Boustrophedon


In Ancient Greece, the boustrophedon, meaning literally “to turn like oxen”, was the writing of alternate lines in opposite directions, one line from left to right and the next from right to left, like the oxen would do when ploughing a field.

Common styles of boustrophedon writing include:

  • Inversion of every other line, but not the words themselves.

E.g. So again we have learned something,
Greek the about joke cheap a making of instead
civilisation upon which everything around us depends

  • Inversion of every other line, as well as the words themselves, but not each individual letter.

E.g. gnihtemos denrael evah ew niaga oS
daetsni fo gnikam a paehc ekoj tuoba eht keerG
sdneped su dnuora gnihtyreve hcihw nopu noitasilivic

  • Inversion of every other line, the words themselves as well as each individual letter.

Some Etruscan texts have also been written in boustrophedon style, as have some early Hungarian and Polynesian scriptures.

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5 thoughts on “Boustrophedon

  1. The inversion most convenient for alternating direction of eye movement would certainly speed up the process of reading. One could reduce considerably the amount of eye movement needed.

  2. “Inversion of every other line, the words themselves as well as each individual letter.”
    As for there not being an example for this boustrophedon, the KG font could not handle this style.

  3. That’s OK – I can’t pronounce boustrophedon anyway, so it’s highly unlikely it’s going to come up in any social conversation in the foreseeable future.

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