"Illuminating. . . . There is little to critique in this engaging contribution from a seasoned papyrologist and ancient historian."—Brent Nongbri Prudential
"This is the most important and original study of literacy and the function of writing in ancient society to have appeared in the last twenty years. In a masterly and detailed survey of evidence from across the ancient Mediterranean world, Bagnall shows how and why 'routine' writing was essential to social and administrative infrastructures from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine periods. Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the role and function of the written text in human social behaviour."
—Alan Bowman, Camden Professor of Ancient History, Oxford University
"This richly illustrated and annotated book takes the reader on an extended tour from North Africa to Afghanistan. Bagnall’s theme is the ubiquity and pervasiveness of writing in the long millennium from Alexander to the Arab conquests and beyond. Briskly challenging the currently fashionable low estimates on the extent of literacy and the prevalence of writing in the ancient world, Bagnall surveys and explains what has survived and what has been lost—and why. This is a book both for specialists and for the general reader, sure to inspire admiration and reaction."
—James G. Keenan, Professor of Classical Studies, Loyola University Chicago
“Bagnall's book is not only a study of everyday writing in the Graeco-Roman East, but also an investigation into how our documentation has been distorted by patterns of conservation and discovery and the choices made by modern editors. The sound reflections of an historian on the sources of history.”
—Jean-Luc Fournet, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris
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