By William V. Harris
What number of people may possibly learn and write within the old global 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, for the reason that they've been inspired by way of huge our bodies of historic written fabric comparable to the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been prompted via a bent to idealize the Greek and Roman international and its academic method. In historical Literacy W. V. Harris offers the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, forms, and capabilities 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 different societies exhibit that literacy ceases to be the accomplishment of a small elite merely in particular situations. Harris argues that the social and technological stipulations of the traditional global have been reminiscent of to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy continually possesses an intricate college approach, Harris stresses the restrictions of Greek and Roman education, mentioning the meagerness of investment for ordinary schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here at any place as regards to finishing the transition to a latest type of written tradition. They relied extra seriously on oral verbal exchange than has in general been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, bearing in mind the commercial sphere and way of life, in addition to legislations, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to assert additionally concerning the flow of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The restricted unfold of literacy within the classical global had different results. It gave a few stimulus to severe notion and assisted the buildup of information, and the minority that did learn how to learn and write was once to a point in a position to assert itself politically. The written be aware was once additionally an device of energy, and its use used to be vital for the development and upkeep of empires. so much fascinating is the function of writing within the new spiritual tradition of the past due Roman Empire, within which it used to be increasingly more respected yet much less and no more practiced. Harris explores those and similar issues during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural background. old Literacy is critical analyzing for somebody attracted to the classical international, the matter of literacy, or the heritage of the written notice.
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Additional info for Ancient Literacy
Youtie showed that in Egypt they preferred on the whole to find surrogates among their close relatives, and that they turned to public scribes when literate relatives or friends were not available. No doubt the same happened elsewhere. Of course none of this means that very large numbers of people made use of documents through intermediaries; the practice was simply a mitigation. " A person who asked this question about a public inscription in an ancient town could expect to find someone who would answer.
Kleberg, Buchhandel und Verlagswesen in der Antike (Darmstadt, 1967), 31. The evidence cited is fragile: Mart. l. 5. 43. Cf. Tanzer, Comnzon People of Pompeii 83; J. Vogt, RhM cxvi (1973),137· 44. , E. l 1- 16; C. Bozzolo, D. Cog & E. Ornata, S & C viii (1984), 129-160. On the growth of education in the same period cf. A. T. Grafton, ]IH xi (1980-81), 273-275. Levels of Greek and Roman Literacy three centuries. But no historical culture is known to have achieved more than a rather low level of craftsman's literacy without the printing press.
One was the strength of ancient memories. 12 For the "Egyptian" myth which Plato makes Socrates tell to Phaedrus is generally thought to correspond to the truth: writing brings not improved memory but forgetfulness, by providing the literate with an external device to rely on. 14 What suggested to Plato that writing has this effect we unfortunately do not know, and the claim was a polemical one; but living in (or having lived in) a period when the use of writing was expanding, he may have had some 9.
Ancient Literacy by William V. Harris