Silent Reading in Roman Antiquity

Larry Hurtado's Blog

Since a few comments have referred to the matter, I post some references on the question of whether in the ancient Roman period individuals practiced silent reading.  To cut to the conclusion, it is now accepted among Classicists and ancient historians (for over 20 years now) that silent reading was known and practiced.  Of course, especially in group settings people read texts aloud.  But the ancient readers were perfectly capable of reading silently, especially in private reading, and recognized the advantages of doing so, enabling faster reading of texts, for example.

It appears that the notion that silent reading was unusual in the Roman era arose through a mis-interpretation of a passage in Augustine (Confessions 6.3.3), where he comments about Ambrose reading to himself.  One still sees reference to this notion today (e.g., here and here).  It’s now accepted, however, that Augustine wasn’t expressing surprise that Ambrose could…

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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