Textkit Logo

Literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome

Textkit is a learning community- introduce yourself here. Use the Open Board to introduce yourself, chat about off-topic issues and get to know each other.

Moderators: thesaurus, Jeff Tirey

Literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome

Postby Dean » Tue Jul 08, 2003 4:38 am

I have often wondered what the literacy rate was in Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Has anyone ever seen any info or statistics on this? Also how well were the writers known to them? Some interesting questions for thought... :)
phpbb
User avatar
Dean
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Nov 08, 2002 4:35 am
Location: Weirton, WV

Re:Literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome

Postby Emma_85 » Wed Jul 09, 2003 9:59 am

'fraid i've never seen any statistics. but the literacy rate would have been appaling in Rome, but it might not have been so bad in Athens (at the time of sokrates and plato).
phpbb
User avatar
Emma_85
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 1564
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2003 8:01 pm
Location: London

Re:Literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome

Postby bingley » Wed Jul 09, 2003 3:04 pm

Define literacy. Literate enough to be able to spell out or write one's own name? Literate enough to read or write a letter? Literate enough to read Thucydides or Tacitus?<br /><br />I have heard that the gap between the Latin we love and the Latin people actually spoke was much larger than gap between "literary" and spoken English. What was the situation in Greece? How close was Thucydides' or Xenophon's prose to spoken Greek?
bingley
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 640
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2003 10:04 am
Location: Jakarta

Re:Literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome

Postby Emma_85 » Wed Jul 09, 2003 3:13 pm

there was probably a huge gap between spoken and written latin or greek. there is a huge gap in english, but just think of all the really complicated things you can do in written greek. no one would have talked like that.<br /><br />maybe most romans could spell their own name, but i don't think that the people living in the slums would have be able to do much more.
phpbb
User avatar
Emma_85
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 1564
Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2003 8:01 pm
Location: London

Re:Literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome

Postby annis » Wed Jul 09, 2003 8:58 pm

[quote author=bingley link=board=6;threadid=225;start=0#1135 date=1057763077]<br />I have heard that the gap between the Latin we love and the Latin people actually spoke was much larger than gap between "literary" and spoken English. What was the situation in Greece? How close was Thucydides' or Xenophon's prose to spoken Greek?<br />[/quote]<br /><br />Quite remote, apparently.<br /><br />Some time read a transcription of how people talk - even very well educated people - and compare it to their writing. There's a world of difference. Add to that the carefully honed verbal skills that comes from rhetorical training, and you have a writing style quite distant from how people actually speak.<br /><br />Something like Attic Koine (in the New Testament, say) is probably much closer to how the language was actually used in non-literary, non-speech-giving situations, though of course the Koine adopted features of languages in came in contact with.<br /><br />This ignores the issue with Xenophon, namely that his Attic was "debased" (I love old grammars) by being away from Athens and hangin' out with Barbarians - and Spartans - for so long.<br />
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
annis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 3397
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 4:55 pm
Location: Madison, WI, USA

Re:Literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome

Postby benissimus » Thu Jul 10, 2003 1:24 am

I once read a Latin gravestone written by the child's father. The incription itself made perfect sense, but he had two spelling errors in which he put "B" instead of "V". This makes sense since "V" and "B" were very similar just as in Modern Spanish. I'm not sure how educated the man was, but he certainly was not wealthy yet he knew how to write arguably well.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
User avatar
benissimus
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2733
Joined: Mon May 12, 2003 4:32 am
Location: Berkeley, California

Re:Literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome

Postby vinobrien » Thu Jul 10, 2003 4:02 pm

Wouldn't the existence (and quality) of Latin graffiti tend to suggest that some book learnin' was had by the lower orders. The famous graffito "illa amo" is used as an example of how the terminal "m" was not pronounced in spoken Latin (as we all know from our scansion exercises), however it also suggests that it was written by someone who knew his letters but was not fully literate. Mind you, if I remember aright, the divine Augustus sacked one of his scribes for writing ipsi as ixi...
phpbb
User avatar
vinobrien
Textkit Member
 
Posts: 143
Joined: Mon Sep 09, 2002 9:05 am
Location: Maidenhead, England


Return to Open Board

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 18 guests