Saturday, July 25, 2009



"There is no disputing the fact that the Romans read everything aloud, in fact they were apparently not able to read silently. We know this from testimony about Roman villas having private "reading rooms" where the master could read without disturbing the family, and it was only in the time of St. Augustine that silent reading developed, perhaps out of the requirements of monastic life. In other words, all Romans continually "phonated" the way a third grade child often does, and were happy with this as a satisfactory way to read. Of course there is one major benefit: Reading is kept to a slow and sensitive pace, one savors the sounds and enjoys minute changes of meaning and inflections of mood. It is said that a modern student must be able to read forty pages of non-technical prose an hour simply to be able to keep up with college assignments in the Humanities. One marvels at how much is covered, but cannot help wondering how much is missed.

Romans not only read aloud, but they read everything with gusto and with much pleasure. Poets like Vergil were known for the effectiveness of their poetic reading, and poetry was clearly an acoustic art. Nor was rhetoric and the art of public speaking less auditory than poetry, as treatises on the art of public speaking clearly indicate."


William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College

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