From Greek to Roman Education

During the transition from the Greek to the Roman Empire, there were several significant changes to education. In particular, we will look at early financial support, the history of the first university, and the influence of the government during this period.

Financial Support

As time progress, it was becoming common for education to be supported by endowments. Several chairs in rhetoric, politic, and philosophy were established. In addition, the fees students paid in the form of a honoraria was the primary source of income for schools and teachers. It was also common for teachers to fight over students. This happened through teachers sending “recruitment” agents to the ports when young people arrived in order for the agent to advertise whatever courses the teacher taught. The more students in a class the higher the honoraria for a teacher.

First University & Changes

Under the Ptolemies in Egypt was founded what is considered the first university by Western standards. Located in Alexandria, the university offered training in medicine, math, grammar. The teaching here in Alexandria was considered to be more practically focused compare to Athens. The purpose was primarily to train people for economic purpose rather than only for intellectual development.

During the height of the Roman Empire under Augustus, Greek and Roman teaching was combined into something that some called the Roman-Hellenic school. However, how this was done varied between the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire. In general, Rome placed an emphasis on practical things such as law and this was combined with Greek philosophy in terms of the education of students. Philosophy became more and more abstract and less and less practical over this time period as well. As philosophy grew in importance it became more and more of an annoyance for the early Christian church.

Growth of Government

Throughout this time period, the influence of the government became stronger and stronger. This was shown through financial support and prestige. For example, the government would provide funding to build buildings. In addition, at one point, teachers were given senatorial rank for their work. All this was done in order to have influence over the education process and prevent teachers from fomenting rebellion it seems that teachers have frequently sparked revolutionary ideas throughout history.

Despite the efforts of the government, one overarching theme of this time was the gradual and steady decline of education. By the end of the fifth century, which aligns with the collapse of the Western Roman  Empire, the majority of the Roman Hellenic schools were no longer in existence. This laid the foundation for the rise of a new system of education that was at first shunned by Christianity,  then influenced by Christianity, and finally controlled by Christianity.

Conclusion

Over time the structure of education became more formalized. It went from individual teachers providing education to the systematic structure of the university. With this new structure came also various costs that were hard to account for. Strangely enough, as the empire collapse so did education in a way that makes one wonder if the collapse of education was because the Roman Empire was collapsing at the same time.

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