Punctuation marks

English translation by Bruna Pogliano

Ancient Greeks did not use to indicate punctuation in their texts, apart from very exceptional cases; nor did they use to separate words with spaces, as we do. We can see how ancient texts were written originally if we observe some papyri or epigraphs, which have preserved various types of texts.

Epigraph with decree granting Athenian citizenship to Alkaios, as proposed by Stratokles of Diomeia in the archonship of Leostratos (303/302 b. C.) - Athens, Epigraphical Museum. IG2 495

Of course, such a writing method made reading and comprehension rather difficult. That is the reason why, in Greek, the verb to read translates to ἀναγιγνώσκειν, which means recognise, decipher.

Over the following centuries, single words started to be separated with increasing frequency, while punctuation marks were used to outline period structure. The main purpose was to reduce as much as possible both doubts and difficulties in interpreting texts.

Nowadays, punctuation marks used in Greek texts are altogether quite similar to those used in texts written in Latin, with few differences which must be highlighted.

Mark description
 Full stop
: or ;
 High dot
 Question mark

As we can see, the high dot usage coincides with both our colon and semicolon, whereas the mark identical to our semicolon represents a question mark. Greek has no mark corresponding to our exclamation mark