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By William V. Harris

What number of people may well learn and write within the old international of the Greeks and Romans? nobody 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 exams, when you consider that they've been inspired via huge our bodies of historic written fabric comparable to the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been motivated by means of a bent to idealize the Greek and Roman international and its academic method. In historical Literacy W. V. Harris presents the 1st thorough exploration of the degrees, kinds, and capabilities 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 express that literacy ceases to be the accomplishment of a small elite in simple terms in particular situations. Harris argues that the social and technological stipulations of the traditional international have been resembling to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy consistently possesses an difficult college process, Harris stresses the restrictions of Greek and Roman education, stating the meagerness of investment for effortless schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here at any place with reference to 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, considering the commercial sphere and way of life, in addition to legislation, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to assert additionally in regards to the flow of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The constrained unfold of literacy within the classical international had different results. It gave a few stimulus to severe suggestion and assisted the buildup of data, and the minority that did learn how to learn and write was once to a point capable of assert itself politically. The written observe used to be additionally an tool of energy, and its use used to be integral for the development and upkeep of empires. such a lot interesting is the position of writing within the new non secular tradition of the past due 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 issues during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural background. historic Literacy is necessary studying for someone drawn to the classical global, the matter of literacy, or the background of the written be aware.

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Ancient Literacy

What number of people may perhaps learn and write within the old international 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 positive exams, considering they've been inspired through huge our bodies of historical written fabric akin to the graffiti at Pompeii.

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C. 865 = L. ]effery, The Local Scripts of Archaic Greece [Oxford, 1961], 240 no. 3). 8. For an account of the magical use of writing in ancient cultures other than those of Greece and Rome see G. , Tiibingen, 1956),494-5°3. Introduction 3° the political and social elite, most people could live out their lives, if they were content to do so, without the use of reading or writing. It may be symptomatic of this state of affairs that literacy and illiteracy often go unnoticed or unemphasized in Greek and Roman contexts in which we might expect one or the other to be mentioned.

The one valuable discussion: K. R. Bradley, Historical Reflections xii (1985), 3 11 - 330. 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.

In recent times the United States has lacked both of these prerequisites,64 62. 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.

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