Reading silently versus reading aloud in antiquity.

Discuss the world of the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, and Egyptians.
mbuckley3
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Joined: Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:47 am

Re: Reading silently versus reading aloud in antiquity.

Post by mbuckley3 »

Reading Josephus's 'Vita', you could be forgiven for thinking that most of a commander's time was taken up with reading, writing and intercepting dispatches.

When necessary, a letter was read aloud. So #260 : "I then read aloud [ παρανεγίνωσκον ] to the Galilaeans two of the letters dispatched by Jonathan, which had been intercepted and forwarded to me by the scouts whom I had picketed on the roads."

When necessary, a letter was read silently. So #223 : "I directed four only of my closest friends to stay and ordered my servant to set on wine. Then, when no one was looking, I unfolded the letter, took in at a glance [ ταχύ συνείς ] the writers' design and sealed it up again."

So also #245 : "..Jonathan's couriers, carrying dispatches, fell into the hands of my sentries..The prisoners were, in accordance with my directions, detained on the spot; the letters I perused and, finding them full of slander and lies, decided, without mentioning a word of them to anyone, to advance to meet my foes."
mbuckley3
Posts: 38
Joined: Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:47 am

Re: Reading silently versus reading aloud in antiquity.

Post by mbuckley3 »

Ovid, 'Heroides' 21, lines 1-2. A would-be suitor tricks Cydippe into making a sacred vow. As she tours the temple of Diana, an inscribed apple is rolled towards her. Her servant picks it up and asks her what it says. Naturally, she reads it out aloud. Unfortunately, the text is "By Diana, I swear I will marry Acontius". The trap is sprung, dire consequences follow.

He writes her a letter. Wary of further entrapment, she reads it silently :
"I was terrified, and I read through your letter without the slightest sound,
so that my tongue might not unknowingly swear by some other gods ".

"Pertimui, scriptumque tuum sine murmure legi,
iuraret ne quos inscia lingua deos".
mbuckley3
Posts: 38
Joined: Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:47 am

Re: Reading silently versus reading aloud in antiquity.

Post by mbuckley3 »

Dio Chrysostom Oration 18.6

Dio is providing a reading list to a man who has power but lacks an elite education, who needs a 'crash course' in the classics to give the necessary resonance to his public speaking :

"I would counsel you to read Menander of the writers of Comedy quite carefully, and Euripides of the writers of Tragedy, and to do so, not casually by reading them to yourself
[ 'αυτόν 'αναγιγνώσκοντα ], but by means of others who know how to declaim [ 'υποκρίνασθαι ],
preferably pleasurably, at least not gratingly. For the perception is greater when one is relieved of the business of reading."

The context suggests that reading for 'research' would normally be done silently. The accelerated nature of Dio's educational programme, with its end point of public oratory, determines the switch to being read to, out loud.
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