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