The Etruscan alphabet developed from a Western variety of the
Greek alphabet brought to Italy by Euboean
Greeks. The earliest known inscription dates from the middle of the
6th century BC. Most Etruscan inscriptions are written in horizontal
lines from right to left, but some are boustrophedon (running alternately
left to right then right to left).
More than 10,000 Etruscan inscriptions have been found on tombstones,
vases, statues, mirrors and jewellery. Fragments of an Etruscan book
made of linen have also been found. Etruscan texts can be read: i.e.
the pronunciation of the letters is known, though scholars are not
sure what all the words mean.
No major literary works in Etruscan have survived, however there is
evidence for the existence of religious and historical literature and
drama. It is also possible that the Etruscans had a notation system for
The Etruscan language was spoken by the Etruscans in Etruria (Tuscany
and Umbria) until about the 1st century AD, after which it continued to
be studied by priests and scholars. The emperor Claudius (10 BC - 54 AD)
wrote a history of the Etruscans in 20 volumes, none of which have survived,
based on sources still preserved in his day. The language was used in
religious ceremonies until the early 5th century.
Etruscan was related to Raetic, a language once spoken in the Alps, and also
to Lemnian, once spoken on the island of Lemnos. It was also possibly related
to Camunic, a language once spoken in the northwest of Italy.
ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font
specifically designed for ancient scripts, including classical
& medieval Latin, ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian,
Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic,
Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham,
Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Old Cyrillic, Phoenician, Avestan, Ugaritic,
Linear B, Anatolian scripts, Coptic, Cypriot, Brahmi, Old Persian cuneiform: