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Ludus Litterarius

διδασκαλεῖον). A school.

I. Greek

Of education in the Homeric Age one cannot affirm anything with certainty. Achilles is represented as having a sort of rhetorical training under Phoenix ( Il. ix. 414), and in music and the healing art under the Centaur, Chiron; and noble youths are spoken of as undergoing a course of instruction in arms and martial exercises. Cf. Plut. De Educ. Liberis, 12.

In later times, the Ionic States of Greece paid great attention to literary as well as to physical culture. Herodotus (vi. 27) speaks of a boys' school at Chios as early as B.C. 500 with 120 pupils. A decree of the Mitylenaeans is given by Aelian (vii. 15) in which the prohibition of schools is made a punishment for disloyal allies. Diodorus (xii. 12) states that Charondas (circa B.C. 550) passed a law for Thurii giving to all boys a literary training at the public cost. (See Polyb. xxxi. 17; Hirschfeld in Hermes, ix. 501; and Plato, Crit. 50 D.) The Spartans, on the other hand, and in fact the Dorians in general, paid much more attention to physical than to mental training, and any literary education was given to a boy at the expense of his parents and not by the State. Cf. Plato, Hipp. Maior, p. 285 C; and the articles Bidiaei; Education; Paedonomi.

For the purposes of the present article we may take the schools of Athens as representing the higher development of secondary education in ancient Greece. There is no positive evidence that at Athens the State exercised any direct control over the schools, though a law of Solon required parents and guardians to provide boys with a suitable education (Plato, Crit. 50 D). There were no girls' schools at Athens, but such training as the daughters of a family received was from their mothers, and consisted chiefly of the domestic arts of sewing, spinning, etc.

School Period.

From the age of six, a boy was intrusted to a paedagogus (q. v.), who conducted him everywhere—to school, to the palaestra, etc. —carrying his books, tablets, and other school requisites. This is explained by Plato, who says that, if animals have care-takers, of course the boy must, “being the most unmanageable of all animals” (De Leg. vii. 808 D). The school began early in the morning, and ended at sunset, according to Solon's law, but there was an interval for luncheon at mid-day. In grammar-schools the Musea was a school festival, and there were holidays at great festivals, so much so that in the month Anthesterion there was comparatively little time for school (Theophr. 22).

Subjects of Study.

The regular school course (ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία) was intended to convey, besides mere reading and writing, a knowledge of the poets, and proficiency in music and gymnastics. In the time of Socrates some mathematical training was added, and at least a knowledge of simple arithmetic was universally imparted. This mere reckoning, however, was taught mainly at home by means of a calculating-table (see Abacus; Mathematica); and accordingly Aristotle ( Pol. v. or viii. 1) speaks of three usual subjects, γράμματα, γυμναστική, and μουσική, the last including γράμματα. The elementary reading-lesson was sometimes made easy and attractive by methods like those of the modern kindergarten, the use of ivory letters, etc. (Cf. Plato, De Leg. vii. 819 D.) Grasberger cites from Philostratus (Vit. Soph. ii. p. 240) a device of Herodes, who gives to a dull pupil twenty-four companions named from the letters of the alphabet to aid his memory.

For the method of teaching writing, see Plato, Protag. 326 D. The literary course consisted of reading and explaining the best poets, such as Homer, Hesiod, Theognis, Phocyllides; but more especially Homer. In Xen. Symp. iii. 5, Niceratus says, “My father, to make me a good man, compelled me to learn all the poems of Homer, and now I could say by heart the whole Iliad and Odyssey.” This poetical training was intended to impart a knowledge of mythology and philosophy (especially through the maxims), as well as taste and power of expression. Of course time was less occupied than now, since there was no language, natural science, or history to be learned.

To this literary course was sometimes added special teaching in tactics and strategy for those who looked to a military career; and drawing was taught before the time of Aristotle, having been, according to Pliny , introduced by Pamphilus (the teacher of Apelles), first at Sicyon, whence it spread over Greece, and was regarded for all sons of citizens a most important branch of education— slaves might not learn it (Pliny , Pliny H. N. xxxv. 77). It was chiefly correct outline drawing without colour, on boxwood tablets. The musical teaching began at twelve or thirteen, and was so managed that the pupils might appreciate and accompany lyric poetry. It should be observed that the instrument taught was the lyre: the flute, a favourite instrument at Thebes, and once commonly learned at Athens, was tabooed, except for professionals, about the time of the Peloponnesian War. The διδασκαλεῖα lasted till ἥβη—i. e. till sixteen; and afterwards for those of the richer classes, who wished for advanced learning, came the schools of the rhetoricians and sophists, who taught various departments of knowledge.

Place of Education.

The school-room itself was called διδασκαλεῖον or παιδαγωγεῖον; also φωλεόν, or φωλεός. Some, indeed, maintain that the παιδαγωγεῖον was only an ante-room, where the paedagogi sat and waited; but Grasberger (vol. ii. 207) remarks that it was unlikely that so poor a school as that of Elpias would have an ante-room, and cites Philostratus (Vit. Soph. ii. 263) to show that the paedagogi sat with their charges. In Roman times certainly we have Remmius Palaemon, as paedagogus,

Athenian School. (From the Vase.)

learning more than the schoolboys from the lesson (Gr. 23). Some schools had not even one room, but were held in the open air, as by Dionysius the Younger (Gell. xxi. 5). This, however, is only in the case of the very poor; even the father of Aeschines is described by Demosthenes as in a school-room, and Demosthenes contrasts that establishment with the respectable (προσήκοντα) schools to which he went himself. The boys sat on benches (βάθρα), the master on a chair (θρόνος). See the rather unattractive picture in Libanius (iv. p. 868), where we are told that the master “sits aloft, like a dicast, with an awful frown and an expression of implacable wrath, before which the pupil must tremble and cringe.” In the vase-picture given above we see the various departments, each group representing a class:
  • 1. repetition of poetry;
  • 2. music lesson on the lyre (where both teacher and pupil sit, and both have laid aside the himation to give free play to the arms);
  • 3. the writing-master with a tablet (or possibly a master correcting an exercise);
  • 4. a singing-lesson, where the master is not teaching the forbidden flute (see above), but giving a note from it. On the walls are articles of the school apparatus—book-roll, tablets, lyre, geometrical instrument (?), drinking-vessel, basket for books. It is a disputed question whether the seated spectators are government inspectors, paedagogi, or parents, and the question is so impossible to decide that the picture unfortunately cannot be made an argument for the presence of any one of the three at the lesson.


The poor status of the Athenian school-master (γραμματιστής) is sufficiently established. He was ill-paid, and often did not receive his payment at all. This does not apply to the sophists in the more advanced schools, who were able to charge as much as 100 minae ($1800) for their complete course to each pupil; and the chairs founded in later times by Hadrian had a stipend of 100 minae a year attached to them. See Education, p. 572.

II. Roman

At Rome, education, though not made obligatory by any law, was always considered important. In early days, however, the father himself generally taught his son (Pliny , Pliny Ep. viii. 14; cf. Plaut. Most. i. 2, 42). So Servius Tullius is said to have been taught by King Tarquin; and of Cato the Elder it is said, as part of his conservatism, that he taught and trained his own son (Cat. Mai. 20). This old training no doubt consisted much in living with the father and learning his business of public life; but there was also direct instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic (i. e. reckoning), and in saying by heart the Twelve Tables (q.v.), which formed a sort of catechism to the Roman of the old school. But it of course often happened that the father lacked either the ability or the inclination to teach his son, and so arose the custom of wealthy parents employing educated slaves or freedmen as private tutors at home. Livius Andronicus, late in the third century B.C., was so employed by Livius Salinator; Augustus so employed the freedman Verrius Flaccus to teach his grandsons; and in some cases, when the teacher was a slave, his master let him teach a class of outsiders and so made a profit (Cat. Mai. 20). It is probable, however, that even in the earliest times there were schools to which those who could neither teach themselves, nor provide competent slaves as teachers, sent their children, boys and girls alike. Plutarch ( Rom. 6) represents Romulus and Remus as learning at a school at Gabii; and, in less purely legendary times, there is no reason to discredit the account of Virginia going to school (Livy, iii. 44), or of the schools at Falerii (Livy, v. 44) and Tusculum (Livy, vi. 25) early in the fourth century B.C.

Against this has been adduced by some the passage of Plutarch (Quaest. Rom. 59), which states that Spurius Carvilius was the first person who opened a school (γραμματοδιδασκαλεῖον) at Rome, B.C. 231; but Plutarch probably only means that Carvilius was the first grammaticus or teacher of the more advanced literary schools, which came in along with the influence of Greek literature, and he does not thereby negative the elementary schools mentioned by Livy (and indeed by himself elsewhere) as existing much earlier. It is necessary, therefore, to distinguish

  • 1. litterator, or magister litterarius (=γραμματιστής), the elementary school-master;
  • 2. grammaticus (also litteratus), a more advanced teacher;
  • 3. rhetor (Flor. 20).
Private teachers were employed in later as in older times by many men of high station; but still, except the imperial family, it was common for those of the highest rank to send their sons to schools. Thus we find Sulla sending his son Faustus to the school in which Cassius also was being educated; and Ausonius, a man of the highest rank in the State, recommends school education in a passage cited below. The question whether home or school education is to be preferred is discussed by Quintilian (Inst. Or. i. 2), with a result in favour of the latter, and the arguments on either side have a striking resemblance to those which are used at the present day.

Place.—The elementary schools and those of the grammatici were usually in a veranda partly open to the street, and the school-room is accordingly called pergula, taberna, or porticus (Gr. 18; Juv.xi. 137; Livy, iii. 44; Livy vi. 25; Eumen. Pro Inst. Schol. 20). Hence the noise of teaching and of punishing was audible through the street and annoying to the neighbours (Mart. xii. 57). Boys and girls were taught in the same school, as is shown alike by passages such as Mart.viii. 3Mart., ix. 68; Ovid, Trist. ii. 369, and by old paintings which have been discovered.

School-hours.—The school began early, even before dawn (Mart.ix. 68); so that the boys brought lamps with them (Juv.vii. 226). There was a break for the prandium, after which the school was continued. Each boy was accompanied from his home by his paedagogus, or slave, who acted as a sort of private tutor both in regard to control and not unfrequently in teaching, also called custos, and by an inferior slave called capsarius, carrying the books and tablets. Juvenal (vii. 222 foll.) describes for us the school-room; the busts of the poets blackened by smoke from the scholars' lamps, the master seated on his chair (cathedra), while his class stood before him or sat on benches (subsellia). We hear also of wall-maps in a remarkable passage of Eumenius, a teacher at Autun at the end of the third century: “The boys should have daily before their eyes on the walls all lands and seas, all cities and peoples, comprehended under our Empire; for the name and position of places, the distances between them, the source and outflow of rivers, the coast-line with all its sea-board, its gulfs and its straits, are better taken in by the eye than by the ear” (Pro Inst. Schol. 20; cf. Propert. v. 3, 37). There were also tables of authors and of dates hung up (see Marquardt, Privatleben, 109).

Discipline.—That this was generally severe may be seen from the line of Juvenal (i. 15), et nos ergo manum ferulae subduximus, and from the abundant illustrations given by Professor Mayor on that passage. Zonaras mentions that the prince Arcadius was flogged by Arsenius without apparently any objection from the emperor Theodosius. Arsenius, however, seems to have been a private tutor, teaching only the emperor's children. Quintilian (i. 3, 14) argues against corporal punishment altogether. On the other hand, prizes were given to encourage the industrious—some valuable or prettily got-up book (Gr. 17). Prizes are mentioned also at Athens in the Roman period for the best ἐγκώμιον or essay. Few passages will

School Flogging.

better give an idea of a Roman school than the idyl (iv.) which Ausonius (once tutor to Valentinian's sons, but afterwards a count of the Empire and consul) addresses to his grandson, just going to school.

School-time and Holidays.—The Roman school year began on March 24, after the Quinquatria, when the new boy brought his entrance-fee (Minerval). Sometimes the money for the whole previous year was brought then (Juv.vii. 242), but (as appears from Hor. Sat. i. 6, 72) it was usually paid each month; and this is prescribed by an edict of Diocletian (C. I. L. iii. 831). The regular holidays or vacation were the week at the Saturnalia in December and the five days at the Quinquatria in March, but there was also a holiday on each of the nundinae (Gr. 7), and at the time of the important games.

Subjects of Study.—The school life began usually at seven years of age (Quint. i. 1, 15); but no doubt in most cases there was some earlier home instruction. Tacitus ( Dial. 29) mentions, with no approval, the custom of having a Greek maid, like a bonne, for children to give them an early familiarity with the Greek language. In the elementary schools the course consisted of reading, writing, and simple arithmetic. Quintilian mentions the system of making the reading-lesson attractive by using ivory letters, as mentioned above in Greek schools. The writing-lesson was on a wax tablet, with lines or furrows (sulci) to guide the hand (Quint. i. 1, 27). Arithmetic was of great importance in the Roman judgment, and we find from an edict of Diocletian that the arithmetic master (calculator) was paid more highly than the teacher of reading and writing. In the schools of the grammarians came the study of poets. This school differed from the elementary school, because that was training merely for the bare necessities of practical life, while the grammar school (if we may so term it) was nearer the ideal Greek training, an eruditio liberalis or “liberal education” (Cic. Tusc. ii. 11, 27). The central point was to read with full explanation Greek and Latin poets; the boy must first learn to read the poet with understanding and with correct emphasis. It is clear that the Romans, like the Greeks, laid the greatest stress on elocution, for eloquence under the Republic was the only avenue to power (Tac. Dial. 37), and the school was intended to train the utterance as well as to supply a flow of words.

With this object the master read over the passage and made the class repeat it (reddere dictata); expressed also by the word praelegere (Mart. i. 36; Quint. i. 8, 8). Besides this, however, the passage was thoroughly threshed out as to its meaning, its metre, and the questions of geography, history, mythology, and ethics connected with it (Quint. i. 4, 4; Verr. i. 18, 47; Tac. Dial. 30). The questions raised were, however, often extremely trivial, “the name of Anchises' nurse,” etc. (Juv. vii. 235, with Mayor's note). There were also learning by heart and practice in verse composition: prose belonged to the rhetorical school, when that was established as separate from the grammatical. As regards the authors read, Homer universally held the first place (Epist. ii. 2, 42; Quint. i. 5, 8; Pliny , Epist. ii. 14), and next, perhaps, the favourite was Menander (Ovid, Trist. ii. 23), and then the great tragedians. We have an account of the books read in the school kept by the father of Statius at Naples, and the list comprises Homer, Hesiod, Theocritus, Pindar, Ibycus, Stesichorus, Sappho, Corinna, Callimachus. It is possible, as Friedländer remarks, that at Naples, as a town preserving Greek life and habits, Greek literature might be more deeply studied than elsewhere. The Latin authors most read in the first century were Vergil, Horace, and Lucan. A reaction took place as to the literature in vogue about A.D. 100, and, in place of the authors of the Augustan Age, the older prose writers and the poets of the third century B.C. —Gracchus, Naevius, Ennius, Plautus, Attius, and Lucilius—were adopted as school-books. This was at the time when Hadrian preferred Cato to Cicero, Ennius to Vergil. Fronto, the teacher of Marcus Aurelius, was a leader in the depreciation of the Augustan writers. Music began to be studied towards the end of the first century—a mark of Greek influence (Epist. 88, 9; Suet. Tit. 3); and the above course, with the addition of geometry, formed what Quintilian calls the ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία, with which the majority were content. Many, however, proceeded to the school of the rhetor. Like the school of the grammaticus, this was originally formed after the Greek pattern. The early Latin rhetors, Plotius, etc., were not approved, and the censors in B.C. 92 closed the Latin schools of rhetoric, because, as they alleged, they were a pretence for idleness (Suet. Rhet. 1). In these schools prose authors took the place of poets; but the principal part was the prose exercise, which, for the beginner a mere prose narrative, passed on to the declamatio. The easier kind of declamatio was suasoria, on some historical and mythological subject, adopting some view on this or that story or point of history and arguing it. They advanced to controversiae or declamations on some legal point.

The status and emoluments of the school-masters, grammatistae and grammatici alike, were low. What their ordinary fee was, cannot, however, be determined. In Diocletian's time (when their position was probably better than when Juvenal wrote), the maximum fee for the grammatistes from each pupil was 50 denarii a month, and for the grammaticus 200 (C. I. L. iii. 831). The rhetor seems to have received twice as much as the grammaticus, and his emoluments were increased by the State endowments begun by Vespasian (Suet. Vesp. 18). Remmius Palaemon is cited as an instance of a wealthy grammaticus, and by a rhetor wealth was more often acquired. There were, besides, the turns of fortune, of which Juvenal speaks (vii. 197, with Mayor's note), and of which the emperor Pertinax (once a grammaticus) and Ausonius afford instances.

See Grasberger, Erziehung und Unterricht im classischen Alterthum (Würzburg, 1864-80), which is the most complete modern authority; with the works cited at the end of the article Education in this Dictionary.

hide References (19 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (19):
    • Aristotle, Politics, 5
    • Homer, Iliad, 9.414
    • Xenophon, Symposium, 3.5
    • Suetonius, Divus Titus, 3
    • Horace, Satires, 1.6
    • Tacitus, Dialogus, 29
    • Tacitus, Dialogus, 30
    • Tacitus, Dialogus, 37
    • Suetonius, Divus Vespasianus, 18
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 8.14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 44
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 44
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 25
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 2.11
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 6
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 12.57
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 1.36
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 8.3
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 9.68
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