Do not be a charioteer, be a scribe

Monday, 9 January, 2012

Writing is the greatest invention, according to Tom Standage, digital editor of The Economist, writing in the January/February issue of INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine. His conclusion:

“The amazing thing about writing, given how complicated its early systems were, is that anyone learned it at all. The reason they did is revealed in the ancient Egyptian scribal-training texts, which emphasise the superiority of being a scribe over all other career choices, with titles like ‘Do Not Be Soldier, Priest or Baker’, ‘Do Not Be a Husbandman’ and ‘Do Not Be a Charioteer’. This last text begins: ‘Set thine heart on being a scribe, that thou mayest direct the whole earth.’ The earliest scribes understood that literacy was power — a power that now extends to most of humanity, and has done more for human progress than any other invention.”


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