CHILDREN'S LITERATURE IN
From the beginnings of recorded culture, people have grown up with the books they learned and loved. Each stage of childhood marks itself through new curricula. Familiar stories are read again, and new authors added to the syllabus. For ancient Greece and Rome, the progress of the child was measured through the book, and if there is a “children's literature” for classical antiquity, it lies in the texts and tales adapted from the canons of the Greek and Roman lives and libraries.
For nearly a millennium, the life of children centered on performance. The two poles of early learning were memorization and recitation. Students would be given passages from poets and dramatists and would be expected to learn and then recite them. The teacher would call attention to correct pronunciation and accent. But more than simply spewing back remembered texts, the student would soon be expected to generate performances of his (or, on rare occasions, her) own. Literary study led to a proficiency in rhetoric, and law, politics, and military leadership were all rhetorical activities in Greek and Roman culture. To look for children's literature in classical antiquity, therefore, is to look at the history of rhetoric and education.1
But it is to look, too, at the history of childhood itself. Greek children had the stages of their lives measured in discrete levels of instruction. First there would have been the elementary teacher, called the grammatistes or didaskalos; then there was the grammatikos, charged with grammar and literature; and finally, the rhetores and sophistai would instruct in rhetoric and oratory. The goal for students, especially those of wellborn families, was public life.2 This was the goal for Roman students, too,