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Old Italic alphabets


The Old Italic alphabets developed from the west Greek alphabet, which came to Italy via the Greek colonies on Sicily and along the west coast of Italy. The Etruscans adapted the Greek alphabet to write Etruscan sometime during the 6th century BC, or possibly earlier. Most of the other alphabets used in Italy are thought to have derived from the Etruscan alphabet.

Ancient Latin | Faliscan | Marsiliana | Messapic | Middle Adriatic/South Picene | North Picene | Oscan | Umbrian

Ancient Latin

The earliest known inscriptions in the Latin alphabet date from the 6th century BC. It was adapted from the Etruscan alphabet during the 7th century BC. The letters Y and Z were taken from the Greek alphabet to write Greek loan words. Other letters were added from time to time as the Latin alphabet was adapted for other languages.

Modern Latin alphabet


About 100 inscriptions have been found in the Faliscan alphabet dating from between 400 and 250 BC. Faliscan was closely related to Latin.

Faliscan alphabet


Marsiliana alphabet


The Messapic alphabet is thought to have derived directly from the Greek alphabet, rather than developing from the Etruscan alphabet. The only known inscriptions in the Messapic alphabet date from the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. The Messapic language was not related to other languages of Italy, instead it is thought to have been a member of the extinct Illyrian family of languages.

Messapic alphabet

Middle Adriatic / South Picene

Middle Adriatic or South Picene alphabet

North Picene

North Picene alphabet


Oscan is believed to have been spoken in Samnium, Campania, Lucania and Abruzzo in southern Italy. The Osci adapted the Etruscan alphabet to write their language sometime in the 7th century BC though the earlist known Oscan inscriptions appeared on coins dating from the 5th century BC. After the territory occupied by the Oscans was conquered by Rome in the first century AD, the Oscan language and culture disappeared.

Oscan was written from right to left in horizontal lines running from top to bottom. A dot was used to separate words.

Oscan alphabet

Oscan alphabet


Seven bronze tablets, dating from between about 350 and 50 BC, are the only examples of the Umbrian alphabet that have been found.

Oscan alphabet


Viteliu - languages of ancient Italy

A Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian

Information about the Oscan language - includes examples of Oscan inscriptions

Font including Old Italic alphabets

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:


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