Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens by Rosalind Thomas

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Scholars are becoming increasingly aware that, despite its written literature, ancient Greece was in many aspects an oral society. In the first major attempt to study the implications of this discovery, Dr. Thomas stresses the coexistence of literacy and oral tradition in Greece and examines their interaction. Concentrating on the plentiful evidence of Classical Athens, she shows how the use of writing developed only gradually and under the influence of the previous oral communications. Using insights from anthropology, the author isolates different types of Athenian oral tradition, constructing a picture of Athenian traditions and exploring why they changed and disappeared. Thomas researches not only the nature of individual traditions, but the mechanisms of oral tradition and memory in general; then the possible effect of writing on oral tradition. This study provides crucial insights into the methods and achievements of the Greek historians and therefore into the very material of Greek history.

Cambridge University Press, 1989.
ISBN: 0521350255. 321 pp.
Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture 18.
Hardcover. Fine in a fine jacket.