Hexameter, the meter used by Homer and other Greek oral poets, consists of five poetic feet—each of which can be a dactyl (long, short, short) or spondee (long, long)—and a sixth foot, which can only be a spondee.



Ignace J. Gelb A Study of Writing (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1963).


The Adapter might have gotten the number five from the Mediterranean tradition of purely phonetic writing (Linear B), which “recorded” Greek in the Bronze Age, or from the Cypro-Minoan script (derived from Linear B), which was used on Cyprus from about 1100 B.C. to 300 B.C. In each of these syllabic writing systems, five graphic signs were assigned as vowels.


The Adapter’s striking choice of five vowel signs may have been influenced by the Cypriot syllabic writing, descended from Bronze Age Cretan scripts.


See David Ridgway, “Greek Letters at Osteria dell Osa,” Opuscula Romana 20 (Stockholm, 1996), pp. 87–97.


The argument is set forth in detail in my Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991). See also Barry B. Powell and Ian Morris, eds. A New Companion to Homer (Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1997)