Revised Timeline for Written Greek (Linear B, Linear C and Greek alphabet): CLICK to enlarge:

Revised Timeline for Written Greek (Linear B - Linear C - Greek Alphabet)

Written Greek, Linear B, Cypriot Syllabary, Linear C, Homeric Greek, Classical Greek

Until now, most historians have made the assumption that once Linear B fell into disuse around 1200 BCE, there were no more written Greek records until approximately some 400 years later, in around 800 BCE. However, as Wikipedia: Cypriot Syllabary: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypriot_syllabary significantly points out, the Cypriot Syllabary, otherwise known as Linear C, was used to write Greek from ca. 1100 – ca. 400 BCE, when it finally lapsed into disuse, to be supplanted at that time in Cyprus by the Greek alphabet proper. Now, I for one am not about to make the rash claim that this necessarily means that written Greek was in constant use from ca. 1450 – ca. 1200 BCE, falling out of sight at that time, to be supplanted only a century  or so later by Linear C. (in use until ca. 400 BCE), thus overlapping with the Greek alphabet, which came into general use in around 800 BCE… or so it would appear.  The presumed historical gap of some 400 years is, however, fraught with pitfalls. For one thing, Hesiod mentions that there were poets even before Homer who wrote using the Greek alphabet. The problem is…. and it is a huge one… all of their works have been lost to the chasm of history. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with ancient Greek literature,  in so far as some 90% of all ancient Greek literature, even after 800 BCE, all the way through to 300 BCE and later, has also vanished in the abyss of history. To my mind, this raises all sorts of “red flags”, not the least of which is: how can we realistically define or even guestimate the so-called gap between pre-historic times, when there were no written records in Greek (including of course those written in Linear B) and the appearance of the Greek alphabet on the scene, when we do not even have the faintest notion when the earliest use of the Greek alphabet first manifested, by which I mean, in Greek literature.  When did Greek literature written with the most rudimentary forms of the Greek alphabet first appear?  In the 10th. century BCE?… in the 9th.? We shall never know, for the very reasons which I have just raised, let alone a whole host of other factors which come into play when we are forced to admit that we know from the ancient authors that there were writers before them, who were writing poetry with the Greek alphabet, poetry which was still extant in their day and time.  Hesiod must have read some of these authors (some of whom the ancient Greek authors cited by name).  Again, however, we run up against a brick wall, since the works the ancient Greeks had at hand, and were able to read, no longer exist. They have, as I have already made clear, simply vanished.

Thus, it is my contention that it is really quite impossible to say for certain when (or even if) written Greek fell out of use, or if you prefer, into disuse, since it may never have lapsed into disuse. Of course, once again, I am going out on a limb. But I raise such questions simply to spur us, as historians, linguists and archeologists, to at least consider the possibility, however remote, that the apparent historical gap between that loss of Linear B writing and the assumption of the Greek alphabet may be somewhat or even significantly less than 4 centuries.  We must also always bear in mind that Linear C, a syllabary used in Cyprus, closely related to Linear B, was in fact in constant use from around the 12th. century to the 4th. century BCE.