Read e-book online Ancient Literacy PDF

By William V. Harris

ISBN-10: 0674033809

ISBN-13: 9780674033801

What number of people may well learn and write within the old global of the Greeks and Romans? not anyone has formerly attempted to provide a scientific resolution to this question. such a lot historians who've thought of the matter in any respect have given confident tests, considering that they've been inspired by way of huge our bodies of historical written fabric comparable to the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been stimulated by means of a bent to idealize the Greek and Roman international and its academic procedure. In historic Literacy W. V. Harris offers the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, kinds, and services of literacy within the classical global, from the discovery of the Greek alphabet approximately 800 B.C. right down to the 5th century A.D. Investigations of alternative societies convey that literacy ceases to be the accomplishment of a small elite simply in particular conditions. Harris argues that the social and technological stipulations of the traditional global have been resembling to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy continually possesses an difficult institution method, Harris stresses the restrictions of Greek and Roman education, mentioning the meagerness of investment for simple 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 normally been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, bearing in mind the commercial sphere and lifestyle, in addition to legislation, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to claim additionally concerning the move of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The constrained unfold of literacy within the classical international had assorted results. It gave a few stimulus to serious suggestion and assisted the buildup of information, and the minority that did learn how to learn and write was once to some degree capable of assert itself politically. The written be aware was once additionally an software of energy, and its use was once fundamental for the development and upkeep of empires. so much exciting is the position 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 topics during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural historical past. old Literacy is critical interpreting for a person attracted to the classical global, the matter of literacy, or the historical past of the written note.

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How much it did so is a complex question which will recur again and again in this book. Scholars have often asserted, rather vaguely, that ancient cities were full of things to read,43 and there is some truth in this claim; but it must not lead us to the assumption that the majority of city-dwellers were able to read for themselves (they were all, however, in a position to learn what was written in public), still less to the assumption that they could write. It is also true that by the time of Gutenberg reading and writing had become far commoner than in the early Middle Ages,44 and literacy had risen far above its nadir of centuries before.

When the illiteracy 67. On the literacy of Greek women see S. G. Cole in H. P. ), Reflections of Women in Antiquity (New York, 1981),219-245. 68. UNESCO, Statistics 207. 69. Cipolla, Literacy and Development 18, from the census. For some similar cases see R. Houston, Social History viii (1983), 271-272. Reversals of the general pattern are very few and are probably related to migration: Ireland after 1891 (Cipolla 125), Cuba in 1953 (UNESCO, Statistics 159), Jamaica and Martinique in the same period (ibid.

502, where it is specified that the blessed country-dweller has not seen the "insanum ... forum aut populi tabularia," lies behind this. 43. Gulliver's Travels, part IV, chaps. iii and ix. The fact that mass education might be a threat to property and to religious orthodoxy had already been noticed before this date: cf. L. Stone, P & P xlii (1969), 84-85. 44. -J. Rousseau, Emile, trans. A. " 45. Cf. Stone 88-89· Introduction were withholding something which was in itself useful or desirable. With the advent of the Malinowski-Mead period of anthropology, however, admiration for what was tribal, primitive, remote, began to take on more extreme forms among intellectuals.

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Ancient Literacy by William V. Harris


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