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Education as practiced in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire had a seminal effect on later education in the west. As Rome progressed from an agrarian city-state to one of antiquity's most formidable world powers, Rome's informal system of home-schooling was transformed into a specialized, multi-tiered school system inspired by Greek practice.

Contents

Early Education in the Roman Empire

From the foundation of Rome in approximately 753 BC to the middle of the third century BC, there is little evidence of anything more than rudimentary education. Parents were their child's primary educators, imparting to their children the various domestic, agricultural and military skills necessary for life in the early republic in addition to a knowledge of, and familiarity with, the moral and civil responsibilities incumbent upon Roman citizenry.[1]

By the fourth century BC Roman schools, called ludi (singular ludus) had taken shape.[2] These schools, whose name was derived from the Latin word for “play,” were concerned with the basic socialization and rudimentary education of young Roman children. In the second half of the third century BC, an ex-slave named Spurius Carvilius is credited with opening the first fee-paying ludus[3] and thereby forging a teaching profession in ancient Rome. Nevertheless, organized education was relatively rare at this time, very few primary sources or accounts of Roman educational process are available from periods before the second century BC.[2]

Later Roman Education

At the height of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire, the Roman educational system gradually found its final form. As Rome grew in size and in power following the Punic Wars, the importance of the family as the central unit within Roman society began to change[4]. Following various military conquests in the Greek East, Romans adapted a number of Greek educational precepts to their own system.[1] The old Roman system of education carried out by the paterfamilias gave way to a new educational system encountered by the Romans among the Hellenistic Greeks in prominent centers of learning such as Alexandria. Formal schools were established, which served paying students (very little in the way of free public education is attested).[3] Normally, both boys and girls were educated, though not necessarily together.[3]

The Roman education system, like that of the modern west, was a tier-based system beginning at a fairly young age. The educator Quintilian recognized the importance of an early education, noting that “memory … not only exists even in small children, but is specially retentive at that age”.[5] A Roman student would advance through various levels of education in a manner which depended more on ability than age[6] and a more tacit emphasis on a student’s ability to afford high-level education.

Roman students were taught (especially at the elementary level) in a similar fashion to Greek students, sometimes by Greek slaves who had a penchant for education.[3]. However, differences between the Greek and Roman systems become more apparent at the highest tiers of education. Roman students who wished to pursue a higher academic education went to Greece to study philosophy, whereas the Roman system developed to teach speech, law and gravitas.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Nanette R. Pascal, "The Legacy of Roman Education (in the Forum)," The Classical Journal 79, no. 4 (1984): 351-355.
  2. ^ a b Michael Chiappetta, “Historiography and Roman Education,” History of Education Journal 4, no. 4 (1953): 149-156.
  3. ^ a b c d Oxford Classical Dictionary, Edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, Third Edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996
  4. ^ Robin Barrow, Greek and Roman Education (Macmillian Education: London, 1976).
  5. ^ Quintilian, Quintilian on Education, translated by William M. Smail (New York: Teachers College Press, 1966).
  6. ^ Yun Lee Too, Education in Greek and Roman antiquity (Boston: Brill, 2001).
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