abbott, Evelyn; Mansfield, E. D. (1977). A Primer of Greek Grammar. London: Duckworth. p. 14. ISBN 0-7156-1258-1.
  10. ^ "Cypriot Greek Lexicography: A Reverse Dictionary of Cypriot Greek" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Griko alphabets, pronunciation and language".

Further reading

  • Panayotakis, Nicolaos M. (1996). "A Watershed in the History of Greek Script: Abolishing the Polytonic". In Macrakis, Michael S. (ed.). Greek Letters: From Tablets to Pixels. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press. ISBN 1-884718-27-2. Panayotakis is critical of the adoption of monotonic, and also provides a useful historical sketch.
  • Key, T. Hewitt (1855). "On Greek Accentuation". Transactions of the Philological Society (9).

External links

General information:

Polytonic Greek fonts:

How-to guides for polytonic keyboard layouts:


Alpha (uppercase Α, lowercase α; Ancient Greek: ἄλφα, álpha, modern pronunciation álfa) is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of 1.

It was derived from the Phoenician and Hebrew letter aleph - an ox or leader.Letters that arose from alpha include the Latin A and the Cyrillic letter А.

In English, the noun "alpha" is used as a synonym for "beginning", or "first" (in a series), reflecting its Greek roots.

Ancient Greek

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period (9th to 6th centuries BCE), Classical period (5th and 4th centuries BCE), and Hellenistic period (Koine Greek, 3rd century BCE to the 4th century CE).

It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.

Koine is regarded as a separate historical stage on its own, although in its earliest form it closely resembled Attic Greek and in its latest form it approaches Medieval Greek. Prior to the Koine period, Greek of the classic and earlier periods included several regional dialects.

Ancient Greek was the language of Homer and of fifth-century Athenian historians, playwrights, and philosophers. It has contributed many words to English vocabulary and has been a standard subject of study in educational institutions of the Western world since the Renaissance. This article primarily contains information about the Epic and Classical periods of the language.

Breathing (disambiguation)

Breathing is the process that moves air in and out of the lungs or oxygen through other breathing organs.

Breathing may also refer to:

One of two Greek diacritics:

Rough breathing, which represents h

Smooth breathing, which represents the absence of h

Breathing, aeration of wine, as by use of a decanter

Breathing, as a technique for meditation

Anapanasati, Buddhist breathing meditation

Pranayama, Yoga breathing meditation

Breathing (lens), an effect in some photographic lenses

Pre-echo or breathing, a digital audio compression artifact

Breathing (memorial sculpture), a 2008 memorial sculpture in London

Breathing (film), a 2011 Austrian art-house film

Codex Boreelianus

Codex Boreelianus, Codex Boreelianus Rheno-Trajectinus (full name), designated by Fe or 09 in the Gregory-Aland numbering and ε 86 in von Soden numbering, is a 9th (or 10th) century uncial manuscript of the four Gospels in Greek. The manuscript, written on parchment, is full of lacunae (or gaps), many of which arose between 1751 and 1830. The codex was named Boreelianus after Johannes Boreel (1577–1629), who brought it from the East.

The text of the codex represents the majority of the text (Byzantine text-type), but with numerous alien readings (non-Byzantine). Some of its readings do not occur in any other manuscript (so called singular readings). According to the present textual critics its text is not a very important manuscript, but it is quoted in all modern editions of the Greek New Testament.

The manuscript was brought from the East at the beginning of the 17th century. It was in private hands for over 100 years. Since 1830 it has been housed at the Utrecht University.

Greek orthography

The orthography of the Greek language ultimately has its roots in the adoption of the Greek alphabet in the 9th century BC. Some time prior to that, one early form of Greek, Mycenaean, was written in Linear B, although there was a lapse of several centuries (the Greek Dark Ages) between the time Mycenaean stopped being written and the time when the Greek alphabet came into use.

Early Greek writing in the Greek alphabet was phonemic, different in each dialect. Since the adoption of the Ionic variant for Attic in 403 BC, however, Greek orthography has been largely conservative and historical.

Given the phonetic development of Greek, especially in the Hellenistic period, certain modern vowel phonemes have multiple orthographic realizations:

/i/ can be spelled η, ι, υ, ει, οι, or υι (see Iotacism);

/e/ can be spelled either ε or αι;

/o/ can be spelled either ο or ω.This affects not only lexical items but also inflectional affixes, so correct orthography requires mastery of formal grammar, e.g. η καλή /i kaˈli/ 'the good one (fem. sing.)' vs. οι καλοί /i kaˈli/ 'the good ones (masc. pl.)'; καλώ /kaˈlo/ 'I call' vs. καλό /kaˈlo/ 'good (neut. sing.)'.

Similarly, the orthography preserves ancient doubled consonants, though these are now pronounced the same as single consonants, except in Cypriot Greek.


Idiomelon (Medieval Greek: ἰδιόμελον from idio-, "unique" and -melon, "melody"; Church Slavonic: самогласенъ, samoglasen)—pl. idiomela—is a type of sticheron found in the liturgical books used in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, and many other Orthodox communities like Old Believers. Idiomela are unique compositions, while avtomela or aftomela—sing. automelon, avtomelon or aftomelon (Medieval Greek: αὐτόμελον, Church Slavonic: самоподобенъ, samopodoben) were used to create other hymns by a composition over the avtomelon's melody and following the poetic meter provided by the musical rhythm—this genre was characterised as prosomoion or prosomeion (Medieval Greek: προσόμοιον "similar to", Church Slavonic: подобенъ, podoben).


Katharevousa (Greek: Καθαρεύουσα, pronounced [kaθaˈrevusa], literally "purifying [language]") is a conservative form of the Modern Greek language conceived in the late 18th century as a compromise between Ancient Greek and the Demotic Greek of the time. Originally, it was widely used both for literary and official purposes, though seldom in daily language. In the 20th century, it was increasingly adopted for official and formal purposes, until minister of education Georgios Rallis made Demotic Greek the official language of Greece in 1976, and in 1982 Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou abolished the polytonic system of writing both for Demotic and Katharevousa.

Katharevousa was conceived by the intellectual and revolutionary leader Adamantios Korais (1748–1833). A graduate of the University of Montpellier, Korais spent most of his life as an expatriate in Paris. Being a classical scholar, he was repelled by the Byzantine and later influence on Greek society and was a fierce critic of the clergy and their alleged subservience to the Ottoman Empire. He held that education was a prerequisite to Greek liberation.

Part of Katharevousa's purpose was to mediate the struggle between the "archaists" favouring full reversion to archaic forms and the "modernists".

Library of Alexandria

The Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. The Library was part of a larger research institution called the Mouseion, which was dedicated to the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts. The idea of a universal library in Alexandria may have been proposed by Demetrius of Phalerum, an exiled Athenian statesman living in Alexandria, to Ptolemy I Soter, who may have established plans for the Library, but the Library itself was probably not built until the reign of his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The Library quickly acquired a large number of papyrus scrolls, due largely to the Ptolemaic kings' aggressive and well-funded policies for procuring texts. It is unknown precisely how many such scrolls were housed at any given time, but estimates range from 40,000 to 400,000 at its height.

Alexandria came to be regarded as the capital of knowledge and learning, in part because of the Great Library. Many important and influential scholars worked at the Library during the third and second centuries BC, including, among many others: Zenodotus of Ephesus, who worked towards standardizing the texts of the Homeric poems; Callimachus, who wrote the Pinakes, sometimes considered to be the world's first library catalogue; Apollonius of Rhodes, who composed the epic poem the Argonautica; Eratosthenes of Cyrene, who calculated the circumference of the earth within a few hundred kilometers of accuracy; Aristophanes of Byzantium, who invented the system of Greek diacritics and was the first to divide poetic texts into lines; and Aristarchus of Samothrace, who produced the definitive texts of the Homeric poems as well as extensive commentaries on them. During the reign of Ptolemy III Euergetes, a daughter library was established in the Serapeum, a temple to the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis.

Despite the widespread modern belief that the Library was burned once and cataclysmically destroyed, the Library actually declined gradually over the course of several centuries, starting with the purging of intellectuals from Alexandria in 145 BC during the reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon, which resulted in Aristarchus of Samothrace, the head librarian, resigning from his position and exiling himself to Cyprus. Many other scholars, including Dionysius Thrax and Apollodorus of Athens, fled to other cities, where they continued teaching and conducting scholarship. The Library, or part of its collection, was accidentally burned by Julius Caesar during his civil war in 48 BC, but it is unclear how much was actually destroyed and it seems to have either survived or been rebuilt shortly thereafter; the geographer Strabo mentions having visited the Mouseion in around 20 BC and the prodigious scholarly output of Didymus Chalcenterus in Alexandria from this period indicates that he had access to at least some of the Library's resources.

The Library dwindled during the Roman Period, due to lack of funding and support. Its membership appears to have ceased by the 260s AD. Between 270 and 275 AD, the city of Alexandria saw a rebellion and an imperial counterattack that probably destroyed whatever remained of the Library, if it still existed at that time. The daughter library of the Serapeum may have survived after the main Library's destruction. The Serapeum was vandalized and demolished in 391 AD under a decree issued by Coptic Christian Pope Theophilus of Alexandria, but it does not seem to have housed books at the time and was mainly used as a gathering place for Neoplatonist philosophers following the teachings of Iamblichus.


In Ancient Greek grammar, a perispomenon (περισπώμενον) is a word with a high-low pitch contour on the last syllable, indicated in writing by a circumflex accent mark. A properispomenon has the same kind of accent, but on the penultimate syllable.Examples:

θεοῦ, theoû, "of a god", is a perispomenon

πρᾶξις prâxis "business" is a properispomenon

Rough breathing

In the polytonic orthography of Ancient Greek, the rough breathing (Ancient Greek: δασὺ πνεῦμα, romanized: dasỳ pneûma or δασεῖα daseîa; Greek: δασεία dasía; Latin spīritus asper), is a diacritical mark used to indicate the presence of an /h/ sound before a vowel, diphthong, or after rho. It remained in the polytonic orthography even after the Hellenistic period, when the sound disappeared from the Greek language. In the monotonic orthography of Modern Greek phonology, in use since 1982, it is not used at all.

The absence of an /h/ sound is marked by the smooth breathing.

Secunda (Hexapla)

The Secunda is the second column of Origen's Hexapla, a compilation of the Hebrew Bible and Greek versions. It consists of a transliteration of the Hebrew text of the Hebrew Bible into Greek characters, and is the oldest coherent Hebrew text in existence. As such it serves as an important document for Hebrew philology, in particular the study of Biblical Hebrew phonology.

Smooth breathing

The smooth breathing (Ancient Greek: ψιλὸν πνεῦμα, romanized: psilòn pneûma; Greek: ψιλή psilí; Latin: spīritus lēnis) is a diacritical mark used in polytonic orthography. In ancient Greek, it marks the absence of the voiceless glottal fricative /h/ from the beginning of a word.

Some authorities have interpreted it as representing a glottal stop, but a final vowel at the end of a word is regularly elided (removed) when the following word starts with a vowel and elision would not happen if the second word began with a glottal stop (or any other form of stop consonant). In his Vox Graeca, W. Sidney Allen accordingly regards the glottal stop interpretation as "highly improbable".The smooth breathing ( ᾿ ) is written as on top of one initial vowel, on top of the second vowel of a diphthong or to the left of a capital and also, in certain editions, on the first of a pair of rhos. It did not occur on an initial upsilon, which always has rough breathing (thus the early name ὕ hy, rather than ὔ y).

The smooth breathing was kept in the traditional polytonic orthography even after the /h/ sound had disappeared from the language in Hellenistic times. It has been dropped in the modern monotonic orthography.


A tittle or superscript dot is a small distinguishing mark, such as a diacritic or the dot on a lowercase i or j. The tittle is an integral part of the glyph of i and j, but diacritic dots can appear over other letters in various languages. In most languages, the tittle of i or j is omitted when a diacritic is placed in the tittle's usual position (as í or ĵ), but not when the diacritic appears elsewhere (as į, ɉ).

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