During most of Antiquity, the Greek-speaking kingdoms in Cyprus used syllabic writing systems for the Cypriot dialect. Paphos, which was one of the most powerful kingdoms in the island, used a special variant of the Cypriot syllabary. Although the circumstances seemed to favour the adoption of the Greek alphabet as a writing system, the Paphians used their syllabary systematically from the 8th century until 306 BC approximately. Nevertheless, this chronological frame could be extended if we take into account some isolated documents from the 1st century BC and if we consider the Opheltas inscription to be an archaic sample of the Paphian syllabary, as some scholars suggest. In that case, the first use of the Paphian syllabary would be dated in the 11th century BC. This paper aims to analyse the distinctive features of the Paphian syllabary and its sub-dialect and to locate them within their linguistic, geographic and historical frameworks, so as to understand why the use of the syllabic system was so important in Paphos and the reasons why it was used for such a long time in spite of the existence of an alphabetic system for the Greek language.
This work was published during my collaboration in the project “Context of and Relations between Early Writing Systems (CREWS)”, funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the Research and Innovation programme Horizon 2020 of the European Union (EU), grant no.677758