Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing dates to about 1450 BC. It is descended from the older Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, as is the later Cypriot syllabary, which also recorded Greek. Linear B, found mainly in the palace archives at Knossos, Cydonia, Pylos, Thebes and Mycenae, disappeared with the fall of Mycenaean civilization during the Late Bronze Age collapse. The succeeding period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, provides no evidence of the use of writing. It is also the only one of the Bronze Age Aegean scripts to have been deciphered, by English architect and self-taught linguist Michael Ventris.
Linear B consists of around 87 syllabic signs and over 100 ideographic signs. These ideograms or "signifying" signs symbolize objects or commodities. They have no phonetic value and are never used as word signs in writing a sentence.
The application of Linear B appears to have been confined to administrative contexts. In all the thousands of clay tablets, a relatively small number of different "hands" have been detected: 45 in Pylos (west coast of the Peloponnese, in southern Greece) and 66 in Knossos (Crete). It is possible that the script was used only by a guild of professional scribes who served the central palaces. Once the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared.
|Late Bronze Age|
Linear B has roughly 200 signs, divided into syllabic signs with phonetic values and ideograms with semantic values. The representations and naming of these signs have been standardized by a series of international colloquia starting with the first in Paris in 1956. After the third meeting in 1961 at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, a standard proposed primarily by Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., became known as the Wingspread Convention, which was adopted by a new organization, the Comité International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes (CIPEM), affiliated in 1970 by the fifth colloquium with UNESCO. Colloquia continue: the 13th occurred in 2010 in Paris.
The grid developed during decipherment by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick of phonetic values for syllabic signs is shown below. (Note that "q" represents labilized velar stops [ɡʷ, kʷ, kʷʰ], not a uvular stop as in IPA)
Initial consonants are in the leftmost column; vowels are in the top row beneath the title. The transcription of the syllable (it may not have been pronounced that way) is listed next to the sign along with Bennett's identifying number for the sign preceded by an asterisk (as was Ventris' and Chadwick's convention).[note 1] In cases where the transcription of the sign remains in doubt, Bennett's number serves to identify the sign. The signs on the tablets and sealings often show considerable variation from each other and from the representations below. Discovery of the reasons for the variation and possible semantic differences is a topic of ongoing debate in Mycenaean studies.
|Recognised signs of shape V, CV[note 2]|
In addition to the grid, the first edition of Documents in Mycenaean Greek contained a number of other signs termed "homophones" because they appeared at that time to resemble the sounds of other syllables and were transcribed accordingly: pa2 and pa3 were presumed homophonous to pa. Many of these were identified by the second edition and are shown in the "special values" below. The second edition relates: "It may be taken as axiomatic that there are no true homophones." The unconfirmed identifications of *34 and *35 as ai2 and ai3 were removed. pa2 became qa.
|Transcription||a2 (ha)||a3 (ai)||au||dwe||dwo||nwa||pte||pu2 (phu)||ra2 (rya)||ra3 (rai)||ro2 (ryo)||ta2 (tya)||twe||two|
Other values remain unknown, mainly because of scarcity of evidence concerning them.[note 3] Note that *34 and *35 are mirror images of each other but whether this graphic relationship indicates a phonetic one remains unconfirmed.
|Untranscribed and doubtful values|
In recent times, CIPEM inherited the former authority of Bennett and the Wingspread Convention in deciding what signs are "confirmed" and how to officially represent the various sign categories. In editions of Mycenaean texts, the signs whose values have not been confirmed by CIPEM are always transcribed as numbers preceded by an asterisk (e.g., *64). CIPEM also allocates the numerical identifiers, and until such allocation, new signs (or obscured or mutilated signs) are transcribed as a bullet-point enclosed in square brackets: [•].
The signs are approximations―each may be used to represent a variety of about 70 distinct combinations of sounds, within rules and conventions. The grid presents a system of monosyllabic signs of the type V/CV. Clarification of the 14 or so special values tested the limits of the grid model, but Chadwick in the end concluded that even with the ramifications, the syllabic signs can unexceptionally be considered monosyllabic.
Possible exceptions, Chadwick goes on to explain, include the two diphthongs, 𐁁 (ai) and 𐁂 (au), as in 𐁁𐀓𐀠𐀴𐀍, ai-ku-pi-ti-jo, for Aiguptios (Αἰγύπτιος, "Egyptian") and 𐁂𐀐𐀷, au-ke-wa, for Augewās (Αὐγείας "Augeas").[note 4] However, a diphthong is by definition two vowels united into a single sound and therefore might be typed as just V. Thus 𐁉 (rai), as in 𐀁𐁉𐀺, e-rai-wo, for elaiwon (ἔλαιον),[note 5] is of the type CV. Diphthongs are otherwise treated as two monosyllables: 𐀀𐀫𐀄𐀨, a-ro-u-ra, for arourans (accusative plural of ἄρουραι, "tamarisk trees"), of the types CV and V. Lengths of vowels and accents are not marked.
𐁌 (Twe), 𐁍 (two), 𐁃 (dwe), 𐁄 (dwo), 𐁅 (nwa) and the more doubtful 𐁘 (swi) and 𐁚 (swa) may be regarded as beginning with labialized consonants, rather than two consonants, even though they may alternate with a two-sign form: o-da-twe-ta and o-da-tu-we-ta for Odatwenta; a-si-wi-jo and a-swi-jo for Aswios (Ἄσιος). Similarly, 𐁈 (rya), 𐁊 (ryo) and 𐁋 (tya) begin with palatalized consonants rather than two consonants: -ti-ri-ja for -trja (-τρια).
The one sign Chadwick tags as the exception to the monosyllabic rule is 𐁇 (pte), but this he attributes to a development pte<*pje as in kleptei<*klep-jei.
Linear B does not consistently distinguish between voiced and unvoiced stop consonants (except in the dental series) and between aspirated and unaspirated stops even when these distinctions are phonemic in Mycenaean Greek. For example, pa-te is patēr (πατήρ), pa-si is phāsi (φησί);[note 6] p on the other hand some times does not represent (like in the beginning of the following word) β: βασιλεύς ("basileus", meaning in this period "court official or local chieftain") is qa-si-re-u[note 7]); ko-ru is korus (κόρυς, "helmet"), ka-ra-we is grāwes (plural of γρηύς), ko-no is skhoinos ("rope"). Exceptionally, however, the dentals are represented by a t-series and a d-series for unvoiced and voiced: to-so for tosos (τόσος or τόσσος) but do-ra for dōra (plural of δῶρον, "gift"). Aspiration, however, is not marked: to-ra-ke for thōrākes (plural of θώραξ, "breastplate"). In other cases aspiration can be marked but is optional: pu-te for phutēr ("planter", from φυτεύω), but phu-te-re for phutēres ("planters"). Initial aspiration may be marked only in the case of initial a and rarely: ha-te-ro for hateron (masculine ἅτερος), and yet a-ni-ja for hāniai (ἁνίαι).
The j-series represents the semivowel equivalent to English "y", and is used word-initially and as an intervocalic glide after a syllable ending in i: -a-jo for -αῖος (-aios); a-te-mi-ti-jo for Ἀρτεμίτιος (Artemitios). The w-series similarly are semivowels used word-initially and intervocalically after a syllable ending in u: ku-wa-no for kuanos (κύανος, "blue").
The r-series includes both the /r/ and /l/ phonemes: ti-ri-po for tripos (τρίπος, i.e. τρίπους) and tu-ri-so for Tulisos (Τυλισός).
The q-series is used for monosyllables beginning with a class of consonants that disappeared from classical Greek by regular phonetic change: the labialized velar consonants (see under Mycenaean Greek). These had entered the language from various sources: inheritance from Proto-Indo-European, assimilation, borrowing of foreign words, especially names. In Mycenaean they are /kʷ/, /gʷ/, and rarely /kʷh/ in names and a few words: a-pi-qo-ro for amphiquoloi (ἀμφίπολοι); qo-u-ko-ro for guoukoloi (βουκόλοι. "cowherders"); -qo-i-ta for -φόντης.
Some consonants in some contexts are not written (but are understood): word-initial s- and -w before a consonant, as in pe-ma for sperma (σπέρμα, "seed"); syllable-final -l, -m, -n, -r, -s; only word-final velars are notated by plene writing: a-to-ro-qo for anthrōquos (ἄνθρωπος, "human being, person"). In the first example, the pe-, which was primarily used as its value pe of grid class CV, is being used for sper-, not in that class. This was not an innovative or exceptional use, but followed the stated rules. Similarly, a, being primarily of grid class V, is being used as an- and could be used for al, am, ar, and so on.
Clusters of two or three consonants that do not follow the initial s- and -w rule or the double consonants: ξ (ks or x), ψ (ps) and qus (which later did not exist in classical Greek) were represented by the same number of signs of type CV as the cluster had consonants: ko-no-so for Knōsos,[note 8] ku-ru-so for khrusos (χρυσός, "gold"). The consonants were the same as in the cluster. The vowels so introduced have been called "empty", "null", "extra", "dead" and other terms by various writers as they represent no sound. The sign was not alphabetic: rules governed the selection of the vowel and therefore of the sign. The vowel had to be the same as the one of the first syllable following the cluster or if at the end of the word, preceding: ti-ri-po with ti- (instead of ta-, te- and so on) to match -ri-. A rare exception occurs in words formed from wa-na-ka, wanax (ϝάναξ, Homeric and Classical ἄναξ): wa-na-ka-te for wanaktei (dative), and wa-na-ka-te-ro for wanakteros, the adjectival form.
Linear B also uses a large number of ideograms. They express:
They have no phonetic value and are never used as word signs in writing a sentence like Japanese kanji are. They are typically at the end of a line before a number and appear to signify the object the number applies to. Many of the values remain unknown or disputed. Some commodities such as cloth and containers are divided into many different categories represented by distinct ideograms. Livestock may be marked with respect to their sex.
The numerical references for the ideograms were originally devised by Ventris and Bennett, divided into functional groups corresponding to the breakdown of Bennett's index. These groups are numbered beginning 100, 110, 120 etc., with some provision of spare numbers for future additions; the official CIPEM numberings used today are based on Ventris and Bennett's numbering, with the provision that three or four letter codes (written in small capitals), based on Latin words that seemed relevant at the time, are used where the meanings are known and agreed. Unicode (as of version 5.0) encodes 123 Linear B ideograms.
The ideograms are symbols, not pictures of the objects in question—e.g. one tablet records a tripod with missing legs, but the ideogram used is of a tripod with three legs. In modern transcriptions of Linear B tablets, it is typically convenient to represent an ideogram by its Latin or English name or by an abbreviation of the Latin name. Ventris and Chadwick generally used English; Bennett, Latin. Neither the English nor the Latin can be relied upon as an accurate name of the object; in fact, the identification of some of the more obscure objects is a matter of exegesis.
|Glyph||Code point[note 9]||Bennett||CIPEM||English|
|People and Animals|
|U+10083||105 Ca S-||EQU
|"Adjunct to ox" (1973)|
|U+10086||106b C- D-||OVISf||EWE|
|U+10087||106a C- D-||OVISm||RAM|
|𐂈||U+10088||107b C- Mc||CAPf||SHE-GOAT|
|Units of Measurement|
|By Dry Measure|
|𐂎||U+1008E||120 E- F-||GRA
|𐂐||U+10090||122 F- U-||OLIV
"some kind of grain"
|𐂑||U+10091||123 G- Un||AROM
|By liquid measure|
|By weight or in units|
|Counted in units|
|𐃤||U+100E4||205 K Tn||
|𐃍||U+100CD||241 Sd Se||CUR
|𐃎||U+100CE||242 Sf Sg||CAPS
|𐃏||U+100CF||243 Sa So||ROTA
Inscriptions in Linear B have been found on tablets and vases or other objects; they are catalogued and classified by, inter alia, the location of the excavation they were found in.
|Prefix||Location||Number of items and/or notes|
|Two tablet fragments.|
|IK||Iklaina||Fragment of a tablet.|
|KN||Knossos||ca. 4,360 tablets (not counting finds of Linear A)|
|TH||Thebes||99 tablets + 238 published in 2002 (L. Godart and A. Sacconi, 2002);|
|Kastron of Palaia Hill
|Kastron or Castron both is a, and means, "castle"; the location is occasionally called Kastro-Palaia in English.|
Another 170 inscriptions in Linear B have been found on various vessels, for a total of some 6,058 known inscriptions.
The oldest Linear B tablets are probably those from the Room of Chariot Tablets at Knossos, and date to the latter half of the 15th century BC. The Kafkania pebble, though from an earlier context, is not genuine. The earliest inscription from the mainland is an inscribed clay tablet found at Iklaina dating to between 1400 and 1350 BC.
The Aegean is responsible for many of the early Greek language words that have to do with daily life such as words for tools and items that are seen every day. The sequence and the geographical spread of Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A, and Linear B, the three overlapping, but distinct, writing systems on Bronze Age Crete, the Aegean islands, and mainland Greece are summarized as follows:
|Writing system||Geographical area||Time span[note 10]|
|Cretan hieroglyphs||Crete||ca. 1625−1500 BC|
|Linear A||Crete, Aegean Islands (Kea, Kythira, Milos, Santorini), and Laconia||ca. 1800−1450 BC|
|Linear B||Crete (Knossos), and mainland (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns)||ca. 1425−1200 BC|
|Relative date||Period dates||Location||Locale or tablet|
|LM II||1425–1390 BC||Knossos||Room of the Chariot Tablets|
|LH IIIA1/early LH IIIA2||1400–1370 BC||Iklaina|
|LM IIIB||1340–1190 BC||Chania||tablets Sq 1, 6659, KH 3 (possibly Linear B)|
|LH/LM IIIB1 end[note 11]||Chania
|tablets Ar 3, Gq 5, X 6|
tablets from Oil Merchant group of houses
Ug tablets and Wu sealings
|LH IIIB2, end||Mycenae
|tablets from the Citadel|
Of tablets and new Pelopidou Street deposit
all but five tablets
The Knossos archive was dated by Arthur Evans to the destruction by conflagration of about 1400 BC, which would have baked and preserved the clay tablets. He dated this event to the LM II period. This view stood until Carl Blegen excavated the site of ancient Pylos in 1939 and uncovered tablets inscribed in Linear B. They were fired in the conflagration that destroyed Pylos about 1200 BC, at the end of LHIIIB. With the decipherment of Linear B by Michael Ventris in 1952, serious questions about Evans' date began to be considered. Most notably, Blegen said that the inscribed stirrup jars, which are oil flasks with stirrup-shaped handles, imported from Crete around 1200 were of the same type as those dated by Evans to the destruction of 1400. Blegen found a number of similarities between 1200 BC Pylos and 1400 BC Knossos and suggested the Knossian evidence be reexamined, as he was sure of the 1200 Pylian date.
The examination uncovered a number of difficulties. The Knossos tablets had been found at various locations in the palace. Evans had not kept exact records. Recourse was had to the day books of Evans' assistant, Duncan Mackenzie, who had conducted the day-to-day excavations. There were discrepancies between the notes in the day books and Evans' excavation reports. Moreover, the two men had disagreed over the location and strata of the tablets. The results of the reinvestigation were eventually published by Palmer and Boardman, On the Knossos Tablets. It contains two works, Leonard Robert Palmer's The Find-Places of the Knossos Tablets and John Boardman's The Date of the Knossos Tablets, representing Blegen's and Evans' views respectively. Consequently, the dispute was known for a time as "the Palmer-Boardman dispute". There has been no generally accepted resolution to it yet.
The major cities and palaces used Linear B for records of disbursements of goods. Wool, sheep, and grain were some common items, often given to groups of religious people and to groups of "men watching the coastline".
The tablets were kept in groups in baskets on shelves, judging by impressions left in the clay from the weaving of the baskets. When the buildings they were housed in were destroyed by fires, many of the tablets were fired.
The British archaeologist Arthur Evans, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, was presented by Greville Chester in 1886 with a sealstone from Crete engraved with a writing he took to be Mycenaean. Heinrich Schliemann had encountered signs similar to these, but had never identified the signs clearly as writing, relating in his major work on Mycenae that "of combinations of signs resembling inscriptions I have hitherto only found three or four ...." In 1893 Evans purchased more sealstones in Athens, verifying from the antiquarian dealers that the stones came from Crete. During the next year he noticed the script on other artefacts in the Ashmolean. In 1894 he embarked for Crete in search of the script. Soon after arrival, at Knossos he saw the sign of the double axe on an excavated wall, considering this the source of the script. Subsequently, he found more stones being worn by Cretan women as amulets called γαλόπετρες "milk-stones", coming from the various ruins.
Starting in 1894, Evans published his theories that the signs evidenced various phases in the development of a writing system in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, the first article being "Primitive Pictographs and a Prae-Phoenician Script from Crete". In these articles Evans distinguished between "pictographic writing" and "a linear system of writing". He did not explicitly define these terms, causing some confusion among subsequent writers concerning what he meant, but in 1898 he wrote "These linear forms indeed consist of simple geometrical figures which unlike the more complicated pictorial class were little susceptible to modification," and "That the linear or quasi-alphabetic signs ... were in the main ultimately derived from the rudely scratched line pictures belonging to the infancy of art can hardly be doubted."
Meanwhile, Evans began to negotiate for the land purchase of the Knossos site. He established the Cretan Exploration Fund, with only his own money at first, and by 1896 the fund had purchased one-fourth of Kephala Hill, on which the ruins were located, with first option to buy the rest. However, he could not obtain a firman excavation permit from the Ottoman government. He returned to Britain. In January 1897, the Christian population of Crete staged its final insurrection against the Ottoman Empire. The last Ottoman troops were ferried off the island by the British fleet on December 5, 1898. In that year also, Evans and his friends returned to complete purchase of the site. By this time, the Fund had other contributors as well. In 1899, the Constitution of a new Cretan Republic went into effect. Once Arthur had received permission to excavate from the local authorities, excavation on the hill began on 23 March 1900.
According to Evans' report to the British School at Athens for that year, on April 5, the excavators discovered the first large cache ever of Linear B tablets among the remains of a wooden box in a disused terracotta bathtub. Subsequently, caches turned up at multiple locations, including the Room of the Chariot Tablets, where over 350 pieces from four boxes were found. The tablets were 4.5 cm (1.8 in) to 19.5 cm (7.7 in) long by 1.2 cm (0.47 in) to 7.2 cm (2.8 in) wide and were scored with horizontal lines over which text was written in about 70 characters. Even in this earliest excavation report, Evans could tell that "...a certain number of quasi-pictorial characters also occur which seem to have an ideographic or determinative meaning."
The excavation was over for that year by June 2. Evans reported: "only a comparatively small proportion of the tablets were preserved in their entirety," the causes of destruction being rainfall through the roof of the storage room, crumbling of small pieces, and being thrown away by workmen who failed to identify them. A report on September 6 to the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland began to use some of the concepts characteristic of Evans' later thought: "palace of Knossos" and "palace of Minos". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900, notes that Evans took up Stillman's theme that the palace was the labyrinth of mythology in which the half-bovine son of King Minos lurked. In the report, the tablets are now called a "linear script" as opposed to the "hieroglyphic or conventionalized pictographic script". The linear script has characters that are "of a free, upright, European character" and "seem to have been for the most part syllabic". Evans reasserts the ideographic idea: "a certain number are unquestionably ideographic or determinative."
The years after 1900 were consumed by excavations at Knossos and the discovery and study by Evans of tablets, with a projected comprehensive work on Cretan scripts to be called Scripta Minoa. A year before the publication of volume I, he began to drop hints that he now believed the linear script was two scripts, to be presented in the forthcoming book.
In Scripta Minoa I, which appeared in 1909, he explained that the discovery of the Phaistos Disc in July 1908 had caused him to pull the book from the presses so that he could include the disk by permission, as it had not yet been published. On the next page he mentioned that he was also including by permission of Federico Halbherr of the Italian Mission in Crete unpublished tablets from Hagia Triada written in a linear script of "Class A". To what degree if any Halbherr was responsible for Evans' division of the "linear script" into "Class A" and "Class B" is not stated. The Knossos tablets were of Class B, so that Evans could have perceived Class A only in tablets from elsewhere, and so recently that he needed permission to include the examples.
Evans summarized the differences between the two scripts as "type" or "form of script;' that is, varieties in the formation and arrangement of the characters. For example, he says "the clay documents belonging to Class A show a certain approximation in their forms to those presenting the hieroglyphic inscriptions ... the system of numerals is also in some respects intermediate between that of the hieroglyphic documents and that of the linear Class B."
The first volume covered "the Hieroglyphic and Primitive Linear Classes" in three parts: the "pre-Phoenician Scripts of Crete", the "Pictorial Script" and "the Phaistos Disk". One or two more volumes publishing the Linear A and Linear B tablets were planned, but Evans ran out of time; the project required more than one man could bring to it. For a good many of the years left to him, he was deeply enmeshed in war and politics in the Balkans. When he did return to Knossos, completion and publication of the palace excavations took priority. His greatest work, Palace of Minos, came out in 1935. It did include scattered descriptions of tablets. He died in 1941, soon after Nazi forces invaded Crete.
The Knossos tablets had remained in the museum at Irakleion, Crete, where many of them now were missing. The unpublished second volume consisted of notes by Evans and plates and fonts created by Clarendon Press. In 1939, Carl Blegen had uncovered the Pylos Tablets; pressure was mounting to finish Scripta Minoa II. After Evans' death, Alice Kober, assistant to John Myres and a major transcriber of the Knossos tablets, prompted Myres to come back from retirement and finish the work. Emmett L. Bennett, Jr. added more transcriptions. The second volume came out in 1952 with Evans cited as author and Myres as editor, just before the discovery that Linear B writes an early form of Greek. An impatient Ventris and Chadwick declared: "Two generations of scholars had been cheated of the opportunity to work constructively on the problem."
Despite the limited source materials, during this time there were efforts to decipher the newly discovered Cretan script. Australian classicist Florence Stawell published an interpretation of the Phaistos Disc in the April 1911 issue of The Burlington Magazine. She followed this with the book A Clue to the Cretan Scripts, published in 1931. Stawell declared all three Cretan script forms to represent early Homeric Greek, and offered her attempts at translations. Also in 1931, F. G. Gordon's Through Basque to Minoan was published by the Oxford University Press. Gordon attempted to prove a close link between the Basque language and Linear B, without lasting success.
In 1949, the distinguished Professor Bedřich Hrozný of Prague published Les Inscriptions Crétoises, Essai de déchiffrement, a proposed decipherment of the Cretan scripts. Hrozny was internationally renowned as the translator of Hittite cuneiform decades previously. His Minoan translations into academic French, though, proved to be considerably subjective, and incorrect.
From the 1930s to 1950s there was correspondence between, and papers published by, various international academic figures. These included Johannes Sundwall, K. D. Ktistopoulos, Ernst Sittig and V. I. Georgiev. None of them succeeded with decipherment, yet they added to knowledge and debate.
About the same time, Professor Alice Kober studied Linear B and managed to construct grids, linking similar symbols in groups of threes. Kober noticed that a number of Linear B words had common roots and suffixes. This led her to believe that Linear B represented an inflected language, with nouns changing their endings depending on their case. However, some characters in the middle of the words seemed to correspond with neither a root nor a suffix. Because this effect was found in other known languages, Kober surmised that the odd characters were bridging syllables, with the beginning of the syllable belonging to the root and the end belonging to the suffix. This was a reasonable assumption, since Linear B had far too many characters to be considered alphabetic and too few to be logographic; therefore, each character should represent a syllable. Kober's systematic approach allowed her to demonstrate the existence of three grammatical cases and identify several pairs of signs that shared vowels or consonants with one another.
Dr. Kober also showed that the two symbol word for 'total' at the end of livestock and personnel lists, had a different symbol for gender. This gender change with one letter, usually a vowel, is most frequent in Indo-European languages. Kober had rejected any speculation on the language represented, preferring painstaking cataloguing and analysis of the actual symbols, though she did believe it likely that Linear A and Linear B represented different languages.
The convention for numbering the symbols still in use today was first devised by United States Professor Emmett L. Bennett, Jr.. Working alongside fellow academic Alice Kober, by 1950 Bennett had deciphered the metrical system, based on his intensive study of Linear B tablets unearthed at Pylos. He concluded that those tablets contained exactly the same script as the Linear B found at Knossos, and he classified and assigned identification numbers to the Linear B signs as he prepared a publication on the Pylos tablets. Like Kober, Bennett was also an early proponent of the idea that Linear A and B represented different languages. His book The Pylos Tablets became a crucial resource for Michael Ventris, who later described it as "a wonderful piece of work".
In 1935, the British School at Athens was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with an exhibition at Burlington House, London. Among the speakers was Arthur Evans, then eighty-four years old. The teenaged Michael Ventris was present in the audience. In 1940, the 18-year-old Ventris had an article Introducing the Minoan Language published in the American Journal of Archaeology.
After wartime service as a navigator with RAF Bomber Command, and a post-war year in Occupied Germany, he returned to civilian life, and completed qualification as an architect. Despite having no university qualification, Ventris continued with his amateur interest in Linear B, corresponding with known scholars, who usually but not always replied.
Michael Ventris and John Chadwick performed the bulk of the decipherment of Linear B between 1951 and 1953. At first Ventris chose his own numbering method, but later switched to Bennett's system. His initial decipherment was achieved using Kober's classification tables, to which he applied his own theories. Some Linear B tablets had been discovered on the Greek mainland. Noticing that certain symbol combinations appeared only on the tablets found in Crete, he conjectured that these might be names of places on the island. This proved to be correct. Working with the symbols he could decipher from this, Ventris soon unlocked much text and determined that the underlying language of Linear B was in fact Greek. This contradicted general scientific views of the time, and indeed Ventris himself had previously agreed with Evans' hypothesis that Linear B was not Greek.
Ventris' discovery was of significance in demonstrating a Greek-speaking Minoan-Mycenaean culture on Crete, and thus presenting Greek in writing centuries earlier than had been previously accepted.
Chadwick, a university lecturer in Ancient Greek philology, helped Ventris develop his decipherment of the text and discover the vocabulary and grammar of Mycenaean Greek. He noted:
That any Linear B tablets are written in a language other than Greek still remains to be demonstrated; but that words and usages not exactly paralleled in later Greek occur is both certain and to be expected. But we must not resort to "non-Greek" whenever we come up against an insoluble problem.
The first edition of their book, Documents in Mycenaean Greek, was published in 1956, shortly after Ventris's death in an automobile accident.
Linear B was added to the Unicode Standard in April, 2003 with the release of version 4.0.
The Linear B Syllabary block is U+10000–U+1007F. The Linear B Ideograms block is U+10080–U+100FF. The Unicode block for the related Aegean Numbers is U+10100–U+1013F.
|Linear B Syllabary|
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
|Linear B Ideograms|
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Aegean numbers was the numeral system used by the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. They are attested in Linear A and Linear B scripts. They may have survived in the Cypro-Minoan script, where a single sign with "100" value is attested so far on a large clay tablet from Enkomi.Alexandra
Alexandra (Greek: Ἀλεξάνδρα) is the feminine form of the given name Alexander (Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros). Etymologically, the name is a compound of the Greek verb ἀλέξειν (alexein) "to defend" and ἀνήρ (anēr) "man" (GEN ἀνδρός andros). Thus it may be roughly translated as "defender of man" or "protector of man". The name was one of the titles or epithets given to the Greek goddess Hera and as such is usually taken to mean "one who comes to save warriors". The earliest attested form of the name is the Mycenaean Greek 𐀀𐀩𐀏𐀭𐀅𐀨, a-re-ka-sa-da-ra, written in the Linear B syllabic script.Cadmus
In Greek mythology, Cadmus (; Greek: Κάδμος Kadmos), was the founder and first king of Thebes. Cadmus was the first Greek hero and, alongside Perseus and Bellerophon, the greatest hero and slayer of monsters before the days of Heracles. Initially a Phoenician prince, son of king Agenor and queen Telephassa of Tyre and the brother of Phoenix, Cilix and Europa, he was originally sent by his royal parents to seek out and escort his sister Europa back to Tyre after she was abducted from the shores of Phoenicia by Zeus. In early accounts, Cadmus and Europa were instead the children of Phoenix. Cadmus founded the Greek city of Thebes, the acropolis of which was originally named Cadmeia in his honour.
Cadmus was credited by the ancient Greeks (such as Herodotus c. 484 – c. 425 BC, one of the first Greek historians, but one who also wove standard myths and legends through his work) with introducing the original Phoenician alphabet to the Greeks, who adapted it to form their Greek alphabet. Herodotus estimates that Cadmus lived sixteen hundred years before his time, which would be around 2000 BC. Herodotus had seen and described the Cadmean writing in the temple of Apollo at Thebes engraved on certain tripods. He estimated those tripods to date back to the time of Laius the great-grandson of Cadmus. On one of the tripods there was this inscription in Cadmean writing, which, as he attested, resembled Ionian letters: Ἀμφιτρύων μ᾽ ἀνέθηκ᾽ ἐνάρων ἀπὸ Τηλεβοάων ("Amphitryon dedicated me [don't forget] the spoils of [the battle of] Teleboae.").
Although Greeks like Herodotus dated Cadmus's role in the founding myth of Thebes to well before the Trojan War (or, in modern terms, during the Aegean Bronze Age), this chronology conflicts with most of what is now known or thought to be known about the origins and spread of both the Phoenician and Greek alphabets. The earliest Greek inscriptions match Phoenician letter forms from the late 9th or 8th centuries BC—in any case, the Phoenician alphabet properly speaking was not developed until around 1050 BC (or after the Bronze Age collapse). The Homeric picture of the Mycenaean age betrays extremely little awareness of writing, possibly reflecting the loss during the Dark Age of the earlier Linear B script. Indeed, the only Homeric reference to writing was in the phrase "γράμματα λυγρά", grámmata lygrá, literally "baneful drawings", when referring to the Bellerophontic letter. Linear B tablets have been found in abundance at Thebes, which might lead one to speculate that the legend of Cadmus as bringer of the alphabet could reflect earlier traditions about the origins of Linear B writing in Greece (as Frederick Ahl speculated in 1967). But such a suggestion, however attractive, is by no means a certain conclusion in light of currently available evidence. The connection between the name of Cadmus and the historical origins of either the Linear B script or the later Phoenician alphabet, if any, remains elusive. However, in modern-day Lebanon, Cadmus is still revered and celebrated as the 'carrier of the letter' to the world.
According to Greek myth, Cadmus's descendants ruled at Thebes on and off for several generations, including the time of the Trojan War.Cypriot syllabary
The Cypriot or Cypriote syllabary is a syllabic script used in Iron Age Cyprus, from about the 11th to the 4th centuries BCE, when it was replaced by the Greek alphabet. A pioneer of that change was king Evagoras of Salamis. It is descended from the Cypro-Minoan syllabary, in turn a variant or derivative of Linear A. Most texts using the script are in the Arcadocypriot dialect of Greek, but also one bilingual (Greek and Eteocypriot) inscription was found in Amathus.Demeter
In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Demeter (; Attic: Δημήτηρ Dēmḗtēr, pronounced [dɛːmɛ́ːtɛːr]; Doric: Δαμάτηρ Dāmā́tēr) is the goddess of the grain, agriculture, harvest, growth, and nourishment, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. Her cult titles include Sito (Σιτώ), "she of the Grain", as the giver of food or grain, and Thesmophoros (θεσμός, thesmos: divine order, unwritten law; φόρος, phoros: bringer, bearer), "Law-Bringer", as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, a religious tradition that predated the Olympian pantheon, and which may have its roots in the Mycenaean period c. 1400–1200 BC. Demeter was often considered to be the same figure as the Anatolian goddess Cybele, and in Rome she was identified as the Latin goddess Ceres.Greek Dark Ages
The Greek Dark Ages, Homeric Age (named for the fabled poet, Homer) or Geometric period (so called after the characteristic Geometric art of the time),
is the period of Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean palatial civilization around 1100 BC to the first signs of the Greek poleis (city states) in the 9th century BC.
The archaeological evidence shows a widespread collapse of Bronze Age civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean world at the outset of the period, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. At about the same time, the Hittite civilization suffered serious disruption and cities from Troy to Gaza were destroyed and in Egypt the New Kingdom fell into disarray that led to the Third Intermediate Period.
Following the collapse, fewer and smaller settlements suggest famine and depopulation. In Greece, the Linear B writing of the Greek language used by Mycenaean bureaucrats ceased. The decoration on Greek pottery after about 1100 BC lacks the figurative decoration of Mycenaean ware and is restricted to simpler, generally geometric styles (1000–700 BC).
It was previously thought that all contact was lost between mainland Hellenes and foreign powers during this period, yielding little cultural progress or growth, but artifacts from excavations at Lefkandi on the Lelantine Plain in Euboea show that significant cultural and trade links with the east, particularly the Levant coast, developed from c. 900 BC onwards. Additionally, evidence has emerged of the new presence of Hellenes in sub-Mycenaean Cyprus and on the Syrian coast at Al-Mina.Greek language
Greek (Modern Greek: ελληνικά elliniká) is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
The Greek language holds an important place in the history of the Western world and Christianity; the canon of ancient Greek literature includes works in the Western canon such as the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. Greek is also the language in which many of the foundational texts in science, especially astronomy, mathematics and logic and Western philosophy, such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle, are composed; the New Testament of the Christian Bible was written in Koiné Greek. Together with the Latin texts and traditions of the Roman world, the study of the Greek texts and society of antiquity constitutes the discipline of Classics.
During antiquity, Greek was a widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world, West Asia and many places beyond. It would eventually become the official parlance of the Byzantine Empire and develop into Medieval Greek. In its modern form, Greek is the official language in two countries, Greece and Cyprus, a recognised minority language in seven other countries, and is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. The language is spoken by at least 13.2 million people today in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, Turkey, and the Greek diaspora.
Greek roots are often used to coin new words for other languages; Greek and Latin are the predominant sources of international scientific vocabulary.John Chadwick
John Chadwick, (21 May 1920 – 24 November 1998) was an English linguist and classical scholar who, with Michael Ventris, was most notable for the decipherment of Linear B.Linear A
Linear A is a writing system used by the Minoans (Cretans) from 1800 to 1450 BC that belongs to an independent group that is distinct from Egyptian and Babylonian systems. During the second millennium, there were four major branches: the Cretan Hieroglyphic Script, Linear A, Linear B, and Cypro-Minoan. Along with Cretan hieroglyphic, it is one of two undeciphered writing systems used by ancient Minoan and peripheral peoples. Linear A was the primary script used in palace and religious writings of the Minoan civilization. It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. It is related to the Linear B script, which succeeded the Linear A and was used by the Mycenaean civilization.
In the 1950s, Linear B was largely deciphered by Michael Ventris and found to encode an early form of Greek. Although the two systems share many symbols, this did not lead to a subsequent decipherment of Linear A. Using the values associated with Linear B in Linear A mainly produces unintelligible words. If Linear A uses the same or similar syllabic values as Linear B, then its associated language, dubbed "Minoan", appears unrelated to any known language.
All assumptions and hypotheses about Linear A and Minoan (their underlying language) are based primarily on comparison with the well-known Linear B, the famous child system developed by Linear A.Linear B Ideograms
Linear B Ideograms is a Unicode block containing ideographic characters for writing Mycenaean Greek. Several Linear B ideographs double as syllabic letters, and are encoded in the Linear B Syllabary block.Linear B Syllabary
Linear B Syllabary is a Unicode block containing characters for the syllabic writing of Mycenaean Greek.List of Mycenaean deities
This is an incomplete list of Mycenaean Greek deities and of the way their names, epithets, or titles are spelled and attested in Mycenaean Greek, written in the Linear B syllabary, along with some reconstructions and equivalent forms in later Greek.Michael Ventris
Michael George Francis Ventris, OBE (; 12 July 1922 – 6 September 1956) was an English architect, classicist and philologist who deciphered Linear B, the ancient Mycenaean Greek script. A student of languages, Ventris had pursued the decipherment as a personal vocation since his adolescence. After creating a new field of study, Ventris died in an automobile accident a few weeks before the publication, with John Chadwick, of Documents in Mycenaean Greek.Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1600–1100 BC. It represents the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece, with its palatial states, urban organization, works of art, and writing system. The most prominent site was Mycenae, in the Argolid, after which the culture of this era is named. Other centers of power that emerged included Pylos, Tiryns, Midea in the Peloponnese, Orchomenos, Thebes, Athens in Central Greece and Iolcos in Thessaly. Mycenaean and Mycenaean-influenced settlements also appeared in Epirus, Macedonia, on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant, Cyprus and Italy.The Mycenaean Greeks introduced several innovations in the fields of engineering, architecture and military infrastructure, while trade over vast areas of the Mediterranean was essential for the Mycenaean economy. Their syllabic script, the Linear B, offers the first written records of the Greek language and their religion already included several deities that can also be found in the Olympic Pantheon. Mycenaean Greece was dominated by a warrior elite society and consisted of a network of palace-centered states that developed rigid hierarchical, political, social and economic systems. At the head of this society was the king, known as wanax.
Mycenaean Greece perished with the collapse of Bronze Age culture in the eastern Mediterranean, to be followed by the so-called Greek Dark Ages, a recordless transitional period leading to Archaic Greece where significant shifts occurred from palace-centralized to de-centralized forms of socio-economic organization (including the extensive use of iron). Various theories have been proposed for the end of this civilization, among them the Dorian invasion or activities connected to the "Sea Peoples". Additional theories such as natural disasters and climatic changes have been also suggested. The Mycenaean period became the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature and mythology, including the Trojan Epic Cycle.Mycenaean Greek
Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in Mycenaean Greece (16th to 12th centuries BC), before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the terminus post quem for the coming of the Greek language to Greece. The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script first attested on Crete before the 14th century. Most inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos, in central Crete, as well as in Pylos, in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania, in Western Crete. The language is named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece.
The tablets long remained undeciphered, and many languages were suggested for them, until Michael Ventris deciphered the script in 1952.
The texts on the tablets are mostly lists and inventories. No prose narrative survives, much less myth or poetry. Still, much may be glimpsed from these records about the people who produced them and about Mycenaean Greece, the period before the so-called Greek Dark Ages.Poseidon
Poseidon (; Greek: Ποσειδῶν, pronounced [pose͜edɔ́͜ɔn]) was one of the Twelve Olympians in ancient Greek religion and myth. He was god of the Sea and other waters; of earthquakes; and of horses. In pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece, he was venerated as a chief deity at Pylos and Thebes. His Roman equivalent is Neptune.
Poseidon was protector of seafarers, and of many Hellenic cities and colonies. In Homer's Iliad, Poseidon supports the Greeks against the Trojans during the Trojan War. In the Odyssey, during the sea-voyage from Troy back home to Ithaca, the Greek hero Odysseus provokes Poseidon's fury by blinding his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, resulting in Poseidon punishing him with storms, the complete loss of his ship and companions, and a ten-year delay. Poseidon is also the subject of a Homeric hymn. In Plato's Timaeus and Critias, the island of Atlantis was Poseidon's domain.Presto (browser engine)
Presto was the browser engine of the Opera web browser from the release of Opera 7 on 28 January 2003 until the release of Opera 15 on 2 July 2013, at which time Opera switched to using the Blink engine that was originally created for Chromium. Presto was also used to power the Opera Mini and Opera Mobile browsers.
Thebes (; Greek: Θήβα, Thíva [ˈθiva]; Ancient Greek: Θῆβαι, Thêbai [tʰɛ̂ːbai̯]) is a city in Boeotia, central Greece. It played an important role in Greek myths, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus, Heracles and others. Archaeological excavations in and around Thebes have revealed a Mycenaean settlement and clay tablets written in the Linear B script, indicating the importance of the site in the Bronze Age.
Thebes was the largest city of the ancient region of Boeotia and was the leader of the Boeotian confederacy. It was a major rival of ancient Athens, and sided with the Persians during the 480 BC invasion under Xerxes. Theban forces under the command of Epaminondas ended the power of Sparta at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. The Sacred Band of Thebes (an elite military unit) famously fell at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC against Philip II and Alexander the Great. Prior to its destruction by Alexander in 335 BC, Thebes was a major force in Greek history, and was the most dominant city-state at the time of the Macedonian conquest of Greece. During the Byzantine period, the city was famous for its silks.
The modern city contains an Archaeological Museum, the remains of the Cadmea (Bronze Age and forward citadel), and scattered ancient remains. Modern Thebes is the largest town of the regional unit of Boeotia.Xiphos
The xiphos ( KSEE-fohss; Greek: ξίφος) is a double-edged, one-handed Iron Age straight shortsword used by the ancient Greeks. It was a secondary battlefield weapon for the Greek armies after the dory or javelin. The classic blade was generally about 45–60 cm (18–24 in) long, although the Spartans supposedly started to use blades as short as 30 cm (12 in) around the era of the Greco-Persian Wars. The xiphos sometimes has a midrib, and is diamond or lenticular in cross-section. It was generally hung from a baldric under the left arm. The xiphos was generally used only when the spear was broken, taken by the enemy, or discarded for close combat. Very few xiphoi seem to have survived.
Stone's Glossary has xiphos being a name used by Homer for a sword. The entry in the book says that the sword had a double-edged blade widest at about two-thirds of its length from the point, and ending in a very long point. The name xiphos apparently means something in the way of "penetrating light" according to researcher and swordsmith Peter Johnsson.The xiphos' leaf-shaped design lent itself to both cutting and thrusting. The design has most likely been in existence since the appearance of the first swords. Blades in bronze and iron are suitable for a leaf shape due to the softness of the metals in comparison to steel. Bronze swords are cast and are thus more easily formed into a leaf shape than iron swords, which need to be forged.
The early xiphos was a bronze sword, and in the classical period, would have been made of iron. The early Celtic La Tène short sword, contemporary with the xiphos, had a virtually identical blade design as the xiphos.The leaf-shaped short swords were not limited to Greece, as mentioned, but can be found throughout Europe in the late Bronze Age under various names. Bronze leaf-shaped swords from as early as the late second millennium still survive. The Urnfield culture is associated with the use of the leaf shaped bronze short sword. It is generally thought that iron swords had replaced bronze swords by the early La Tène culture about 500 BC. During the Halstatt culture a mixture of bronze and iron swords seem to have existed side by side. Iron tends to become severely oxidized (rusted) over the years, and few iron swords have survived, in contrast to bronze swords that age very well. Thus, much is known regarding the sword during the Bronze Age but less so in the early Iron Age. Bronze thrusting swords from the second millennium still exist in excellent condition.
The word is attested in Mycenaean Greek Linear B form as 𐀥𐀯𐀟𐀁, qi-si-pe-e. A relation to Arabic saifun and Egyptian sēfet has been suggested, although this does not explain the presence of a labiovelar in Mycenaean. One suggestion connects Ossetic äxsirf "sickle", which would point to a virtual Indo-European *kwsibhro-.
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