[B-Greek] Greek letters discontinued

Ben and Jo Crick ben.crick at argonet.co.uk
Mon Jul 14 19:16:17 EDT 2003

On Mon 14 Jul 2003 (14:17:44), mitchlarramore at yahoo.com wrote:
> Can someone tell me what happened to the following
> Greek letters? Did they all stop being used at the
> same time and for the same reason?
> Digamma
> San
> Koppa

 Dear Mitch

 The Greek Numerical System was not standardised until about the 2nd century
 BCE, because the fiercely individual Greek city-states would not co-operate.
 By the 2nd century BCE, the letters Digamma (aka Stigma), San, Qoppa and Sampi
 were obsolete. Digamma was a W, Qoppa a Q and Sampi another S (IIRC). Digamma
 was also called Stigma because it resembled a ligature of a Sigma and a Tau
 when handwritten; but like a capital F in inscriptions ("double Gamma").
 The letter San was written like an M (7th century BCE), or a "lazy Pi" =| (5th
 century BCE). San was the equivalent of the Hebrew Tsadhe, TS, like a Russian

 When the numerical system was standardised, the system to represent all
 numbers from 1 to 999 needed 27 symbols, not 24. So the now obsolete Stigma,
 Qoppa and Sampi were pressed into service thus:

     1 alpha            10 iota           100 rho
     2 beta             20 kappa          200 sigma
     3 gamma            30 lambda         300 tau
     4 delta            40 mu             400 upsilon
     5 epsilon          50 nu             500 phi
     6 [digamma/stigma] 60 xi             600 chi
     7 zeta             70 omicron        700 psi
     8 eta              80 pi             800 omega
     9 theta            90 [qoppa]        900 [sampi]

 The obsolete letters survive in ancient inscriptions. No doubt the List
 afficionados will give us details on which letter dropped out first, when
 and why.


 Revd Ben Crick BA CF, and Mrs Joanna (Goodwin) Crick
 <ben.crick at argonet.co.uk>
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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