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From orality to literacy: The moral education of the elite in fourth-century Athens

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Chapter Summary

The author of this chapter argues that text-dependent education originated not with Plato and the Academy, whose appeal, in the later dialogues, at least, as we heard at the conference, was directed mainly to the limited number of intellectuals who were interested in philosophy, but rather with a group of fourth-century prose writers. The author argues, it is these prose writers who begin to take the place of Homer and the poets in the moral education of the elite, particularly those who aim at political power, and do so in a private, rather than a public, forum. The author suggests that a group of prose writers, including Isocrates and Xenophon, who use the written text as an instrument of paideia and have generally been overlooked in this connection, attempted to fill the gap between popular morality and moral philosophy.

Keywords: Education; elite; fourth-century Athens; Isocrates; moral education; moral philosophy; Orality; paideia; Xenophon



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