some references put that the shape of the Greek letter pi is inspired in the lion's gate at Mycenae:

  1. The Symbolism of the Greek Alphabet" by Thomas Taylor(1833)

  2. "The Secret Life of Symbols" by Michael Tsarion(2004)

these references were given by Google's Bard. For me they do no like to be very scientific and trustworthy.

My question is: are there trustworthy scientific references that put some light on the subject?

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    $\begingroup$ Current language models are consistently unreliable when asked to provide sources. $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Aug 31, 2023 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ Is this a question about science or mathematics? Maybe linguistics.stackexchange.com is a more appropriate forum. They have questions about alphabets. $\endgroup$
    – Michael E2
    Aug 31, 2023 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Best I can tell, both of the supposed references are made up. $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Aug 31, 2023 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ To supplement what Mauricio and njuffa wrote, current AI platforms are horrible for doing historical research at this time: if the AI doesn't know the answer, it'll confidently make one up and then support its erroneous answers with slightly irrelevant or outright bogus sources. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucination_(artificial_intelligence) $\endgroup$
    – Andrew R.
    Aug 31, 2023 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ Considering that early alphabets scribed pi as $\Gamma$, which was "inspired" by the Phoenician prototype (turned around 𐤐), I doubt it. By the time $\Pi$ scribing became common, Mycenae was distant memory. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Aug 31, 2023 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


The answer is a quite clear "no": the modern shape of π is derived from an older, asymmetric form with one leg shorter than the other. This form, in turn, derives from the Phoenician letter "pe", which was a rounded hook. The Phoenician form, in turn, probably derives from a proto-Sinaitic letter that pre-dates the construction of the Lion Gate by several centuries.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_alphabet#Origins

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    $\begingroup$ I'm wondering if you meant proto-Semitic where you typed proto-Sinaitic $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2023 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ @J. W. Tanner Proto-Sinaitic seems correct based on Wikipedia (see the hook-like 'p' there): "Proto-Sinaitic (also [...] ) is found in a small corpus of c. 40 inscriptions and fragments, the vast majority from Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai Peninsula, dating to the Middle Bronze Age. They are considered the earliest trace of alphabetic writing and the common ancestor of both the Ancient South Arabian script and the Phoenician alphabet, which led to many modern alphabets including the Greek alphabet." $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Aug 31, 2023 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you, @njuffa; I learned something today $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2023 at 17:26

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