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By William V. Harris

What number of people may perhaps learn and write within the historic global of the Greeks and Romans? not anyone has formerly attempted to offer a scientific solution to this question. so much historians who've thought of the matter in any respect have given confident tests, due to the fact that they've been inspired by way of huge our bodies of historical written fabric reminiscent of the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been inspired via a bent to idealize the Greek and Roman international and its academic approach. In historical Literacy W. V. Harris presents the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, kinds, and services 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 express 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 international have been equivalent to to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy consistently possesses an problematic university process, Harris stresses the constraints of Greek and Roman education, declaring the meagerness of investment for trouble-free schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here at any place with regards to finishing the transition to a contemporary type of written tradition. They relied extra seriously on oral communique than has commonly been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, considering the commercial sphere and way of life, in addition to legislations, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to assert additionally in regards to the movement of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The restricted unfold of literacy within the classical international had different results. It gave a few stimulus to severe proposal and assisted the buildup of information, and the minority that did discover ways to learn and write used to be to some degree capable of assert itself politically. The written note was once additionally an tool of strength, 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 overdue Roman Empire, during which it used to be a growing number of 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 someone drawn to the classical international, the matter of literacy, or the heritage of the written notice.

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Cf. Stone, P & P xlii (19 69), 69. Introduction Some helpful preconditions for the spread of literacy were plainly present. The invention of a short but efficient alphabet by certain Phoenicians and Greeks made the tasks of learning to read and write almost as easy as they could be. However, as subsequent events have repeatedly shown, widespread diffusion of this knowledge does not by any means automatically follow; the history of Western culture has passed through many centuries during which hardly anyone learned these skills although they are within the capacity of almost every fiveyear-old.

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. Tahiti provides a clear instance: the language was not written down until 1805, and some of the earliest Tahitians who learned to read and write are said, for example, to have known by heart entire books of the New Testament.

J. G. , Paris, 1826), 62-65. 17 Levels of Greek and Roman Literacy a commonplace feature of Greek town life, and the schools of such small places as Astypalaea and Mycalessus are vital indications of the condition of Greek culture at that time. There was little if any subsidization of schools (a phenomenon examined more closely in Chapter 4). In the Hellenistic era the more advanced kind of Greek city did in fact try the remarkable innovations of subsidized and even universal education. Such schemes apparently faded away under Roman power, and nowhere, under the Roman Empire, was there any elaborate network of schools.

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