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Scholars are becoming increasingly aware that, despite its written literature, ancient Greece was in many aspects an oral society. In the first major attempt to study the implications of this discovery, Dr. Thomas stresses the coexistence of literacy and oral tradition in Greece and examines their interaction. Concentrating on the plentiful evidence of Classical Athens, she shows how the use of writing developed only gradually and under the influence of the previous oral communications. Using insights from anthropology, the author isolates different types of Athenian oral tradition, constructing a picture of Athenian traditions and exploring why they changed and disappeared. Thomas researches not only the nature of individual traditions, but the mechanisms of oral tradition and memory in general; then the possible effect of writing on oral tradition. This study provides crucial insights into the methods and achievements of the Greek historians and therefore into the very material of Greek history.Read more
- Excellent review by Peter Parsons, Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford: 'Rosalind Thomas has given us a landmark book …'.
- Literacy and orality are an important topic at the moment - there were several long reviews on the subject around the time of publication
Reviews & endorsements
"On the whole, this learned book is persuasive, both in its parts and its overall conclusions." Philosophy and RhetoricSee more reviews
"Rosalind Thomas has given us a landmark book: sinewy, provocative, closely argued, widely ranging, selectively learned and discreetly imaginative." Peter Parsons, London Review of Books
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- Date Published: January 1992
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521425186
- length: 336 pages
- dimensions: 230 x 153 x 23 mm
- weight: 0.5kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Literacy, written record and oral communication
2. Family tradition
3. Genealogy and family tradition: the intrusion of writing
4. Official tradition? Polis tradition and the epitaphios
5. The liberation of Athens and the 'Alcmaeonid tradition'
Appendix: early Greek lists
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