Ancient Literacy / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
$38.50
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $8.62
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 77%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $8.62   
  • New (7) from $40.19   
  • Used (13) from $8.62   

Overview

How many people could read and write in the ancient world of the Greeks and Romans?

No one has previously tried to give a systematic answer to this question. Most historians who have considered the problem at all have given optimistic assessments, since they have been impressed by large bodies of ancient written material such as the graffiti at Pompeii. They have also been influenced by a tendency to idealize the Greek and Roman world and its educational system.

In Ancient Literacy W. V. Harris provides the first thorough exploration of the levels, types, and functions of literacy in the classical world, from the invention of the Greek alphabet about 800 B.C. down to the fifth century A.D. Investigations of other societies show that literacy ceases to be the accomplishment of a small elite only in specific circumstances. Harris argues that the social and technological conditions of the ancient world were such as to make mass literacy unthinkable. Noting that a society on the verge of mass literacy always possesses an elaborate school system, Harris stresses the limitations of Greek and Roman schooling, pointing out the meagerness of funding for elementary education.

Neither the Greeks nor the Romans came anywhere near to completing the transition to a modern kind of written culture. They relied more heavily on oral communication than has generally been imagined. Harris examines the partial transition to written culture, taking into consideration the economic sphere and everyday life, as well as law, politics, administration, and religion. He has much to say also about the circulation of literary texts throughout classical antiquity.

The limited spread of literacy in the classical world had diverse effects. It gave some stimulus to critical thought and assisted the accumulation of knowledge, and the minority that did learn to read and write was to some extent able to assert itself politically. The written word was also an instrument of power, and its use was indispensable for the construction and maintenance of empires. Most intriguing is the role of writing in the new religious culture of the late Roman Empire, in which it was more and more revered but less and less practiced.

Harris explores these and related themes in this highly original work of social and cultural history. Ancient Literacy is important reading for anyone interested in the classical world, the problem of literacy, or the history of the written word.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674033818
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1991
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 406
  • Product dimensions: 0.83 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

William V. Harris is Shepherd Professor of History at Columbia University and Director of the Center for the Ancient Mediterranean.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

    • Abbreviations


    Part One: Introduction
  1. Levels of Greek and Roman Literacy
  2. The Functions of Literacy in the Graeco-Roman World

  3. Part Two: The Literacy and Illiteracy of the Greeks
  4. The Spread of Literacy in Archaic Times
  5. The Classical Growth of Literacy and Its Limits
  6. The Hellenistic State and Elementary Education

  7. Part Three: Literacy and Illiteracy in the Roman World
  8. Archaic Italy and the Middle Republic
  9. The Late Republic and the High Empire, 100 B.C.-250 A.D.
  10. Literacy in Late Antiquity

    • Conclusion
    • Bibliography
    • Index

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)