Palmyrene alphabet

The Palmyrene alphabet was a historical Semitic alphabet used to write Palmyrene 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 alphabet
Palmyrene inscribed tablet in the Musée du Louvre
Script type
Time period
100 BCE to 300 CE
Directionright-to-left script 
LanguagesPalmyrene Aramaic
Related scripts
Parent systems
Sister systems
Ammonite
Brāhmī [a]
Edessan[1]
Elymaic[1]
Hatran[1]
Hebrew
Mandaic[1]
Nabataean[1]
Pahlavi
Parthian
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Palm (126), Palmyrene
Unicode
Unicode alias
Palmyrene
U+10860U+1087F
Final Accepted Script Proposal
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.
Palmyrene alphabet by Jean-Jacques Barthélemy, 1754

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

  • Twenty-two letters with only consonants represented
  • Written horizontally from right-to-left
  • Numbers written right-to-left using a non-decimal system

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

Two forms of the Palmyrene alphabet 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 orthographic ligatures.[4]


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