By William V. Harris
What number of people may possibly learn and write within the historic global of the Greeks and Romans? not anyone 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 confident checks, when you consider that they've been inspired by means of huge our bodies of historic written fabric corresponding 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 historic Literacy W. V. Harris presents 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 different 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 global have been equivalent to to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy constantly possesses an complex college approach, Harris stresses the constraints of Greek and Roman education, stating the meagerness of investment for trouble-free schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here at any place on the subject of 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, taking into account the industrial sphere and daily life, in addition to legislation, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to claim additionally in regards to the flow of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The constrained unfold of literacy within the classical global had diversified results. It gave a few stimulus to serious concept and assisted the buildup of data, and the minority that did learn how to learn and write used to be to some degree capable of assert itself politically. The written note was once additionally an device of strength, and its use was once crucial for the development and upkeep of empires. such a lot exciting is the function of writing within the new non secular tradition of the past due Roman Empire, during which it used to be an increasing number of respected yet much less and not more practiced. Harris explores those and comparable subject matters during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural heritage. historic Literacy is critical examining for somebody drawn to the classical international, the matter of literacy, or the heritage of the written observe.
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Extra info for Ancient Literacy (British Museum)
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.
65 The figures in Table I are a sample of the illiteracy rates of various countries and regions in which early-modern conditions have prevailed. In considering them we should take into account not only the backwardness of the places in question, but also their modernity (printing, school systems, and so on) with respect to the world of the Greeks and Romans. Such figures indicate not that the ancients were necessarily less literate than the Moroccans or Tunisians of the midtwentieth century, but that the onus of proof is upon any scholar who asserts otherwise.
Xii. 1 2- 1 3; more of this passage is quoted below, p. 26. 63. v. "literacy," 415 - 416, H. H. Golden gives a brief account of the difficulties of con- structing and of interpreting literacy statistics. 64. The Bureau of the Census attempts to deal with the matter by asking questions in writing. J. Kozol, Illiterate America (New York, 1985), 37, summarizes the story: the literacy question was dropped from the 1940 census on the grounds that most people were literate, and when it was reinstated in 1970, "instead of posing ques- Introduction 22 and consequently no one knows how many Americans are illiterate; it is very clear that the number is far higher than the Bureau of the Census has imagined; the only dispute can be about the size of the error.