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By William V. Harris

What number of people may perhaps learn and write within the historic international of the Greeks and Romans? nobody 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, on account that they've been inspired via huge our bodies of historical written fabric akin to the graffiti at Pompeii. they've got additionally been motivated by way of a bent 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 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 conditions. Harris argues that the social and technological stipulations of the traditional global have been comparable to to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting society at the verge of mass literacy regularly possesses an intricate institution procedure, Harris stresses the constraints of Greek and Roman education, declaring the meagerness of investment for uncomplicated schooling. Neither the Greeks nor the Romans got here at any place with reference to finishing the transition to a latest form of written tradition. They relied extra seriously on oral conversation than has more often than not been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written tradition, considering the industrial sphere and daily life, in addition to legislation, politics, management, and faith. He has a lot to assert additionally concerning the circulate of literary texts all through classical antiquity. The restricted unfold of literacy within the classical international had diversified results. It gave a few stimulus to severe notion and assisted the buildup of data, and the minority that did learn how to learn and write used to be to a point capable of assert itself politically. The written be aware was once additionally an software of energy, and its use used to be quintessential for the development and upkeep of empires. so much interesting is the position of writing within the new spiritual tradition of the overdue Roman Empire, during which it used to be increasingly more respected yet much less and not more practiced. Harris explores those and comparable issues during this hugely unique paintings of social and cultural historical past. historical Literacy is necessary analyzing for somebody drawn to the classical international, 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.

G. 20), who, however, does not provide circumstantial detail. Prodigious powers of recall became something of a commonplace in ethnographic literature; cf. S. Gandz, Osiris vii (1939), 305- 306. Concerning the supposedly accurate oral transmission of the Vedas see Ong, Orality and Literacy 65-66; Street, Literacy in Theory and Practice 98. Powerful memories among the sixteenth-century Incas: A. Seppilli, La memoria e l'assenza. Tradizione orale e civilta della scrittura nell'America dei Conquistadores (Bologna, 1979), 57- 63.

V. "Mnemnonik," cols. 2264-65. 20. 88. 21. For feats of text memorization attributed to early Christians see below, p. 3°1. 22. On methods of quotation see provisionally W. C. Helmbold & E. N. O'Neil, Plutarch's Quotations (Baltimore, 1959), viii-ix. That modern exactness was not required fits the fact that the illiterate Yugoslav epic singer Demo Zogic told an informant that he had repeated "the same song, word for word" when in a literal sense he had done nothing of the kind; A. B. , 1960), 27; cf.

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