Who wrote the administrative documents of Athens? Was literacy extensive in ancient Attika? Were inscriptions, those on stone or pieces of pottery (ostraka), written, read and comprehended by common people? In this book Anna Missiou gives full consideration to these questions of crucial importance for understanding the quality of Athenian democracy and culture. She explores how the Kleisthenic reforms provided new contexts and new subject matter for writing. It promoted the exchange of reliable information between the demes, the tribes and the urban centre on particular important issues, including the mobilization of the army and the political organization of the citizen body. Through a close analysis of the process through which Athenian politicians were ostracized and a fresh examination of the involvement of common citizens in the Council of 500, Missiou undermines the current orthodoxy that literacy was not widespread among Athenians. Literacy underwrote the effective functioning of Athenian democracy.
Anna Missiou is Associate Professor of Ancient Greek History at the University of Crete. Her previous publications include The Subversive Oratory of Andokides: Politics, Ideology and Decision-Making in Democratic Athens (1992).
Introduction: background, concepts and issues; 1. The geography of literacy; 2. Literacy and political ethos: the institution of ostracism; 3. Literacy through intermediaries: I. the ostraka; 4. Literacy through intermediaries: II. stone inscriptions; 5. Athenian literacy in its sociopolitical context; Conclusions: literacy and Athenian democracy; Appendix I: studying the ostraka: technical difficulties and personal assumptions; Appendix II: for an early date for the institution of the prytaneis; Appendix III: literacy beyond the urban centre: councillors-prytaneis from remote demes.