LITERACY AMONG THE ROMANS
In THE DEADLIEST THIEF, we again encounter Bion, Phoebe’s husband. Once a slave owned by the Roman authorities, he was able, through good fortune and hard work, to buy his freedom and own a thriving bookshop in the agora, where he dealt in Greek and Roman manuscripts, some rare and classical like the poetry of Homer. He did well in part because the literacy rate among the Greco-Romans was high, at least 10%, because of the premium the society placed on learning.
So, what was his bookshop like? The outside was plastered with ads for the titles he kept in stock. These ads often had some choice quotes from the books of the moment. In fact, you might not even have to venture inside to read the poetry posted on his door post.
The inside was much like a Barnes and Noble store with refreshments available and a place to sit and read. The new scrolls, however, were much more expensive than anything you’d find in Barnes and Noble, as much as a legionnaire's salary for two years. But the price of a top-quality scroll of Homer could be more than the cost of feeding a family of four for a year! Nothing like the cost of THE DEADLIEST THIEF, which you can buy on amazon for $2.99. Just click here.