Tag Archives: Literacy and Orality

Literacy and Orality in Achaemenid Iran

Kolb, Anne (ed.). 2018. Literacy in ancient everyday life. Berlin ; Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
The purpose of the conference proceedings is to investigate the importance of literacy in the daily lives of ancient people. In addition to the intended utilization of writing and written material, the circumstances of usage as well as various types of users are the focus of the analyzes. The concept of a diversified literacy of different levels of literacy, literacy and numeracy makes it possible to differentiate the usage of everyday writing according to types or categories of uses and to recognize different functions of literacy.
Two chapters from the first part are of special interests for Iranian and Achaemenian Studies:
The contribution aims at pointing out the impact of language(s) and writing system(s), not least of Elamite, Old Persian and Aramaic, in Teispid-Achaemenid Iran in the context of royal pronouncements and administration, and at putting them in relation to those of the neighbouring cultures. In this context, it is also trying to find out which forms of language acquisition and communication can be proven and whether there has been such a thing as a Persian language policy. On the other hand, the fact that Iran has seen decidingly oral cultures up to Late Antiquity and even beyond, apart from the official contexts, raises the question of the media of communication and the afterlife of Teispids and Achaemenids in Iran’s ‘historical’ traditions.
The article examines the place of female literacy within general everyday literacy in the Achaemenid period. Whereas the Achaemenid heartland lacks of sources written by women, we have abundant private correspondence from the other satrapies of the empire (Babylonia, Egypt, Bactria etc.). Therefore the lacuna from the Persis-region is not coincidental but resulting from the specific social structure of the empire with its dominant hegemonic manliness. This prevented a wider spread of literacy and the Achaemenid heartland remained an orally dominated culture with a functional literacy limited to the elite and higher levels of society.