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Education in ancient Rome progressed from an informal, familial system of education in the early Republic to a tuition-based system during the late Republic and the Empire. The Roman education system was based on the
Greek system Fraternities and sororities, or Greek-letter organizations (GLOs), also collectively referred to as "Greek life", are Club (organization), social organizations at colleges and universities. A form of the social fraternity, they are prominent in the ...
– and many of the private tutors in the Roman system were Greek slaves or freedmen. The educational methodology and curriculum used in Rome was copied in its
provinces A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are g ...
and provided a basis for education systems throughout later
Western civilization Western culture, also known as Western civilization, Occidental culture, or Western society, is the heritage Heritage may refer to: History and society * In history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired ...
. Organized education remained relatively rare, and there are few primary sources or accounts of the Roman educational process until the 2nd century AD. Due to the extensive power wielded by the ''
paterfamilias The ''pater familias'', also written as ''paterfamilias'' (plural ''patres familias''), was the head of a Ancient Rome, Roman family. The ''pater familias'' was the oldest living male in a household, and could legally exercise autocratic authority ...
'' over Roman families, the level and quality of education provided to Roman children varied drastically from family to family; nevertheless, Roman popular morality came eventually to expect fathers to have their children educated to some extent, and a complete advanced education was expected of any Roman who wished to enter politics.


Education during the Empire

At the height of the Roman Republic and later the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
, the Roman system of education gradually found its final form. Formal schools were established, which served to paying students; very little that could be described as free public education existed.Oxford Classical Dictionary, Edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, Third Edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996 Both boys and girls were educated, though not necessarily together. In a system much like the one that predominates in the modern world, the Roman education system that developed arranged schools in tiers. The educator
Quintilian Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (; 35 – 100 AD) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome ...

Quintilian
recognized the importance of starting education as early as possible, noting that "memory … not only exists even in small children but is specially retentive at that age". A Roman student would progress through schools just as a student today might go from primary school to secondary school and then to college. They were generally exempted from studies during the market days which formed a kind of weekend every eight days.. Progression depended more on ability than age with great emphasis being placed upon a student's ''Ingenium'' or inborn "gift" for learning, and a more tacit emphasis on a student's ability to afford high-level education.


Influences

Prior to the 3rd century BC, the Roman system of education was closely bound to the Roman social institution of ''patria potestas'', in which the father acted as head of the household (
paterfamilias The ''pater familias'', also written as ''paterfamilias'' (plural ''patres familias''), was the head of a Ancient Rome, Roman family. The ''pater familias'' was the oldest living male in a household, and could legally exercise autocratic authority ...
), and had, according to law, the absolute right of control over his children. It was the father's duty to educate his children and should he be unable to fulfill this duty, the task was assumed by other family members. It was not until 272 BC with the capture of , the annexation of
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...

Sicily
in 241 BC, and the period following the
First Punic War The First Punic War (264–241 BC) was the first of three wars fought between Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (m ...
that Romans were exposed to a strong influence of Greek thought and lifestyle and found leisure to study the arts. In the 3rd century BC, a Greek captive from named
Livius Andronicus Lucius Livius Andronicus (; el, Λούκιος Λίβιος Ανδρόνικος; c. 284 – c. 205 BC) was a Greco-Roman The term "Greco-Roman world" (also "Greco-Roman culture" or ; spelled Graeco-Roman in the ), as understood by mod ...
was sold as a slave and employed as a tutor for his master's children. After obtaining his freedom, he continued to live in Rome and became the first schoolmaster (private tutor) to follow Greek methods of education and would translate
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
's ''
Odyssey The ''Odyssey'' (; grc, Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia, ) is one of two major ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí ...
'' into Latin verse in Saturnian meter. As Rome grew in size and in power, following the
Punic Wars The Punic Wars were a series of wars (taking place between 264 and 146BC) that were fought between the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public ...
, the importance of the family as the central unit within Roman society began to deteriorate, and with this decline, the old Roman system of education carried out by the paterfamilias deteriorated as well. The new educational system began to center more on the one encountered by the Romans with the prominent Greek and Hellenistic centers of learning such as
Alexandria Alexandria ( or ; ar, الإسكندرية ; arz, اسكندرية ; Coptic language, Coptic: Rakodī; el, Αλεξάνδρεια ''Alexandria'') is the List of cities and towns in Egypt, third-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and Giza, ...

Alexandria
later on. It was becoming a literary educational system. The situation of the Greeks was ideal for the foundation of literary education as they were the possessors of the great works of
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
,
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'', 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēr ...
and the
Lyric poets Lyric may refer to: * Lyric poetry is a form of poetry that expresses a subjective, personal point of view * Lyric, from the Greek language, a song that is played with a lyre * Lyrics, the composition in verse which is sung to a melody to constitut ...

Lyric poets
of Archaic Greece. The absence of a literary method of education from Roman life was due to the fact that Rome was bereft of any national literature. The military arts were all that Rome could afford to spend time studying. When not waging war, the Romans devoted what time remained to agriculture. The concern of Rome was that of survival, whether through defense or dominion. It was not until the appearance of
Ennius Quintus Ennius (; c. 239 – c. 169 BC) was a writer and poet who lived during the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relatio ...
(239–169 BC), the father of Roman poetry, that any sort of national literature surfaced. While the Romans adopted many aspects of Greek education, two areas, in particular, were viewed as trifles: music and athletics. Music to the Greeks was fundamental to their educational system and tied directly to the Greek ''
paideia In the culture of ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, ...
''. ''Mike'' encompassed all those areas supervised by the
Muses In ancient Greek religion Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and mythology Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses ...

Muses
, comparable to today's liberal arts. The area that many Romans considered unimportant equates to our modern definition of music. To the Greeks, the ability to play an instrument was the mark of a civilized, educated man, and through education in all areas of ''mouse,'' it was thought that the soul could become more moderate and cultivated. The Romans did not share this view and considered the study of music as a path to moral corruption. However, they did adopt one area of ''mouse'': Greek literature. Athletics, to the Greeks, was the means to obtaining a healthy and beautiful body, which was an end in and of itself and further promoted their love of competition. The Romans, though, did not share this stance either, believing that athletics was only the means to maintaining good soldiers. This illustrates one of the central differences between the two cultures and their view on education: that to the Greeks beauty or activity could be an end in itself, and the practice of that activity was beneficial accordingly. The Romans, on the other hand, tended to be more practically minded when it came to what they taught their children. To them, it would appear, an area of study was good only as far as it served a better purpose or end determined outside of itself. Also, prior to the war, they had focused more on government and politics rather than the army and military.


Tiers of schooling


Moral education

At the foundation of ancient Greek education was an effective system of formal education, but in contrast, the Romans lacked such a system until the 3rd century BC.William A. Smith, ''Ancient Education'' (New York: Philosophical Library, 1955). Instead, at the foundation of ancient Roman education was, above all else, the home and family, from which children derived their so-called "moral education". Whereas Greek boys primarily received their education from the community, a Roman child's first and most important educators were almost always his or her parents. Parents taught their children the skills necessary for living in the early republic, which included agricultural, domestic, and military skills as well as the moral and civil responsibilities that would be expected from them as citizens. Roman education was carried on almost exclusively in the household under the direction of the paterfamilias. From the paterfamilias or highest-ranking male of the family, one usually learned "just enough reading, writing, and Arithmetic to enable them to understand simple business transactions and to count, weigh, and measure.Jo-Ann Shelton, ''As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History'' (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). Men like
Cato the Elder Marcus Porcius Cato (; 234–149 BC), also known as Cato the Censor ( la, Censorius), the Elder and the Wise, was a Roman soldier, senator A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicam ...
adhered to this Roman tradition and took their roles as teachers very seriously. Cato the Elder not only made his children hardworking, good citizens and responsible Romans, but "he was his (son's) reading teacher, his law professor, his athletic coach. He taught his son not only to hurl a javelin, to fight in armor, and to ride a horse, but also to box, to endure both heat and cold, and to swim well".Plutarch, ''The Lives of Aristeides and Cato'', translated by David Sansone (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1989). Job training was also emphasized, and boys gained valuable experience through apprenticeships. Mothers, though, cannot be overlooked for their roles as moral educators and character builders of their children.
Cornelia Africana Cornelia may refer to: People * Cornelia (name), a feminine given name *Cornelia (gens), a Roman family Places *425 Cornelia, the asteroid ''Cornelia'', a main-belt asteroid ;Italy *Cornelia (Rome Metro), an underground station on Rome Metro *Via ...
, the mother of the
Gracchi The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius Tiberius Caesar Augustus ( ; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (s ...
, is even credited as a major cause of her sons' renowned eloquence. Perhaps the most important role of the parents in their children's education was to instill in them a respect for tradition and a firm comprehension of ''
pietas ''Pietas'' (), translated variously as "duty", "religiosity" or "religious behavior", "loyalty", "devotion", or "filial piety In Confucian ethics, Confucian, Chinese Buddhist ethics, Buddhist and Taoism, Taoist ethics, filial piety (, ''xi ...

pietas
'', or devotion to duty. For a boy, this meant devotion to the state, and for a girl, devotion to her husband and family. As the Roman Republic transitioned into a more formal education, parents began to hire teachers for this level of advanced academic training. For this, "the Romans began to bring Greek slaves to Rome" to further enrich their children's knowledge and potential; yet, Romans still always cherished the tradition of ''pietas'' and the ideal of the father as his child's teacher.


Ludus

Rome as a republic or an empire never formally instituted a state-sponsored form of elementary education.Bonner, Stanley F., ''Education in Ancient Rome'' (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977). In no stage of its history did Rome ever legally require its people to be educated on any level. It was typical for Roman children of wealthy families to receive their early education from private tutors. However, it was common for children of more humble means to be instructed in a primary school, traditionally known as a ''Ludus litterarius''. An instructor in such a school was often known as a ''litterator'' or ''litteratus'', which was seen as a more respectable title. There was nothing stopping a ''litterator'' from setting up his own school, aside from his meager wages. There were never any established locations for a ''Ludus litterarius''. They could be found in a variety of places, anywhere from a private residence to a gymnasium, or even in the street. Typically, elementary education in the Roman world focused on the requirements of everyday life, reading, and writing. The students would progress up from reading and writing letters, to syllables, to word lists, eventually memorizing and dictating texts. The majority of the texts used in early Roman education were literature, predominantly poetry. Greek poets, such as
Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...

Homer
and
Hesiod Hesiod (; grc-gre, Ἡσίοδος ''Hēsíodos'', 'he who emits the voice') was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēr ...
, were frequently used as classroom examples due to the lack of Roman literature. Roman students were expected to work on their own. There was little sense of a class as a cohesive unit, exemplified by students coming and going at different times throughout the day. Young Roman students faced no formal examinations or tests. Their performance was measured through exercises that were either corrected or applauded based on performance. This created an unavoidable sense of competition amongst students. Using a competitive educational system, Romans developed a form of social control that allowed elites to maintain class stability. This, along with the obvious monetary expenses, prevented the majority of Roman students from advancing to higher levels of education.


Grammaticus

At between nine and twelve years of age, boys from affluent families would leave their 'litterator' behind and take up study with a ''Grammaticus'', who honed his students' writing and speaking skills, versed them in the art of poetic analysis, and taught them Greek if they did not yet know it. Poetry analysis continued to use the same poems and poets the students were exposed to in Ludus, such as ''
Phoenissae ''The Phoenician Women'' ( grc, Φοίνισσαι, ''Phoinissai'') is a tragedy Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a genre of drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fictio ...
'' by
Euripides Euripides (; grc, Εὐριπίδης ''Eurīpídēs'', ; ) was a tragedian Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowfu ...

Euripides
. By this point, lower-class boys would already be working as apprentices, and girls—rich or poor—would be focused on making themselves attractive brides and, subsequently, capable mothers. Daily activities included lectures by the ''Grammaticus'' (''narratio''), expressive reading of poetry (''Lectio'') and the analysis of poetry (''partition''). The curriculum was thoroughly bilingual, as students were expected to both read and speak in Greek as well as in Latin.The Legacy of Roman Education (in the Forum), Nanette R. Pascal, The Classical Journal, Vol. 79, No. 4. (Apr. – May 1984) Assessment of a student's performance was done on-the-spot and on-the-fly according to standards set by his particular ''Grammaticus'', as no source on Roman education ever mentions work taken away to be graded. Instead, pupils would complete an exercise, display their results, and be corrected or congratulated as needed by the ''Grammaticus'', who reveled in his self-perception as a "guardian of language".Robert A. Kaster, ''Guardians of language: the grammarian and society in late antiquity'' (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997). Famous ''grammatici'' include Lucius Orbilius Pupillus, who still serves as the quintessential pedagogue that isn't afraid to flog or whip his students to drive a point home, and the freedman
Marcus Verrius Flaccus Marcus Verrius Flaccus (c. 55 BCAD 20) was a Ancient Rome, Roman grammarian and teacher who flourished under Augustus Caesar, Augustus and Tiberius. Life He was a freedman, and his manumitter has been identified with Verrius Flaccus, an authority ...
, who gained imperial
patronage Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows on another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings, popes, and the wealthy have provided to artists su ...
and a widespread tutelage due to his novel practice of pitting students of similar age and ability against each other and rewarding the winner with a prize, usually an old book of some rarity. Even at the height of his career, Verrius Flaccus, whose prestige allowed him to charge enormous fees and be hired by
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
to teach his grandsons, never had his own schoolroom. Instead, he, like many of his fellow teachers, shared space at privately financed schools, which were dependent on (usually very low) tuition fees, and rented classroom space wherever they could find it. Other teachers sidestepped rent and lighting costs by convening their classes on pavements, colonnades, or in other public spaces, where traffic noise, street crowds, and bad weather posed problems. Though both literary and documentary sources interchange the various titles for a teacher and often use the most general of terms as a catch-all, a price edict issued by
Diocletian Diocletian (; la, Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus; born Diocles; 22 December c. 244 – 3 December 311) was from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in , Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become a commander of ...
in AD 301 proves that such distinctions did in fact exist and that a ''litterator'', ''Grammaticus'' or ''rhetor'', at least in theory, had to define himself as such. This
Edict on Maximum Prices The Edict on Maximum Prices (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" o ...
fixed the salary of a ''Grammaticus'' at 200
denarii The denarius (, dēnāriī ) was the standard Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a ...
per pupil per month, though the edict was unenforceable, ignored, and eventually repealed. Children continued their studies with the ''Grammaticus'' until the age of fourteen or fifteen, at which point only the wealthiest and most promising students matriculated with a ''rhetor''.


Rhetor

The ''rhetor'' was the final stage in Roman education. Very few boys went on to study
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic (or dialectic – see Martianus Capella), is one of the Trivium, three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the techniques writers or sp ...
. Early on in Roman history, it may have been the only way to train as a lawyer or politician.Jo-Ann Shelton. ''As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History''. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.100. In early Roman times, rhetoric studies were not taught exclusively through a teacher, but were learned through a student's careful observation of his elders. The practice of rhetoric was created by the Greeks before it became an institution in Roman society, and it took a long time for it to gain acceptance in Rome. The orator, or student of rhetoric, was important in Roman society because of the constant political strife that occurred throughout Roman history. Young men who studied under a rhetor would not only focus on public speaking. These students also learned other subjects such as geography, music, philosophy, literature, mythology, and geometry. These well-rounded studies gave Roman orators a more diverse education and helped prepare them for future debates. Unlike other forms of Roman education, there is not much evidence to show that the rhetor level was available to be pursued in organized school. Because of this lack of evidence, it is assumed that the education was done through the previously mentioned private tutors. These tutors had an enormous impact on the opinions and actions of their students. In fact, their influence was so great that the Roman government expelled many rhetoricians and philosophers in 161 BC. There were two fields of oratory study that were available for young men. The first of these fields was the deliberative branch of study. This field was for the training of young men who would later need to urge the "advisability or inadvisability" of measures affecting the . The second field of study was much more lucrative and was known as a judicial oratory. These orators would later enter into fields such as criminal law, which was important in gaining a public following. The support of the public was necessary for a successful political career in Rome. Later in Roman history, the practice of declamation became focused more on the art of delivery as opposed to training to speak on important issues in the courts.
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classi ...

Tacitus
pointed out that during his day (the second half of the 1st century AD), students had begun to lose sight of legal disputes and had started to focus more of their training on the art of storytelling.


Philosophy

A final level of education was philosophical study. The study of philosophy is distinctly Greek, but was undertaken by many Roman students. To study philosophy, a student would have to go to a center of philosophy where philosophers taught, usually abroad in
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...
. An understanding of a philosophical school of thought could have done much to add to
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
's vaunted knowledge of 'that which is great', but could be pursued by the very wealthiest of Rome's elite. Romans regarded philosophical education as distinctly Greek and instead focused their efforts on building schools of law and rhetoric.


References


Further reading

* Bloomer, W. Martin. 2011. ''The School of Rome: Latin Studies and the Origins of Liberal Education.'' Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. * Bonner, Stanley F. 1977. ''Education in Ancient Rome: From the Elder Cato to the Younger Pliny.'' Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. * Booth, Alan D. 1979. "The Schooling of Slaves in First-Century Rome." ''Transactions of the American Philological Association'' 109:11–19. * Bowman, Alan K., and Greg Woolf, eds. 1994. ''Literacy and Power in the Ancient World.'' Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press. * Dickey, Eleanor. 2010
"The Creation of Latin Teaching Materials in Antiquity: A Re-Interpretation of P. Sorb. inv. 2069."
''Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.'' 175:188–208. * Gwynn, Aubrey. 1926. ''Roman Education from Cicero to Quintilian.'' Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. * Richlin, Amy. 2011. "Old Boys: Teacher-Student Bonding in Roman Oratory ection = Ancient Education" ''Classical World'' 105.1: 91-107 * Starr, Raymond J. 1987. "The Circulation of Literary Texts in the Roman World." ''Classical Quarterly'' 37:213–223. * Turner, J. Hilton. 1951. "Roman Elementary Mathematics: The Operations." ''Classical Journal'' 47:63–74, 106–108. * Van den Bergh, Rena. 200. "The Role of Education in the Social and Legal Position of Women in Roman Society." ''Revue internationale des droits de l'antiquit'' 47: 351-364 {{DEFAULTSORT:Education In Ancient Rome Ancient Roman society Education in classical antiquity