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Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens

Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens


Part of Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture

  • Date Published: December 1991
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521425186

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About the Authors
  • Despite its written literature, ancient Greece was in many ways an oral society. This is the first serious attempt to study the implications of this view. Dr Thomas stresses the coexistence of literacy and oral tradition in Greece and examines their character and interaction. Concentrating on the plentiful evidence from Classical Athens, she shows how the use of writing developed only gradually and under the influence of the previous oral communication. Drawing on anthropological discussion, the author isolates different types of Athenian oral tradition, building up a picture of Athens' traditions about its past and examining why they changed and disappeared. This study provides crucial insights into the methods and achievements of the Greek historians. It also has major implications for the interpretation of ancient literacy.

    • 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
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 1991
    • 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
    Chronological table

  • Author

    Rosalind Thomas

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