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Article

Jakob Fortunat Stagl

The institutional scheme of Roman law was developed primarily by Gaius on the basis of a preceding tradition of law manuals. The scheme consists of dividing the law into a General Part, Family Law, Property Law, Law of Succession, Law of Obligations, and Civil Procedure. This scheme is apparent not only in Gaius’s Institutes but also in the whole of his didactic scheme, which can be discerned from descriptions of the curriculum in his time. Gaius’s larger didactic scheme is indebted to contemporary philosophical, rhetorical, and didactic currents, which made it possible for him to organise the law of Rome in such a solid and plausible way that the emperor Justinian adopted this scheme for his compilation, comprising the Institutes, the Digest, and the Codex.

Article

Luca Graverini

Any attempt at defining popular literature with some precision is fraught with difficulties. A flexible and pragmatic approach is the most rewarding, since it allows one to look at the subject from a few different viewpoints: “popular” can be understood as referring to the Roman people as a whole, or only to its lower social strata; a text can be defined as popular because it has been composed in a popular milieu, and/or because it addresses a popular audience. A mode of reception of literature can also be labelled “popular.” The traditional Roman elite only conceived literature as something useful, which could and should contribute to the instruction of its readers and to the well-being of the State. However, gradually a different attitude emerged: one that appreciated literature, and especially narrative, mostly or even only for its pleasurable and escapist qualities, sometimes even without any concern for its cultural sophistication. This rather loose definition allows us to discern a popular streak in many literary forms. For example, it is often surmised that ancient drama addressed the Roman people as a whole, without distinction of social class or cultural level. Other forms of theatre, such as Atellanae, mime, and pantomime, had a more farcical nature and were especially favoured by a less sophisticated public, but at least on some occasions they made some demands on the education of their audiences and contributed to the diffusion of traditional Roman culture. Non-elite social classes had literary activities of their own, especially during the Empire, when literacy increased. These texts are extant especially thanks to epigraphical sources, and are often written in an unsophisticated and colloquial language. Narrative in its various forms could address very different audiences, but the possibility of reading a good tale for entertainment more than for instruction was always open, for sophisticated novels such as Apuleius’s Metamorphoses as well as for simpler tales and collections of mirabilia. Edifying Christian narratives were programmatically written in order to be understandable to and appreciated by a large and not necessarily cultured public, whose faith they intended to strengthen and promote. Playful poetry and didactic literature also had a space among midlevel literary activities.

Article

Christopher J. Tuplin

Xenophon (c. 430–c. 353 bce) came from a wealthy Athenian background and in his youth associated with Socrates. Participation in Cyrus’s unsuccessful rebellion in 401 and mercenary service with Spartan armies in Anatolia in 399–394 bce was followed by exile and prolonged residence near Olympia. Although there was a reconciliation with the Athenian state after 371, he may never have returned to live there permanently. In exile Xenophon became a writer, producing historical narratives, Socratic literature, technical treatises, an encomium of Agesilaus, a dialogue on tyranny, an analysis of Spartan success and failure, and a pamphlet on Athenian political economy. Many of these are the earliest (surviving) examples of particular genres or unusual variants on existing genres. Common to this extraordinarily diverse range of works are a didactic inclination, an intimate relationship with the author’s personal experiences combined with a variable authorial persona, use of the past as a way of talking about the present, a belief that purely practical pursuits have a moral component because they have social implications, and a style of exposition designed for engaged and informed readers who will ask questions of an apparently straightforward text while being prepared to be unsettled or wryly amused by the answers. The topic most persistently addressed by Xenophon’s oeuvre is leadership, broadly conceived—a task that demands special personal qualities, requires persistent careful effort, and, thanks to the unpredictability of events and of human behaviour, can rarely be pursued with prolonged and continuous success.