Although Ancient Rome had a foundation for which the civilization based its educational system on, and it worked to the extent that it favored the elite, or the privileged, and fought against the advancement of the less fortunate. Using sources Education in Greek and Roman Antiquity by Anthony Corbeill, Readings in Late Antiquity by Michael Maas, and As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History by Jo-Ann Shelton, this paper will attempt to suggest that the educational structure that ancient Rome used was not intended to better those less fortunate or of the lower class and was intended to advance those of the elite class. While relying heavily on the populace to fund the educational system, and to use said system to implant the morals, traditions, and beliefs of Roman culture, and to teach how to be a citizen of the Republic rather than to better the populace with knowledge. These obstacles contributed to the faulty structure through the unreliable funding and the lack of social and intellectual growth of the lower class.
The Roman education system was not funded or required by the government so the education was deferred to privately funded organizations, or it was the responsibility and choice of the parents to institute a form of education. The beginning or early segment of Rome’s education was casual and unofficial (261 Corbeill, 100 Shelton). The lower class gained their knowledge of the inner political workings of Rome by the attendance at public spectacles such as theater and oratory (262 Corbeill). The beginning of the youths’ education started when the children were very young and included the fundamental knowledge on how to function as a Roman citizen and what would be required to thrive as one (100, Shelton). The use of the education to embed the foundations of Roman culture began in the home with the parents’ teachings. The knowledge given to the children by the parents was used to further their understanding of business interactions and the appreciation of Roman traditions (100 Shelton). Cato the Elder was quoted on his views on the importance of the father teaching his child the fundamentals of being a Roman citizen and upholding the values that comes with it.
Therefore Cato himself was his reader teacher, his law professor, his athletic coach. He taught his son not only to hurl a javelin, to fight in armor, and to ride a horse, but also to box, to endure both heat and cold, and to swim strongly through the eddies and undercurrent of a river. He also says that he wrote his book (the one titled History) in large letters and his own handwriting so that his son might have the opportunity at home to become familiar with his society’s ancient customs and traditions. (101 Shelton)
The education of Rome’s youth relied solely on the teachings of the parents or their ability to afford tutors. It was not just the moral and virtuous lessons that the father or mother had to install in their children, but the knowledge of physical labor that was needed to thrive in their society.
The practice of parents teaching Roman traditions continued through the evolution of education even when formal instruction was introduced. The schooling given by the parents was to facilitate the children into becoming model citizens while teaching them how to integrate into society (266 Corbeill). The education system continued to evolve for the higher class by having the means to afford teachers for other than the learning of Roman traditions. This began the imbalance of education throughout the Roman youth. While the higher class was given the opportunity to continue their education after learning the fundamentals, the rest of the young population ended their education because of lack of funding to afford the small public teachers fee, or they did not have access to the teacher on account of location (111, Shelton). The number of young elite students who would go on to further their knowledge was significantly smaller than that of the lower class, which may have been the cause to why the progress of education stayed stagnant in nature (269, 275 Corbeill). If only the socially elite were the ones to show intellectual progress while the rest of the populations’ intellectual growth continued to be stationary, then they would not evolve as a whole causing an imbalance in the education system (275 Corbeill).
The Romans utilized the imbalance to divide the populace into a structure that separated the society into divisions of the educational elite and illiterate (282 Corbeill). It is clear that the Roman culture valued practical education but did not value it to the point to where the government would insure everyone received the same amount of introduction, thus creating the divide (103 Shelton). But lack of the formal system of education at the level of the state does not mean estate does not control education. For to democratize the population, but to replicate or reproduce the already existing social system. (262 Corbeill) The quote shown demonstrates the system to which the foundation of social structure of Roman society and its citizens. The lack of funding contributed to the divide in relation to the shortage of resources, which in turn left the teachers to work with virtually no pay other than what the parents gave them (103 Shelton).
Ancient Roman history documents that the teachers who did not tutor the children of the elite were severely underpaid which left them with very little funds (103 Shelton).
For a long time he lived as a teacher and his hometown, but then in his fiftieth year (the year of Cicero’s consulship) he moved to Rome and talk there. However, he earns more fame and money. In one of his books, written when he was an old man, he complains that he is a pauper, living in an attic. He also published a book called My Trials and Tribulations in which he complains about the insults and injuries done to him by negligent or ambitious parents. (103 Shelton)
The passage shown above contains a quote from Orbulius, a schoolteacher from Ancient Rome, who shines light on the hardships that he personally faced during his teaching career. The passage above may also be taken in account and used as evidence on how underfunded the teachers of the public were, and how the law did nothing in support of the education system. The teachers solely relied on the payment of the students’ parents to live and rent classrooms, which usually left the teachers to find creative ways to cut their budget. This included them to teach on the street during the early morning (104-105 Shelton). As a result of the teachers having class on the street and at dawn, documented texts display that the citizens disliked like the teachers for disrupting their daily lives (104 Shelton). What do you have against us, spiteful schoolteacher? … Before the crested rooster has even crowed, you shatter the silence with your harsh voice and with lashes of your whip., the quote mentioned may be used as evidence towards the negative emotions the citizens had towards the teachers of the public (105 Shelton). The lack of positive emotions steered towards the teachers may be one of the several reasons why they were so underpaid, which leads back into the cycle of the teachers having to teach on the streets.
Other than the difficult location the teachers had to use, their workload was a continuation of the teachings given by the parents on Roman tradition through the literature by using works that had a moralizing tone (109 Shelton), and to further the youths knowledge on the useful applications of math and rhetoric that would advance their knowledge on how to be a functional citizen. I didn’t learn geometry and literacy criticism and useless nonsense like that. I learned how to read the letters on public inscriptions. I learned how to divide things into hundreds and work out percentages, and I know weighs, measures, and currency. (111 Shelton) The quote shown above is a prime example of how and why the education system was set up and what its purpose was. In addition to the lack of furthering the advancement of their level of knowledge and funding the teachers, the lower class youths usually followed the same career choice as their parents. This feeds into the social structure that is set up for the progress of the poor citizens to reduce their opportunity of improvement intellectually and socially (111 Shelton).
The youth usually did not make the decision on their job selection as a result of that was the parents’ choice, and it was easier and more cost efficient to have the children apprentice the parents (111- 112 Shelton). The virtual inevitability of having the same job as your father or his father before him limited the possibility of social advancement. A child might be trained for work by his father or might be sent to be an apprentice to a craftsman. (112 Shelton). This quote demonstrates the use of apprenticeship to impede the progress of the lower class society. The lack of furthering the education of the poor encourages the division between the two classes and induces a halt on the intellectual evolution of the Roman people. History does not document a change or advancement in the educational system until the introduction of Christianity (Maas).
The introduction of Christianity changed the foundation of the belief system of Rome and the education that was taught including the traditional values. The introduction of Christianity into the Roman society disrupted the literature that the citizens could teach and learn. A report has reached us, which we cannot mention without shame, that you are lecturing on profane literature to certain friends. This fills me with such grief and vehement disgust that my former opinion of you has been turned to mourning and sorrow. For the same mouth cannot sing the praises of Jupiter and the praises of Christ. (71 Maas) The quote shown is a representation of how the turn in tradition changed the foundation to teaching the word of Christ to represent the traditions on beliefs of Roman society.
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful Now the prophets teach one thing, historians another, the law something else, and the form of advice found in the proverbs something different still. But, the Book of Psalms has taken over what is profitable from all. It foretells coming events; it recalls history; it frames laws for life; it suggests what must be done; (73-74 Maas)
The quote above displays the change of education and tradition and the switch from preparing the youths into citizens through education to how to interpret the meanings of the Bible. This may not be seen as advancement for Roman society but it is an evolutionary step for their culture. To push the changes of religion into Roman the education system, the schoolteachers who continued to teach the about the pagan beliefs, pay was severely cut (73 Maas).
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