Download Ancient Literacy (British Museum) by William V. Harris PDF

By William V. Harris

What number of people may perhaps learn and write within the old global of the Greeks and Romans? nobody has formerly attempted to provide a scientific resolution to this query. 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 means of huge our bodies of old written fabric resembling the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been encouraged by way of an inclination to idealize the Greek and Roman global and its academic procedure. In historic Literacy W. V. Harris offers the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, varieties, 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 basically in particular conditions. 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 tricky university method, Harris stresses the constraints of Greek and Roman education, mentioning the meagerness of investment for straight forward schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here anyplace almost about finishing the transition to a latest type of written tradition. They relied extra seriously on oral communique than has in general been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, making an allowance for the commercial sphere and way of life, in addition to legislations, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to claim additionally concerning the movement 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 serious suggestion and assisted the buildup of information, and the minority that did discover ways to learn and write used to be to a point capable of assert itself politically. The written be aware was once additionally an device of strength, and its use was once essential for the development and upkeep of empires. so much exciting is the function of writing within the new non secular tradition of the past due Roman Empire, within which it used to be progressively more respected yet much less and no more practiced. Harris explores those and similar topics during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural heritage. historical Literacy is necessary studying for somebody attracted to the classical international, the matter of literacy, or the background of the written note.

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Introduction 20 eties, school attendance was for many people subordinate to the exigencies of the agricultural calendar. Even these brief initial speculations about the economic system and its effects on ancient levels of literacy should make it clear that the system differed radically from those which are known to have fostered mass literacy. Religious reasons have from time to time induced large numbers of people to learn to read. Even before the Reformation, protoProtestant movements, such as that of the Lollards in England from the 13 80S onwards, had some effect in this direction.

B. , 1960), 27; cf. 119. In oral cultures memory tends to lack verbal exactness, according to Ong, Orality and Literacy 60-66. 23. Theog. 135, 53 - 54. In Hesiod and Homer invocations of the Muses commonly occur when the poet requires a quantity of "catalogue" material: W. W. Minton, TAPhA xci (1960), 293. 24. Cf. PI. Protag. -Plu. educ. 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.

Of course it is far indeed from being exhaustive. In the chapters which follow we shall examine the functions of literacy in each period, under the general headings of economic and legal functions (the world of work), civic functions, religious functions, commemoration of various kinds, the transmission of literature, and letter-writing. The functions of writing in the process of schooling itself will also require some attention. Writing was used for the following purposes, though some of them could be achieved without it.

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