By William V. Harris
What number of people may well learn and write within the historical international of the Greeks and Romans? not anyone has formerly attempted to offer a scientific solution to this query. so much historians who've thought of the matter in any respect have given confident exams, considering the fact that they've been inspired by means of huge our bodies of old written fabric similar to the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been motivated through an inclination to idealize the Greek and Roman global and its academic approach. In historic Literacy W. V. Harris offers the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, varieties, and features of literacy within the classical international, from the discovery of the Greek alphabet approximately 800 B.C. right 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 international have been reminiscent of to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy constantly possesses an problematic tuition approach, Harris stresses the constraints of Greek and Roman education, mentioning the meagerness of investment for trouble-free 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 communique than has commonly been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, taking into account the commercial sphere and lifestyle, in addition to legislation, 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 assorted results. It gave a few stimulus to serious concept 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 device of energy, and its use used to be essential for the development and upkeep of empires. so much exciting is the position of writing within the new non secular tradition of the overdue Roman Empire, during which it used to be increasingly more respected yet much less and no more practiced. Harris explores those and comparable subject matters during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural heritage. old Literacy is necessary interpreting for a person drawn to the classical international, the matter of literacy, or the heritage of the written notice.
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Extra resources for Ancient Literacy (British Museum) by William V. Harris (1991-10-01)
70 But the general presumption must be that in a world of craftsman's literacy, and certainly in a world of scribal literacy, notably fewer women than men will have been literate. How great the differences between male and female literacy were in various ancient settings will have depended on matters which will be discussed, as far as possible, in subsequent chapters. How are we to avoid vagueness, in the absence of statistical evidence about Greek and Roman literacy? Literacy does not exist in the abstract, but is closely linked to other features of the social and cultural landscape.
What mattered, he suggests, was not, say, the growth of Boston from a population of 5,000 to 15,000, but the proliferation of small towns with populations in the range 500-I,000-the reason being that such communities made schools available whereas smaller ones did not. 39 In other places, rapid urbanization has sometimes had negative effects on levels of literacy, straining school facilities; 40 but it seems a safe enough generalization that very small settlements and truly rural patterns of living are a hindrance to elementary education and that, as towns form, literacy has at least more of an opportunity.
Inst. 8. 55. It might be suggested that the main failure of recent historical writing about Introduction 18 that the structure of the Greek and Roman economy, and the demands of work within that economy, must have had a considerable effect on the level of literacy. The effect may even have been dominant, and it is in danger of being underestimated because the documents, notations, lists, labels and so on of everyday economic life were almost all ephemera which outside Egypt have survived in fairly small numbers.