Ancient Literacy by William V. Harris

By William V. Harris

What number of people may learn and write within the historical international of the Greeks and Romans? nobody has formerly attempted to provide a scientific solution to this question. so much historians who've thought of the matter in any respect have given positive checks, on the grounds that they've been inspired by means of huge our bodies of old written fabric similar to the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been encouraged via a bent to idealize the Greek and Roman international and its academic procedure. In historical Literacy W. V. Harris presents the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, forms, and capabilities 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 express 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 constantly possesses an problematic university procedure, Harris stresses the constraints of Greek and Roman education, mentioning the meagerness of investment for effortless schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here wherever almost about finishing the transition to a contemporary type of written tradition. They relied extra seriously on oral conversation than has commonly been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, making an allowance for the industrial sphere and way of life, in addition to legislations, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to assert additionally concerning the move of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The constrained unfold of literacy within the classical global had varied results. It gave a few stimulus to severe inspiration and assisted the buildup of data, and the minority that did learn how to learn and write was once to a point capable of assert itself politically. The written notice was once additionally an software of energy, and its use used to be critical for the development and upkeep of empires. so much exciting is the position of writing within the new non secular tradition of the past due Roman Empire, during which it was once increasingly more respected yet much less and not more practiced. Harris explores those and comparable subject matters during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural heritage. historical Literacy is necessary studying for somebody attracted to the classical global, the matter of literacy, or the heritage of the written notice.

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I 6 (where the meaning of illitteratus is no doubt simply "uncultivated") (cf. Inst. 8. 55. It might be suggested that the main failure of recent historical writing about Introduction 18 that the structure of the Greek and Roman economy, and the demands of work within that economy, must have had a considerable effect on the level of literacy. The effect may even have been dominant, and it is in danger of being underestimated because the documents, notations, lists, labels and so on of everyday economic life were almost all ephemera which outside Egypt have survived in fairly small numbers.

15 Dramatic memory feats tend, for obvious reasons, to concern the memorization of texts or lists. That the kind of information recall which does not depend on the remembering of a continuous text is as a rule stronger in non-literate cultures is an assumption which is in need of some empirical testing. 16 But the assertion made by Socrates and Caesar is not to be discarded lightly; and, as we shall shortly see, there is other evidence in its favour. At all events there is reason to believe that non-literate cultures are characterized by people with remarkably capacious and tenacious memories for continuous texts.

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.

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