By William V. Harris

ISBN-10: 0674033809

ISBN-13: 9780674033801

What number of people may well learn and write within the historical global of the Greeks and Romans? not anyone has formerly attempted to offer a scientific resolution to this query. such a lot historians who've thought of the matter in any respect have given positive exams, considering the fact that they've been inspired via huge our bodies of historical written fabric corresponding to the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been inspired by way of an inclination to idealize the Greek and Roman international and its academic process. In historic Literacy W. V. Harris offers the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, forms, and services of literacy within the classical global, from the discovery of the Greek alphabet approximately 800 B.C. all the way down to the 5th century A.D. Investigations of different societies exhibit that literacy ceases to be the accomplishment of a small elite in basic terms in particular situations. Harris argues that the social and technological stipulations of the traditional global have been corresponding to to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy consistently possesses an complex college procedure, Harris stresses the constraints of Greek and Roman education, stating the meagerness of investment for straightforward schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here anyplace on the subject of finishing the transition to a latest form of written tradition. They relied extra seriously on oral verbal exchange than has quite often been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, making an allowance for the commercial sphere and daily life, in addition to legislations, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to assert additionally in regards to the circulate of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The restricted unfold of literacy within the classical international had diversified results. It gave a few stimulus to severe proposal and assisted the buildup of data, and the minority that did discover ways to learn and write used to be to a point capable of assert itself politically. The written observe used to be additionally an tool of strength, and its use used to be crucial for the development and upkeep of empires. such a lot fascinating is the function of writing within the new spiritual tradition of the past due Roman Empire, within which it was once a growing number of respected yet much less and not more practiced. Harris explores those and similar issues during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural background. historical Literacy is critical examining for an individual drawn to the classical global, the matter of literacy, or the background of the written notice.

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13 = Mar. gef. 25. Cf. Marrou,Histoire 252. 26 A Greek writer under the Roman Empire could see the training of memory as the main aim of early education. 27 In particular it was always important for an orator to be able to commit his oration to memory, and as is well known a set of specialized techniques was devisedinitially, so it was believed, by Simonides of Ceos-which enabled him to do this. 28 There is something too to be learned from the famous story of how the Athenians won favours or freedom from their Syracusan captors by reciting passages from Euripides; presumably they had to manage more than a phrase or two.

But it is a normal and of course expectable feature of peoples who are advancing beyond craftsman's literacy that they should have very many schools, including schools in small settlements. We may cite here, from a plethora of evidence, the large sums of money given to educational foundations in early-modern England,49 and both seventeenth-century Scottish and eighteenth-century Prussian legislation in favour of compulsory schooling. 50 A historian of literacy in eighteenth-century New England has argued that the growth of mass literacy there was heavily dependent on schooling.

Sic. xii. 4. 12. On this topic cf. J. A. Notopoulos, TAPhA lxix (1938),465-493 (not always convincing) . 13. PI. Phaedr. 274C-275b. On the importance of memory in Plato's thought see M. Bretone, Quaderni di storia xx (1984), 223-23 I. Plato's criticisms of writing go beyond this factor, as we shall see. 14. Caes. 4: "quod fere plerisque accidit ut praesidio litterarum diligentiam in perdiscendo ac memoriam remittant"; but perhaps he simply took this from Plato. 31 Functions of Literacy in the Graeco-Roman World real information.

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Ancient Literacy by William V. Harris


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