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Gymnastics of the Mind:
Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt
Raffaella Cribiore

Winner of the 2004 C.J. Goodwin Award of Merit, American Philological Association

Paperback | 2005 | $55.00 | £45.95 | ISBN: 9780691122526
288 pp. | 6 x 9 | 24 halftones
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This book is at once a thorough study of the educational system for the Greeks of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and a window to the vast panorama of educational practices in the Greco-Roman world. It describes how people learned, taught, and practiced literate skills, how schools functioned, and what the curriculum comprised. Raffaella Cribiore draws on over 400 papyri, ostraca (sherds of pottery or slices of limestone), and tablets that feature everything from exercises involving letters of the alphabet through rhetorical compositions that represented the work of advanced students. The exceptional wealth of surviving source material renders Egypt an ideal space of reference. The book makes excursions beyond Egypt as well, particularly in the Greek East, by examining the letters of the Antiochene Libanius that are concerned with education.

The first part explores the conditions for teaching and learning, and the roles of teachers, parents, and students in education; the second vividly describes the progression from elementary to advanced education. Cribiore examines not only school exercises but also books and commentaries employed in education--an uncharted area of research. This allows the most comprehensive evaluation thus far of the three main stages of a liberal education, from the elementary teacher to the grammarian to the rhetorician. Also addressed, in unprecedented detail, are female education and the role of families in education. Gymnastics of the Mind will be an indispensable resource to students and scholars of the ancient world and of the history of education.


"I have learned a tremendous amount from this book. . . . [It] is eminently accessible not only to all varieties of classicists but also to nonclassicists with an interest in educational practices. For specialists in ancient education, the largely unprecedented detail of Cribiore's description and analysis and the numerous new conclusions ought to provoke much discussion and debate."--Philomen Probert, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"This is a vivid, engaging, attractively written introduction to ancient education that makes accessible a great deal of useful evidence."--Teresa Morgan, American Historical Review

"This study is that rara avis, a scholarly book that manages to convey the breadth of its author's learning as well as her command of details in such a way as to appeal to a wide audience. Throughout the book Cribiore's interest in her subject matter comes through clearly, and complex issues are dealt with gracefully. Touches of gentle humor and sympathy humanize but never overwhelm even the most technical aspects of the evidence. . . .. I do not think it an exaggeration to say that most of us will learn something on just about every page."--Stephen M. Trzaskoma, New England Classical Journal


"This is a significant contribution, bringing together disparate material and offering new perspectives on the curriculum. I particularly applaud the attention to rhetoric."--Glen W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"There is no one better positioned to write on the education of post-Classical antiquity than Raffaella Cribiore. Gymnastics of the Mind is a Herculean effort."--Ann Ellis Hanson, Yale University

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
Preface xi
Abbreviations xiii


CHAPTER 1: Models of Schooling 15
CHAPTER 2: The Teachers and Their Burden 45
CHAPTER 3: Women and Education 74
CHAPTER 4: Parents and Students 102


CHAPTER 5: Tools of the Trade:Teachers ’Models,Books,and Writing Materials 127
CHAPTER 6: The First Circle 160
CHAPTER 7: The Teaching of the Grammarian:Content and Context 185
CHAPTER 8: Learning to Fly:Rhetoric and Imitation 220


Select Bibliography 253
Index 265
Index Locorum 269

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