The simplification of writing emerged from Ugarit and Byblos in the 2nd millennium BC. As the two cities dominated trade throughout this millenium, they were in dire need of scribes in order for merchant agreements to be made, the invoices to be written, and the accounts to be kept in order. However, scribes were very expensive and difficult to find; in addition, the writing system was quite complex. Thus, a simplified writing system was required. Consequently, a new alphabet comprised of 30 letters, 27 of which were consonants and 3 were vowels, was invented in Ugarit in 14th century BC and the foundations of the present day alphabet were laid.

In the 1st millennium BC, the Phoenicians added another dimension to the alphabet and came up with a new one comprised of 20 consonants and 2 vowels. This Phoenician alphabet, the oldest known example of which is the inscription dated to 10th century BC on the sarcophagus of Ahiram, the King of Byblos, was written on parchment or papyrus scrolls with rapid brush strokes and easily applied on lead or wood.

Due its simple use, the Phoenician alphabet spread rapidly and was the precursor of many other scripts. The Hebrew inscriptions of 10th century BC employed exactly the same script. The Hellenes, on the other hand, embraced this alphabet in al-Mina (Syria) in early 8th century BC. The script arrived in Hellas through the settlement the Hellenes of Euboea (Eğriboz) established in the area where the River Orontes (Asi) flows into the sea. During the same period, the Phrygians of Anatolia began using an alphabetic system they derived from the Phoenicians script.

Karatepe Inscription

Place of Discovery: Karatepe, Tumulus of Aslantaş (Osmaniye)

Language: Phoenician – Luwian hieroglyph

Date: 8th century BC

Material: Stone

“I am Azatiwada, abarakku of Ba’al, servant of Ba’al, Empowered by King Awarikku of the Danunans, Ba’al made me a father and a mother to the Danunans. I revived the Danunans. I expanded the lands of the Plain of Adana, from the rise to the setting of the sun. In my rule, the Danunans possessed everything (good), abundance and prosperity. And I filled the granaries of Pahar. And I Added horse on horse, shield on shield, army on army, Thanks to Ba’al and the blessing of god. And I dispersed the rebels And I eradicated all evil in the country. And I laid the grounds  Of my master’s home, with goodness. And I was kind to the offspring of my master And I helped him ascend his father’s throne. And I made peace with every king . And in fact, each king treated me as his father, in exchange for my justice, wisdom, and kindness.”…

Located on the Karatepe Gate, this inscription is written by Asatiwata, who introduces himself as the ruler of the Plain of Adana.  The monument in question is the longest bilingual inscription written in Phoenician and Luwian.   

Other Anatolian Languages