The Schools of Medieval England

By A. F. Leach | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE GREEK AND ROMAN MODELS

ANCIENT Greece, the Hellas of the golden age of Athenian ascendancy, knew no organized schools in our sense. There were private tutors in various subjects, music, reading, and gymnastics for boys; peripatetic and migratory lecturers de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis, physics, law, ethics, divinity, philosophy, not only for youths, but also for men who "in trim gardens took their pleasure," and there found "retired leisure," σχολὴ, whence schola and school, which they devoted to discussion. The organized school was developed in Macedonian Greater Greece, at Alexandria and Pergamus. A Mime of Herondas, called the Master (διδάσκαλος) is the earliest literary picture of a school, c. 250 B.C. A mother takes her boy to the grammar school (γραμματει + ̑ον) and asks the schoolmaster to give him a good flogging. He has stripped the very roof off her house by his losses, gambling at odd-and-even and knucklebones, while his writing-tablet lies neglected in a corner, and he says his repetition at the rate of a word a minute. The master, nothing loth, brings out his leather strap. The boy is hoisted on the back of another, with two others to hold his hands and legs, and the strap is applied till the boy is "as mottled as a water-snake," while the mother still cries, "give it him, give it him," and threatens him with gag and fetters. We can hardly imagine the Athenian boy of the age of Pericles and Socrates being thus flogged into the service of the Muses and threatened with the treatment of a slave. But this method became the usual one. The only actual picture that remains to us of an ancient Roman school, a painting now at Naples, reproduces a similar scene.

At Rome, schools began, if not with the study of Greek, at all events as a result of Greek influence. When captive Greece captured Rome, it did so mainly by carrying schools

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