Homer as a Textbook & Violence Against Teachers

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship

“In connexion with the use of Homer as an educational text-book, we may recall two anecdotes of some little interest in Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades. We are there told that when Alcibiades ‘was just emerging from boyhood, he went to a school-master and asked him for a book of Homer; and, on the master’s replying that he had nothing whatsoever of Homer’s, Alcibiades struck him with his fist, and went on his way’. Another school-master told him that he ‘had a copy of Homer, emended by himself. ‘What?’ said Alcibiades, ‘are you really content to teach reading and writing, when you are capable of emending Homer ? Why are you not instructing young men?’ The first of these anecdotes shows that a young Athenian held he had a right to expect even an elementary teacher to possess part at least of the poems of Homer; the second presents us with an early example of amateur textual criticism; and both imply that Homer was really better suited as a text-book for young men than for mere children.”

[For fuller treatment of the anecdote about Alcibiades punching his teacher, see this post. ]

Jean-Baptiste Regnault: Socrates dragging Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure (1791)

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