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Literacy and democracy in fifth-century Athens

Publication Type:





Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK ; New York, p.211 (2011)

Call Number:

Cubb LC156 .G742 A856 2011



479-431 B.C, Democracy--Greece--Athens--History--To 1500, Greece--History--Athenian supremacy, Literacy--Greece--Athens--History--To 1500


Contents: Introduction: background, concepts and issues -- The geography of literacy -- Literacy and political ethos: the institution of ostracism -- Literacy through intermediaries: I. the ostraka -- Literacy through intermediaries: II. stone inscriptions -- Athenian literacy in its sociopolitical context -- Conclusions: literacy and Athenian democracy.; Summary: "Who wrote the administrative documents of Athens? Was literacy extensive in ancient Attika? Were inscriptions, those on stone or pieces of pottery (ostraka), written, read and comprehended by common people? In this book Anna Missiou gives full consideration to these questions of crucial importance for understanding the quality of Athenian democracy and culture. She explores how the Kleisthenic reforms provided new contexts and new subject matter for writing. It promoted the exchange of reliable information between the demes, the tribes and the urban centre on particular important issues, including the mobilization of the army and the political organization of the citizen body. Through a close analysis of the process through which Athenian politicians were ostracised and a fresh examination of the involvement of common citizens in the Council of 500, Missiou undermines the current orthodoxy that literacy was not widespread among Athenians. Literacy underwrote the effective functioning of Athenian democracy"-- Provided by publisher.; Summary: "Introduction Background, concepts and issues In a collective volume under the title Literacy: Interdisciplinary Conversations1 various new literacies - visual literacy, mathematical literacy, media literacy, computer literacy - appear as additions to the traditional definition of literacy, that is, 'the ability to read and write' (OED). In the same year (1994) another collective volume, focusing on ancient systems of communication in the New World, was published under the title Writing without Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica and the Andes. The traditional distinction between writing, on the one hand, and symbol systems or iconography, on the other, was strongly denounced, while it was underlined that 'speech may be the most efficient manner of communicating many things, but it is noticeably deficient in conveying ideas of a musical, mathematical, or visual nature, for example'.2 Quite evidently, complications abound in defining literacy,3 and in placing it in the cultural and cognitive development of human beings"-- Provided by publisher.

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