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Greek Letter Sampi

Several scholars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries used the descriptive name "Disigma" for several glyphs that were not readily identifiable in more recent texts (see the discussion material below). I requested an opinion from Cornell University's classics department. In a message dated 1 Apr 2003, Dr. John Mansfield settled this issue when he reported:

"Disigma" (= double sigma) is a non-current term for the character sampi / sanpi, as you rightly suspect.

"On sampi, see L.H. Jeffery, Local Scripts of Archaic Greece (1963), p. 38-39, 324 bottom, 368. The T-shaped form is attested in a few early stone inscriptions from several Ionian cities. One Attic example is also alleged on pottery, namely on the name-piece of the Nessos Painter (AJA 66.1962.405-406). Presumed to be the same as the character from Miletos which persisted as the number 900, originally used to represent various special ss/xi sounds.

"The later use of this character on coins of Pontic Mesambria is a bit odd. An affectation or an indication of contemporary local pronunciation?

"In Pamphylia, which had it's own weird dialect of Greek, the use of the psi-shaped variant should say something about the pronunciation. See Cl. Brixhe, Le Dialecte grec de Pamphylie (1976), p. 160-161, coins of Perge."

I greatly appreciate Dr. Mansfield's comments on this issue, and permission to use them here.

Chris Hopkins
23 April 2001

Support Material for Disigma/Sampi Discussion

gr_tau.gif (32x32 -- 888 bytes)Sampi02.gif (32x32 -- 895 bytes) Mesembria Disigmas

Examples of coins with inscriptions:

Sampi04.gif (32x32 -- 905 bytes) Perga (Pamphylia) Disigma

Example of coin with Disigma inscription:

Head, Historia Numorum, p. 278:

Head_Mesembria_small.gif (350x253 -- 12301 bytes)

Head, Historia Numorum, p. 702:

Head_Pamphylia_small.gif (350x166 -- 9882 bytes)

Hill, Ancient Greek and Roman Coins (1899), p. 215:

Hill_AGRC_p215.jpg (600x121 -- 11473 bytes)

Icard, Dictionary of Greek Coin Inscriptions, p. 441:

Icard_Sigma.gif (400x114 -- 1679 bytes)

Icard, Dictionary of Greek Coin Inscriptions, p. 304:

Icard_Mesembria.jpg (600x182 -- 22109 bytes)

Icard, Dictionary of Greek Coin Inscriptions, p. 321:

Icard_Pamphylia.jpg (600x154 -- 17064 bytes)

See also the interesting paper on Sampi at The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae web site

This page last updated 02 Mar 2019

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