Latin Alphabet History

History of the Latin Alphabet

The Latin (or, as it is also called, Roman) alphabet appeared in the 7th century BC, undergoing a history of 2,500 years before emerging as one of the dominant writing systems in use today.

Inscription on the Brooch of Palestrina - the earliest form of Latin alphabet

The earliest inscription in Latin characters, dating from the 7th century BC, was made on golden brooch known as Praeneste Fibula (preserved now in the Museo Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini in Rome). It is written from right to left and reads:

MANIOS:MED:FHEFHAKED:NUMASIOI
(in Classical Latin: Manius me fecit Numerio)
Manius made me for Numerius.

Another inscription, dating from the end of the 7th or the beginning of the 6th century BC, was engraved on a small pillar (cippus) found in the Roman Forum. It is written vertically on the four faces of the pillar in bustrophedon style.

Duenos Inscription - an early form of Latin alphabet

The Duenos inscription, dated to the 6th century BC, shows the earliest known forms of the Old Latin alphabet.

Another inscription, probably of the 6th century BC, was discovered near the Quirinal Hill in Rome. It is known as the Duenos Vase and like the Praeneste Fibula is also written from right to left. These inscriptions are generally considered to be the oldest existing examples of the Latin alphabet.