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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.Read more
- Argues that literacy was crucial to the functioning of Athenian democracy
- Provides the first full treatment of the relation between literacy and the reforms of Kleisthenes
- Reassesses the involvement of ordinary citizens in the process of ostracism and on the Council
Reviews & endorsements
"Missiou argues for the existence of extensive literacy among Athenian citizens due to their involvement in democratic administration … she succeeds in bringing new considerations to a lengthy debate about Athenian literacy and showing how intimately it was connected with Athenian public life … the book is very much worthy of reading."
Pavel Nylt, Eirene: Studia Graeca et Latina
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- Date Published: March 2011
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521128766
- length: 228 pages
- dimensions: 217 x 138 x 11 mm
- weight: 0.32kg
- contains: 22 b/w illus. 3 maps 2 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Introduction: background, concepts and issues
1. The geography of literacy
2. Literacy and political ethos: the institution of ostracism
3. Literacy through intermediaries: I. the ostraka
4. Literacy through intermediaries: II. stone inscriptions
5. Athenian literacy in its sociopolitical context
Conclusions: literacy and Athenian democracy
Appendix I: studying the ostraka: technical difficulties and personal assumptions
Appendix II: for an early date for the institution of the prytaneis
Appendix III: literacy beyond the urban centre: councillors-prytaneis from remote demes.
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