Michael Jeffreys

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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In 1978, Robert Browning wrote an chapter claiming that Byzantines were highly literate. Subsequent studies on Byzantine literacy have sought to either redefine what literacy might have meant in Byzantine circumstances, or determine the number of Byzantines who signed their names on documents and the accuracy of their spelling. Manuscripts, especially those of literary texts, are the longest and most elaborate documents demonstrating Byzantine literacy. One of the factors that must have helped the cause of literacy in Byzantium was the replacement of ancient religious forms by Christianity, which relied on the Bible. This article follows the project sketched by Browning's chapters to examine literacy in Byzantium. It also considers the church service and the assumed audience of Byzantine fiction to assess the level of literacy of the Byzantines.

Keywords: literacy; Byzantium; Robert Browning; church service; Christianity; manuscripts; fiction; spelling

Article.  3121 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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