Why is the concept of memory so important to Greek writers?

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  • 1 month ago

    It was a tradition carried over from pre-Classical times before the literacy rate rose. Oral tradition was the main way to pass down knowledge and narrative art from one generation to the next. But even with a rise in literacy a good memory was still important for the oratory art. In the democratic politics of Athens it was those who could give persuasive and compelling speeches who held the most power. And reading your speech off a scroll or tablet just didn't jive well for the audience so speeches needed to be memorized. Athenian rhetoricians like Demosthenes and Perikles would at first write their speeches, but then spend a lot of time speaking them aloud in practice to get them memorized. Demosthenes famously would recite them with pebbles in his mouth to "strengthen" enunciation or shout them over the crashing of the sea's waves. On the flip side it was important for Athenian citizens to be fairly competent with the written word. Certain ballot processes required the vote to be written, while laws and official listings were inscribed on marble slabs in the agora. Memory was also seen as an important skill among philosophers like Aristoteles who said knowledge and understanding would be impossible without a good mnemonic base to support them.

  • 1 month ago

    In ancient times very few people could read and write. Most everything was by memorization. A skill modern man has lost over the centuries. Greek students used to recite portion of the Odyssey by memory. There were Hebrew scholars that recited portions of the Old Testament by memory. Jesus like most Jewish boys learned the books of Exodus, Isaiah, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Psalms literally by memory (my God, my God, why has thou forsaken me, Psalm 22.1). Since book printing came into being man has lost that ability

    Source(s): Jacques Barzun "From Dawn to Decadence, 500 Years of Western Cultural Life"
  • 1 month ago

    Because history repeats itself.   

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