By William V. Harris
What number of people may well learn and write within the historic international of the Greeks and Romans? nobody has formerly attempted to offer a scientific solution to this query. such a lot historians who've thought of the matter in any respect have given positive exams, due to the fact that they've been inspired through huge our bodies of historic written fabric similar to the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been motivated by means of a bent to idealize the Greek and Roman global and its academic method. In historic Literacy W. V. Harris offers the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, varieties, and features of literacy within the classical international, from the discovery of the Greek alphabet approximately 800 B.C. all the way down to the 5th century A.D. Investigations of alternative societies convey that literacy ceases to be the accomplishment of a small elite merely in particular conditions. Harris argues that the social and technological stipulations of the traditional global have been akin to to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy constantly possesses an complicated institution approach, Harris stresses the restrictions of Greek and Roman education, stating the meagerness of investment for uncomplicated schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here anyplace just about finishing the transition to a latest type of written tradition. They relied extra seriously on oral conversation than has in most cases been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, making an allowance for the commercial sphere and daily life, in addition to legislation, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to assert additionally in regards to the movement of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The constrained unfold of literacy within the classical international had diversified results. It gave a few stimulus to serious suggestion and assisted the buildup of information, and the minority that did discover ways to learn and write was once to some degree in a position to assert itself politically. The written notice used to be additionally an software of strength, and its use was once critical for the development and upkeep of empires. so much exciting is the function of writing within the new spiritual tradition of the overdue Roman Empire, during which it was once an increasing number of respected yet much less and not more practiced. Harris explores those and similar subject matters during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural historical past. historic Literacy is necessary analyzing for a person drawn to the classical international, the matter of literacy, or the historical past of the written notice.
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Extra info for Ancient Literacy
M. Lonie, in F. Lasserre & P. ), Formes de pensee dans La collection hippocratique (Geneva, 1983), 150- 152, extends to the Hippocratic writings the theory that lists are especially characteristic of literate culture. 3I. For other lists put together in the earliest period of Greek writing see W. Schmid & o. I (Munich, 1929), 661. Introduction 34 able to make use of or benefit from the written word through intermediaries. 32 It could happen in many different ways, from having legal and business documents written or read by others on one's behalf, to asking a bystander to read or explain an inscription, to listening to a speech or recitation given by someone who was himself relying on a written text.
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. It is not, incidentally, clear whether he had specific memory functions in mind (the main memory feat discussed in the Phaedrus is the literate Phaedrus' attempt to learn by heart an essay written by Lysias). There is after all a very great difference in practice, whatever the psychological foundations of the fact may be, between the ability to learn a continuous text by heart and the ability to recall needed information.
38. The error of supposing that the spoken word somehow loses importance in a literate world is nicely satirized by Pattison, On Literacy 24 - 25, in a chapt;r which puts forward a definition of literacy which is not a definition at all. 39. Cf. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record 264, summarizing his work on Norman England. 37 Functions of Literacy in the Graeco-Roman World The first mention of writing in European literature, in the Iliad, represents it as doing harm by bringing about the death of Bellerophon, and writing continued to have sinister associations.
Ancient Literacy by William V. Harris