Written Texts and the Rise of Literate Culture in Ancient Greece
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The landmark developments of Greek culture and the critical works of Greek thought and literature were accompanied by an explosive growth in the use of written texts from the sixth through the fourth centuries B.C.E. The creation of the "classical" and the perennial use of Greece by later European civilizations as a source of knowledge and inspiration would not have taken place without the textual innovations of the classical period. This book considers how writing, reading, and disseminating texts led to new ways of thinking and new forms of expression and behavior.
perception of Greek religion be if we did not have the Homeric scenes of sacriﬁce, the rich ritual repertoires of the tragedians, the prayers and hymns of Aristophanes, or the comparisons of Greek and non-Greek religions that we ﬁnd in Herodotus?82 Greek poets and prose authors wrote religion with their own agendas in mind, but exploring all those would require another essay.83 80 81 82 83 ¾ tcnhn poioÅmenov t ¬er. See Burkert 1992: 41–6 on ritual “craftsmen.” On the Derveni papyrus, see
rested with them in their role as jurors or members of the assembly. It is not at all surprising that no Chinese philosophical or medical debate follows that pattern, since there is simply no Chinese parallel for the Greek experience of a citizen acting as both judge and juror in lawsuits, or of citizens gathering to make decisions in an assembly that was plenipotentiary.23 I shall have more to say about the inﬂuence of this model elsewhere on Greek intellectual life when I come to mathematics.
ways that cannot be paralleled in our Chinese evidence whether from the Warring States or from the Han periods.36 In both ancient societies, the literate formed a privileged elite, and in both the importance of written texts for many different purposes grew over time. But the nature of that importance and the trajectory of that growth were not the same. Yet the features that make for the differences, as described here, are not those that relate to the speciﬁc technology of the written word. None
geographical description of the world, ascribed to Hesiod, that would be the precedent for Hecataeus’ work of that genre. 20 21 22 23 Puqag»rhv Mnhsrcou ¬stor©hn ¢skhsen nqrÛpwn mlista pntwn kaª klexmenov taÅtav tv suggrafv poisato auto u sof©hn, polumaq©hn, kakotecn©hn. For the restriction of syngraph¯e to works in prose, see Dover 1997: 183–4. Herodotus uses the term only once (1.93.1) for his own activity of recording things worthy of wonder (qÛmata). The authenticity of
reasons. We must bear in mind that Plato’s primary contact with philosophy in the person of Socrates was exclusively oral. Of course, Socrates and Plato were also acquainted with the work of the Presocratics in the written mode. But Socrates, Plato’s paradigm philosopher, did not write. His practice of philosophy was entirely conversational, “dialectical,” as Plato will say. The existence of the Socratic dialogue genre permitted Plato to make use of his extraordinary dramatic talent without