The Decipherment of Linear C: ICS 18g

· Linear C Decipherments


Source: Cypro-Syllabic Examples of Writing.  2012.  Mnamon <\mnamon>


A Hoplite tool or weapon

Scribe unknown

Relative date: 1050-950 BCE

A Cypro-Minoan (Linear C) inscription, which has been identified as the earliest example of Greek writing on Cyprus, is found on a bronze ὀβελός (obelos) “a pointed square pillar” or “a spit“.  This implement was discovered in 1979 at Palaepaphos “Old Paphos” and is dated to the 11th century BCE [“Cypro-Syllabic Examples”].  If the phonetic decipherment holds, then the inscription may be read o-pe-le-ta-u.  The consensus  among Olivier [2013] and others is that this inscription reads  Ὀφέλταυ (Ophéltau) “of Ophéltes”.  However, I maintain that the inscription can be read as either †ὁπλιτέυ (hopliteu) “of (a) Hoplite”, a term that I coined from the verb, ὁπλιτεύω (hopliteuo) “to serve as a man at arms”, or  ὠφελητέο(ν) (ophelhteon) “one must serve”.  Cf. ὁπλίτης (hoplites) “a heavily armed foot soldier”, which is derived from ὅπλον (hoplon) “implement, tool”.  In Attica, a hoplon was a large shield.  The ὁπλῖται (hoplitai) or Ὅπλητες (Hoplites) have been identified as foot soldiers of the Athenian army.

What may be implied by an obelos that has thusly been inscribed?  I infer its use, firstly, as a weapon and, secondly, as a convenient cooking implement.  The length (40″ or 1 m.,  as pictured below) and the thickness suggest a rudimentary weapon that may have permitted a tether or some twine to be threaded through the hole at the left end.

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art


  1. Cypro-Syllabic Examples of Writing. 2012. Mnamon: Ancient Writing Systems in the Mediterranean.  Ret. on 25 Sep 2014 <\mnamon>.
  2. Olivier, Jean-Pierre. 2013.  The development of Cypriot syllabaries, from Enkomi to Kafizin. Syllabic Writing on Cyprus and its Context, ed. P.M. Steele.  Cambridge University Press.


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