Roman Social Factors

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The social factors affecting reading and writing in the Roman World were numerous and omnipresent throughout the Roman Empire. Writing and reading took many forms from graffiti to religious and political reference books. In studying the different texts at our disposition one can easily pick out the importance of literate slaves in the Roman world. This piece will show that to own such a slave was generally seen as a sign of superior rank in the literary world of the Romans. Roman writers would have several slaves around them, each one with a different position to fill such as secretary, reader, or to classify the books (Winsbury 2011, p 82). One will find in this piece that the men employed as literate slaves were in a lot of ways fortunate…show more content…
These campaigns did not come without enormous expenditure. In order to keep conquering new lands the army needed to enlist new recruits. Veterans had to be rewarded at the end of their time of service. In order to finance this and the acquisition of land to reward the veterans at the end of their service, the Empire started the census of the population. The census became a recorded written document to take care of the Roman soldiers (John Wilkes, Archaeology International). Therefore from the moment a man was enlisted into the army he was required to fill a document where his details would be recorded and kept. These documents were essential to determine the length of service and date of his retirement. All the task of bureaucracy was to record the day to day needs of the army, the transfer of troupes to another part of the Empire and communication between platoons. It is not certain that all who served in the army were literate, but if a man wanted to ascend to a higher rank in the army it was imperative that he was educated. Senators and the elite considered the army to be uncultured and therefore in order to move up in society one needed to acquire the ability to read and write in order to have communication with both his peers and superiors. (Blackwell 2011, pp 286-301) Basic knowledge of Latin was required in order to start a career in the Roman army, and cultivation of reading…show more content…
There were potentially grave risks associated with the writing of personal ideas that were opposed to the views of the Emperor of the time. A writer may lose the patronage of the Emperor and no longer be invited to Imperial occasions. This person would then become an outcast with anyone wanting to remain in the Emperors good graces. The case of Ovid was even more extreme. Ovid was one of the leading literary figures of his time. He was sent into exile by Augustus and his writings expunged from the Imperial libraries. (Winsbury 2011, p 74). He challenged the moral conservatism of the Emperor. It was seen as destabilising the Republic. Another lesser known writer may not have been treated as leniently as Ovid. This meant that an author had to be careful with what he wrote. Pollio in referring to Augustus writes that, ‘it is not easy to write about a man who can proscribe’ (Winsbury 2011, p 74) which is a word play on putting up written public lists of condemned men. Cicero himself had paid the ultimate price with his life in publishing his contentious works. He was executed as a result of his publications “No more direct connection between author and audience can be imagined; no more eloquent testimony to the power, and danger, of books.”(Roman World, p156) The Imperial libraries were not just centres of learning. They may have been a good
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