Education in Ancient Rome: PDF book (1977) From the Elder Cato to the Younger

Education in Ancient Rome: PDF book (1977)  From the Elder Cato to the Younger by Stanley Bonner

Education in Ancient Rome:

I hope that the present book, by bringing the picture of Roman education into clearer light, may show that this is not merely a subject of antiquarian or specialized academic interest, but one which has in several ways a continuing relevance far beyond ancient Rome, and is not without significance today. It is concerned with human relationships, with perseverance amid difficulties, with the home as well as the school, and with those changes in society which affect both home and school. The very word ‘education’ sprang originally from the Roman home, for the Latin education referred not to schooling and intellectual progress but to the physical rearing of the child and his or her training in behavior. A person who was beneeducatus was not necessarily one who was ‘well-educated’ in our sense — he would be termed erudite — but one who was ‘well brought up’. It would be true to say that the best Roman parents and teachers were as much concerned about character and conduct as they were about the acquisition of culture. But as social standards gradually deteriorated the effects were felt at home and school alike.

As to intellectual training, it has often been observed that the Romans, rather unenterprising, were content to model their basic curriculum and their teaching methods as closely as possible on those of the Greeks. Yet, as both Greeks and Romans were teaching at each stage in Rome, it could also be claimed that this gave a certain cohesion to the course. Primary teaching, even if in parts somewhat painfully thorough, was basically sound and often produced good results. At the ensuing stages, as both languages continued to be taught together, Virgil took his place alongside Homer and Cicero beside Demosthenes; so the young student had the best of both worlds before him. We may indeed regret that, although facilities for a wider education were available and were by no means neglected, the standard school curriculum in our period should have become so strictly confined to ‘grammar’ (that is, grammar and literature) and rhetoric, the art of public speaking. Even so, the value of these subjects continued to be accepted for centuries after Roman times and formed two of the three components of the medieval Trivium. The treatment of them remained remarkably consistent down the ages and still made its influence felt in the schools of Elizabethan days and long afterward.

The evidence on which the book is based has been drawn wherever possible, and in the vast majority of instances, from the period under review, and especially from Quintilian. But sometimes, where the writers of my period offered only a shadowy outline, I have thought it reasonable, in view of the constancy of ancient educational tradition, to develop the details by limited use of later evidence, and thus to restore the picture. The work itself is the result of many years of thought and preparation, and I trust that it will be found to contain not merely a synthesis of what was already known but also original contributions which may be of service to future scholars in further extending the frontiers of knowledge.

Author: Stanley Bonner
Publication Date:1977   
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