Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter May 13, 2008

Aspects of Literacy in the Athenian Ceramicus

  • Henry R. Immerwahr
From the journal Kadmos


The paper attempts to furnish guide lines for the assessment of the writing ability of individual vase painters by distinguishing certain practices from errors caused merely by carelessness. While basic errors in letter forms and spelling show that a minority of painters were truly illiterate, a much larger number had difficulty writing accurately what they heard in the spoken language. Evidence for it comes first of all from writing in groups of letters without regard to word separation, as shown by the repetition, omission or otherwise distortion of such groups. This includes the omission of vowels that are part of the names of consonants (so-called Abbreviated Writing), but is not confined to it. Another aspect is the reliance, common among vase painters, on sources that could serve as models, usually other vases. While this is often merely a matter of practicality, errors in copying can sometimes suggest that the copier needed to copy because he was not fully competent. The best evidence in this respect are instances where individual letters are miswritten and words are also misspelled.

Published Online: 2008-05-13
Published in Print: 2008-March

© Walter de Gruyter 2007

Downloaded on 1.12.2023 from
Scroll to top button