Palmyrene alphabet

Last updated
Palmyrene inscribed tablet in the Musée du Louvre
Languages Palmyrene dialect of Aramaic
Time period
100 BCE to 300 CE
Parent systems
Sister systems
Brāhmī [a]
Edessan [1]
Elymaic [1]
Hatran [1]
Mandaic [1]
Nabataean [1]
ISO 15924 Palm, 126
Unicode alias
Final Accepted Script Proposal
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.

Palmyrene was a historical Semitic alphabet used to write the local Palmyrene dialect of Aramaic. It was used between 100 BCE and 300 CE in Palmyra in the Syrian desert. The oldest surviving Palmyrene inscription dates to 44 BCE. [2] The last surviving inscription dates to 274 CE, two years after Palmyra was sacked by Roman Emperor Aurelian, ending the Palmyrene Empire. Use of the Palmyrene language and script declined, being replaced with Greek and Latin.


Palmyrene was derived from cursive versions of the Aramaic alphabet and shares many of its characteristics: [3] [4]

Palmyrene was normally written without spaces or punctuation between words and sentences (scriptio continua style).

Two forms of Palmyrene were developed: The rounded, cursive form derived from the Aramaic alphabet and later a decorative, monumental form developed from the cursive Palmyrene. [2] Both the cursive and monumental forms commonly used typographic ligatures. [4]



Palmyrene used a non-decimal system which built up numbers using combinations of their symbols for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, and 20. [4] It is similar to the system used for Aramaic which built numbers using their symbols for 1, 2, 3, 10, 20, 100, 1000, and 10000. [5]


There are some styles in which the 'r'-letter (resh) is the same as the 'd'-letter (dalesh) with a dot on top, but[ vague ] there are styles in which the two letters are visually distinct. Ligation, after b, ḥ, m, n, and q before some other consonants was common in some inscriptions but was not obligatory. There are also two fleurons (left-sided and right-sided) that tend to appear near numbers.


Examples of Palmyrene inscriptions were printed as far back as 1616, but accurate copies of Palmyrene/Greek bilingual inscriptions were not available until 1756. The Palmyrene alphabet was deciphered in the 1750s, literally overnight, by Abbé Jean-Jacques Barthélemy using these new, accurate copies of bilingual inscriptions.


Palmyrene was added to the Unicode Standard in June, 2014 with the release of version 7.0.

The Unicode block for Palmyrene is U+10860U+1087F:

Palmyrene [1]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
1. ^ As of Unicode version 13.0

Related Research Articles

The ancient Aramaic alphabet was adapted from the Phoenician alphabet and became a distinct script by the 8th century BC. It was used to write the Aramaic language and had displaced the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, itself a derivative of the Phoenician alphabet, for the writing of Hebrew. The letters all represent consonants, some of which are also used as matres lectionis to indicate long vowels.

Old Turkic script writing system

The Old Turkic script is the alphabet used by the Göktürks and other early Turkic khanates during the 8th to 10th centuries to record the Old Turkic language.

R letter of the Latin alphabet

R or r is the 18th letter of the modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet. Its name in English is ar, plural ars, or in Ireland or.

Phoenician alphabet Oldest verified alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet of the abjad type, consisting of 22 consonant letters only, leaving vowel sounds implicit, although certain late varieties use matres lectionis for some vowels.

The Old Hungarian script or Hungarian runes is an alphabetic writing system used for writing the Hungarian language. Modern Hungarian is written using the Latin-based Hungarian alphabet. The term "old" refers to the historical priority of the script compared with the Latin-based one. The Old Hungarian script is a child system of the Old Turkic alphabet.

Kharosthi abugida

The Kharosthi script, also spelled Kharoshthi or Kharoṣṭhī, formerly called "Arian-Pali", was an ancient Indian script used in Gandhara to write Gandhari Prakrit and Sanskrit. It was used in Central Asia as well. An abugida, it was introduced at least by the middle of the 3rd century BCE, possibly during the 4th century BCE, and remained in use until it died out in its homeland around the 3rd century CE.

Michael Everson American Irish linguist, typesetter and font designer, and publisher

Michael Everson is an American and Irish linguist, script encoder, typesetter, font designer, and publisher. He runs a publishing company called Evertype, through which he has published over a hundred books since 2006.

The Sogdian alphabet was originally used for the Sogdian language, a language in the Iranian family used by the people of Sogdia. The alphabet is derived from Syriac, a descendant script of the Aramaic alphabet. The Sogdian alphabet is one of three scripts used to write the Sogdian language, the others being the Manichaean alphabet and the Syriac alphabet. It was used throughout Central Asia, from the edge of Iran in the west, to China in the east, from approximately 100–1200 A.D.

Meroitic script writing system

The Meroitic script consists of two alphasyllabaric scripts developed to write the Meroitic language at the beginning of the Meroitic Period of the Kingdom of Kush. The two scripts are Meroitic Cursive derived of Demotic Egyptian and Meroitic Hieroglyphics derived of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Meroitic Cursive is the most widely attested script, comprising ~90% of all inscriptions, and antedates, by a century or more, the earliest, surviving Meroitic hieroglyphic inscription. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus described the two scripts in his Bibliotheca historica, Book III (Africa), Chapter 4. The last known Meroitic inscription is the Meroitic Cursive inscription of the Blemmye king, Kharamadoye, from a column in the Temple of Kalabsha, which has recently been re-dated to AD 410/ 450 of the 5th century. Before the Meroitic Period, Egyptian hieroglyphs were used to write Kushite names and lexical items.

Mandaic script alphabet used for writing the Mandaic language

The Mandaic alphabet is thought to have evolved between the 2nd and 7th century CE from either a cursive form of Aramaic or from the Parthian chancery script. The exact roots of the script are difficult to determine. It was developed by members of the Mandaean faith of southern Mesopotamia to write the Mandaic language for liturgical purposes. Classical Mandaic and its descendant Neo-Mandaic are still in limited use. The script has changed very little over centuries of use.

Cham script Abugida writing system

The Cham script is a Brahmic abugida used to write Cham, an Austronesian language spoken by some 245,000 Chams in Vietnam and Cambodia. It is written horizontally left to right, as in English.

Nabataean alphabet alphabet

The Nabataean alphabet is an abjad that was used by the Nabataeans in the second century BC. Important inscriptions are found in Petra, the Sinai Peninsula, and other archaeological sites including Avdat and Mada'in Saleh in Saudi Arabia.

Ancient South Arabian script abjad

The Ancient South Arabian script branched from the Proto-Sinaitic script in about the 9th century BCE. It was used for writing the Old South Arabian languages Sabaic, Qatabanic, Hadramautic, Minaean, and Hasaitic, and the Ethiopic language Ge'ez in Dʿmt. The earliest inscriptions in the script date to the 9th century BCE in the Northern Red Sea Region, Eritrea. There are no letters for vowels, which are marked by matres lectionis.

Avestan alphabet alphabet used mainly to write Avestan, the language of the Zoroastrian scripture Avesta

The Avestan alphabet is a writing system developed during Iran's Sassanid era (226–651 CE) to render the Avestan language.

The Carian alphabets are a number of regional scripts used to write the Carian language of western Anatolia. They consisted of some 30 alphabetic letters, with several geographic variants in Caria and a homogeneous variant attested from the Nile delta, where Carian mercenaries fought for the Egyptian pharaohs. They were written left-to-right in Caria and right-to-left in Egypt. Carian was deciphered primarily through Egyptian–Carian bilingual tomb inscriptions, starting with John Ray in 1981; previously only a few sound values and the alphabetic nature of the script had been demonstrated. The readings of Ray and subsequent scholars were largely confirmed with a Carian–Greek bilingual inscription discovered in Kaunos in 1996, which for the first time verified personal names, but the identification of many letters remains provisional and debated, and a few are wholly unknown.

Inscriptional Pahlavi earliest attested form of Pahlavi scripts

Inscriptional Pahlavi is the earliest attested form of Pahlavi scripts, and is evident in clay fragments that have been dated to the reign of Mithridates I. Other early evidence includes the Pahlavi inscriptions of Arsacid era coins and rock inscriptions of Sassanid kings and other notables such as Kartir.

Inscriptional Parthian script used to write Parthian language on coins of Parthia from the time of Arsaces I of Parthia (250 BC)

Inscriptional Parthian is a script used to write Parthian language on coins of Parthia from the time of Arsaces I of Parthia. It was also used for inscriptions of Parthian and later Sassanian periods.

Psalter Pahlavi is a cursive abjad which was used for writing Middle Persian on paper, it is thus described as one of the Pahlavi scripts. It was written right to left, usually with spaces between words.

Palmyrene is a Unicode block containing characters for the historical Palmyrene alphabet used to write the local Palmyrene dialect of Aramaic.

Hatran alphabet

The Hatran alphabet is the script used to write Aramaic of Hatra, a dialect that was spoken from approximately 98/97 BC to 240 AD by early inhabitants of present-day northern Iraq. Many inscriptions of this alphabet could be found at Hatra, an ancient city in northern Iraq built by the Seleucid Empire and also used by the Parthian Empire, but subsequently destroyed by the Sassanid Empire in 241 AD. Assur also has several inscriptions which came to an end following its destruction by the Sasanian in 257 AD while the rest of the inscriptions are spread sparsely throughout Dura-Europos, Gaddala, Tur Abdin, Tikrit, Sa'adiya and Qabr Abu Naif. Many of the contemporary ruins were destroyed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in early 2015. It was encoded in the Unicode Standard 8.0 with support from UC Berkeley's Script Encoding Initiative.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, eds. (1996). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press, Inc. pp.  89. ISBN   978-0195079937.
  2. 1 2 "Palmyrenian alphabet". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, eds. (1996). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press, Inc. ISBN   978-0195079937.
  4. 1 2 3 Everson, Michael (17 August 2010). "N3867R2: Proposal for encoding the Palmyrene script in the SMP of the UCS" (PDF). Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  5. Everson, Michael (25 August 2007). "N3339: Proposal for encoding the Imperial Aramaic script in the SMP of the UCS" (PDF). Retrieved 6 July 2014.