Classical Antiquity Pedagogical Heritage In Anthologies And Source Books: Education’s Digital Content


The role of the classical heritage within a history of education component in the higher education teaching is discussed in the article. Various chronological and thematic ways to arrange the material in the anthologies for history of pedagogy and education are analyzed. Classical Greek and Roman languages are not so easy to the Russian students. Even the fragmentary translation of the classical texts gives them a faceted information. In this field of students education one needs various special approaches to minimize the means omissions and lacunas within the reconstruction of history of ancient education. Difficulties and opportunities for compilers and readers to choose between traditional and digital sources upon the antique pedagogical heritage are designated with the examples of editions from 1897 till 2016. Anthologizing the history of classical Greek and Roman education proceeded from the biographical approach (famous persons as an icon of this or that epochs) to the chronological principle of the sources arrangement and through it to the critical and theme-oriented schemes with the analytical applications in the critical anthologies and various kinds of sources collected within the theme-oriented anthologies. In conclusion we speak about the main trends in changing the historical sources on education representation in digital era looking to the recent approaches on the sources arranging for teachers education in higher schools via web resources with the background of the Great Books and printed anthologies as the frames of the knowledge about the great thinkers and past practices in the history of education.

Keywords: Pedagogyclassical worldsourcebookeducation


Pedagogical culture of the classical antiquity is a part of the great classical heritage and it largely forms the foundations of today’s world. Source studies in the history of education and pedagogy has the so-called “corpus of sources on the classical pedagogical past,” and this corpus contains texts that was translated into various languages and determined the development of the western intellectual and cultural tradition. Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey , Aeschylus’s Oresteia , Aristotle’s Poetics , Euripides’s Medea , Aristophanes’s The Clouds , Plato’s The Republic , Xenophon’s Cyropaedia , Cicero’s On Duties , Seneca’s On Anger , and many others are called “the Great Books” in the curricula of some countries’ institutions of higher education, and these texts are mandatory for reading and studying.

Research Questions

Finding, selecting, juxtaposing sources, and constructing their hierarchy is a difficult task even for the experts, not to mention teachers who may be engaged in this pursuit as a part of their educational work and not as part of their research. Of a great assistance for students and for the general audience interested in the history of education are anthologies and source books intended to include “strong texts,” and this is clearly much more than what is usually termed “diverse” texts (Banta, 1993). This recommendation is relevant for anthologies geared toward the reader’s research interest, and it is even more relevant for source books intended to keep up educational interest. When compilers of anthologies and source books include classical texts on the pedagogical past, they are frequently forced to limit themselves and their readers precisely to the above-mentioned “strong texts” from among the “Great Books.”

Of course, modern technologies allow these and other restrictions to be removed through compiling personal anthologies of classical sources based on full-text online databases (Loebolus, Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, LATO, The Perseus Digital Library, and many others). Thus, an opportunity is afforded to constantly change the contents and logic of the presentation of the texts. However, even the broadest range of technical possibilities does not cancel out the complexities of choice faced by the compilers of both electronic and hard copy anthologies and source books. A reader unprepared for the use of Greek and Latin databases risks drowning in the sea of sources of varying genres, styles, and sizes, in debates about critical editions, about (in)correct translations, and about the status of the existing e-resources. With this regard, the question is posed about the ways of overcoming the above-mentioned difficulties.

Purpose of the Study

The aim of the study is to show how the ancient pedagogical heritage was applied earlier, is applied now and could be applied in historical and pedagogical textbooks for teaching profile disciplines in the higher pedagogical education. Therefore, the authors consider some of the available approaches in world and national practice and express their views on the principles of constructing such kind of textbooks.

Research Methods

Content analysis and comparative analysis were chosen by the researchers to achieve better results.


Choosing a “reading syllabus” of classical texts on upbringing and education to be used by students majoring in pedagogy is particularly difficult since de jure, over 15 centuries separate the texts and the students, while de facto, translators bring the texts closer to the readers, with each translator having their own understanding of the hierarchy of the extant text versions and the words contained therein; besides, each translator belongs in their own academic situation in a specific historic environment. Those parts of anthologies and source books that include the classical heritage are collections of translations based on different principles and each reflecting specific peculiarities and restrictions, etc. One compiler of a modern anthology offered a stark insight into the complexities of these restrictions, “Let us not forget that translations are made by people who do not need them for people who cannot read the originals” (Lefevere, 1992). Translators do not always provide a “word for word” translation, and all readers can do is take their words at “face value” (Lefevere, 1992).

Those compilers of anthologies and source books who do not wish to limit the presentation of the classical pedagogical legacy to the timeless great books invariably face both the difficulties of decoding the contents of the classical texts written in dead languages and the highhandedness which each modern culture that believes itself to be “core” or “central” allows itself in handling its predecessors (Lefevere, 1992). This creates favorable conditions for translation lacunae to transform into lacunae in representing the pedagogical reality. Multiple tropes, texts, and topics of omission emerge, and it is hard to avoid those when compiling anthologies and source books. Translators/compilers touch-up or remove fragments that contrast their cultural norm, and they often do so without any explanations. Thus, the popular form of address “my beloved…” has been consistently replaced in censorious translations with “my dear friend…” based on the assumption that today’s reader will hardly excuse the Classical Greek tradition of an intimate communication between a teacher and a student. Theognis, who had presented the reader with the pedagogical reality in a wrong aspect, is usually omitted from anthologies and source books: “Happy he that loveth as he taketh his practice and when he goeth home sleepeth the day out with a fair lad” (II.1335-36, transl. by Edmonds). The same is true about Plato’s Parmenides, where the description of the relationship between Zeno and his teacher Parmenides is delicately rendered in the following way: Zeno was “tall and pleasant in appearance; there was talk that Parmenides had liked him well” (Plat. Parm. 127с, transl. by Jowett). The apophatic topics include not only the “special” relations between teacher and students, but also teaching slaves, educating epic heroes and women, instructions for gladiators and gourmets, school books from the late Antiquity, and many others.

Both the tropes and subjects of omissions are equally multiple. Unexpectedly, one of them is Cicero. The complexity and ambiguity of his life and works largely determined the emergence of a historical and pedagogical stereotype that denies Cicero any originality in anything: in politics, philosophy, and even in rhetoric. Opinions on the originality of the essence of Cicero as a teacher are manifested in the translations of his works made at various times by representatives of various translation schools, and in the tradition of studying the role of Cicero in the history of education. However, the widespread definition of Cicero as a “political weathervane” has long precluded any serious discussion of the significance of his pedagogical ideas. This is why anthologies contain texts by Quintilian, Tacitus, Marcus Aurelius, Suetonius, and other Roman authors, but no texts by Cicero; the exceptions are the anthologies by P. Monroe and his today’s followers Joyal, McDougall, Yardley (2009); Monroe (1901).

Looking at a translation of any classical text, the reader has every right to ask a few questions: who translated it, what his/her purpose was, what s/he relied on (editions, translation tradition), what his/her translation principles were (translation theory and techniques, the reading theories of the time), what s/he intended and whether we can trust the translation and in what ways? The overarching, global questions are: why was this text at one time selected and placed in an anthology/source book, why were these particular excerpts chosen? In our context, the majority of anthologies or source books on the history of pedagogy, which include classical texts, have gone through double or even triple selection done for the reader: if the compiler was not also the translator, then, from among all other choices made by other people, s/he selected the one that s/he had found most congenial and included the text into a specific pedagogical culture and his/her choice was manifested in placing the text (or part of it) into a study book for professionals. An experienced reader might not like the “series” of those choices, should such a reader discover a text that is a bad translation, but, on the strength of inertia, or due to “advertising,” this text still functions as the accepted translation. The share of such translation among classical texts is fairly high.

“Trust may be more important than quality,” if there was a time when the text allowed to “legitimize the power of those who wield it in that culture” (Lefevere, 1992). The desire to make a translation and thus ensure that a text by a particular classical author is available in an interpretation offered by “one’s own precious self” often stemmed from the desire to use the translation to manipulate one’s own status in the readers’ eyes. In some instances, the translators succeeded in different ways in different generations and historical circumstances. When such translations take hold in academic or para-academic editions, they gain a real chance of making it into an anthology or a source book. Another aspect of the problem is choosing from among relatively conscientiously made translations. They frequently offer different balances of merits and drawbacks, for instance, between artistic license and terminological precision. Translators from different generations work with different versions of the originals; it sometimes creates the difficult problem of choosing a translation for a study book.

When we turn to translations of classical texts, we both lose and gain meanings, since each text is surrounded with other texts that position it within a particular pedagogical culture. The environment and perception of a text in translation is inevitably altered, and when the number of translations and translation languages increases, an ever greater number of perception nuances appears within each, and sometimes, they take readers away from original meanings. For instance, Xenophon’s Oeconomicus is known to the Russian reader under the title of Domostroy (Domestic Order) thanks to the wonderful translator S.Sobolevsky; this title juxtaposes Xenophon’s work with archpriest Silvester’s treatise on medieval Russian Domostroy and sets perception outlines. Two other translations of the title, On Household [ O khozyaistve ] (Yanchevetsky, G.) and On Housekeeping [ O domovodstve ] (Lovyagin, A.) have been relegated to oblivion.

Naturally, in this context, bi- or polylingual anthologies or source books on the history of pedagogy would allow generations of students to get “a feel for the language” they study (Lefevere, 1992), including the language of pedagogy, would allow them to see both merits and drawbacks of translations and of the anthology/source book as a pedagogical tool. However, this tradition has not yet fully manifested in study books for the professional segment of the higher pedagogical school.

Anthologies and source books on the history of pedagogy could be studied from the point of view of development strategies in a particular pedagogical culture as a whole, since they include texts that mostly lie outside said culture, contrast with it, and polemicize with it, change it, and do not allow it to ossify. Paraphrasing Victor Hugo’s phrase from the preface to the translations of Shakespeare published in 1865 by the writer’s son, we could say that when we offer the audience an anthology/source book, we must be ready for the audience to view it as an act of violence against itself. Including classical texts into anthologies and source books on the history of pedagogy is largely predetermined by the existing, constantly shaped and altered pedagogical canon and by intellectual fads that sometimes allow us to see the development strategies of today’s pedagogical culture in its relation to actualizing the past. Each new anthology/source book expands the idea of the history of pedagogy as a totality of texts and contexts, meanings and practices in the broadest understanding of these words.

The list of those anthologies and source books on the history of pedagogy that include classical texts is quite long. The history of the source book canon for classical pedagogy still awaits its researchers. In our article, we will touch upon a few authorial strategies employed to present the classical material in anthologies and source books structured chronologically or thematically; these two structuring principles still continue to determine the informational and educational environment of the higher pedagogical school.

Most anthologies and source books on the history of pedagogy are structured chronologically, and this principle is the most suitable for educational purposes, while at the same time it limits them significantly. Traditional movement “along the centuries” makes it easier to take in the material, but it proves somewhat preset. Unless it is skillfully problematized by an instructor, each text risks being supplanted with subsequent texts, and for a student, pedagogical past remains something that inevitably loses out to the pedagogical present. The clarity of understanding will emerge only for those students, who ask themselves the question of why the compiler included a particular text or fragment into the present anthology or source book. The thematic structuring principle allows students to achieve clarity through the constant feeling of being immersed into the pedagogical past at varying depths, and that past acquires clearly defined boundaries not by contrast with the pedagogical present, but at the very boundary of the areas of pedagogical reality. Introduction to Pedagogy , for instance, is based on the thematic principle (compiled by Kornetov, parts 1-2, Moscow, 2006); it includes only one classical fragment, an excerpt from Xenophon of Athens’ Memorabilia as part of the “Patterns of Applying Manipulation Pedagogy in Education” section (Kornetov, 2006). In thematic anthologies and source books, texts are combined into groups, thereby rendering some subjects visible and some invisible. With all its apparent clarity, the division of anthologies and source books into chronological and thematic is still rather provisional. Once we have gleaned the author’s logic of selecting and presenting the classical material, we understand that the chronological arrangement of texts also possesses a certain hidden thematic nature, which allows the readers to grasp the essential problems of education within their historical context (Pichugina, Bezrogov, 2017).

Classical collections by Monroe (1869-1947) and Cubberly (1868-1941) are based on the chronological principle, and Svadkovsky (1895-1977) and Piskunov (1921-2005) followed suit, although, as we will see, they also deviated from the principle. Cubberly’s anthology (1920) contained twenty nine chronologically arranged parts, tracing the history of pedagogy from Ancient Greece to the 1910s and supplementing his lectures on the history of education. Five of the anthology’s chapters are dedicated to the classical education. Cubberly included classical texts to which he added subtitles delineating what he considers to be the key subjects for every particular period. The appropriate chapters also contain illustrations and fragments of academic works by various authors. Each fragment is given a particular title: Plutarch’s Lycurgus is “Classical Education in Sparta”; Plato’s Protagoras is “Description of an Athenian Schoolboy's Life”; Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens is “Athenian Citizenship and the Ephebic Years”; Xenophon’s Memorahilia is “An Example of Socrates' Teaching”; Thucydides’ History is “Athenian Education summarized”; Polybius’ History is “The Roman Character”; Marcus Aurelius’ Thoughts is “The Old Roman Education described”; Cicero’s De Oratore and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria present rhetoric as the goal of education, etc. Cubberly believes that all the selected sources offer good descriptions of the classical pedagogy both in its ideas and in the actual practice. Each paragraph contains a short note on the author and the work and sets the subject that serves as a perspective for considering the given historical source.

Cubberly is engaged in a constant dialogue with P. Monroe – the author of “Source Book of the History of Education for the Greek and Roman Period” (Monroe, 1901). Cubberly largely repeated Monroe’s source selection logic; he used a significant number of the same sources, but changed the principle of their presentation. Monroe begins each chapter with lengthy explanatory texts, characterizes the time and the specifics of upbringing, and the specifics of sources given for each particular period. Chapter titles synthesize chronology and subject: “Old Greek Education”, “Education of Women in Greece”, “The New Greek Education”, “Greek Educational Theorists: The Historical View”, “Greek Educational Theorists: The Philosophical View”, “Greek Educational Theorists: The Scientific View”, “The Later Cosmopolitan Greek Education”, “Early Roman Education in General”, “The Second Period of Early Roman Education”, “Contrast between the Earlier and the Later Periods of Roman Education”, “Survival of Early Roman Education Ideals in the Later Period”, “The Third Period: The Hellenized Roman Education”, “The Orator as the Ideal of Roman Education”, “Scientific Exposition of Roman Education”. Monroe continues his thematic emphases in his marginalia that accompany the classical authors’ texts and set the logic of reading them.

Pedagogy in the Ancient, Medieval and Modern World till the 19 th century , the first volume of Source Book on the History of Pedagogy (compiled by Svadkovsky, Moscow, 1935) contains two section on the classical antiquity: “Greek Pedagogy” and “Roman Pedagogy” (Svadkovskij, 1935). This edition follows Cubberly: we see Plutarch’s Lycurgus as a text “On the Spartan Upbringing”; Lucian with his discussion of “A School Day of an Athenian Boy”; Xenophon’s Memorabilia as “An Example of the Socratic Method”; Plato’s Protagoras appears as “An Excerpt on Bringing Up Children in Athens,” Laws as merely “Excerpts on the Issues of Upbringing,” and The Republic as “Excerpts on the System and Syllabus of Academic Education”; Aristotle’s Politics became “Excerpts on the Old and New Roman Upbringing.” A short author’s biography is appended to each text incorporating assessments of the contents and significance of the text. Large textual fragments are split into smaller parts with titles inserted by the compiler; the titles are similar to the marginalia in Monroe’s anthology. The absence of an explanation for the choice of sources indicates certain “medallion-like” attitude to those who were entrusted the task of speaking on the classical pedagogy in accordance with the thematic criteria.

This approach was developed in the late 19th century French history of pedagogy by Saffroy and Noël (1897) and it was transplanted onto the Russian soil by Glebovsky, who compiled one of the first specifically classical anthologies (1903). That approach entails representing not so much the areas and aspects of classical education, as names and texts that symbolize that education in the overall cultural process. Topics were “hidden” within chronology to some degree, but mostly, within certain names. Both the French edition and the Russian one that imitated it included five names: Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Quintilian, Plutarch. Within those names, Glebovsky emphasizes the principal topics of a particular author. For instance, he distinguishes “the Socratic method” within Plato’s Meno or “Bringing up Children Until 20 Years of Age” within Xenophon’s De Republica Lacedaemoniorum , but, unlike Monroe and Cubberly, he hides his emphases within names, not within time periods.

Source Book on the History of Foreign Pedagogy (1971, compiled by Piskunov, A.) does not have such emphases; here, the classical pedagogical legacy is placed in the “Upbringing and Classical Pedagogical Legacy in Slavery-Based Society,” where Glebovsky is mentioned, while Monroe, Cubberly, and Svadkovsky are not. The Source Book includes excerpts from Democritus, Plutarch’s Lycurgus , Plato’s Protagoras and The Republic , Aristotle’s Politics , and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria . Piskunov explains that the source book includes only those works which are “the most typical” for a particular period and “influenced” the subsequent development of pedagogy (Piskunov, 1971). In listing the classical teachers, he is guided not so much by chronology as by the hierarchy of recognition, which fact can be also inferred from the compiler’s preface: Plato holds the first place, followed by Aristotle, Socrates, and Democritus, and then by “others.” Besides Democritus beloved by Marxists, all the other authors continue the tradition of Saffroy-Noël-Glebovsky. Piskunov retains the generally accepted division of classical texts; there are no compiler’s titles for sections and no illustrations.

The texts are prefaced by short introductory sketches that explain the important place of the works presented and of their authors in representing the classical pedagogical thought and practice. The principal goal is “to offer a sufficiently complete picture of two such system of upbringing,” the Athenian and Spartan ones. The Roman upbringing emerges as a sort of addendum to the Greek one (Saffroy, Noël, 1897). In his selection principles, the compiler has completely transitioned from the chronothematic principle to the chronomedallion one in selecting and arranging classical texts in anthologies and source books. Such a transition is hardly due to transforming anthologies into source books, since the French scholars and Glebovsky’s works are true anthologies, and not source books. Evidently, the reasons for this lie elsewhere, and they are still to be discovered. Whatever they might be, the transition to the representational method of arranging the material makes the completeness of the author and the text particularly valuable. A work by a classical author apparently begins to be perceived in its own right as a pedagogical monument of sorts. In this connection, one can recall Monumenta Germaniae Paedagogica , Monumenta paedagogica Societatis Iesu , The Pedagogical Library published initially by Tikhomirov, K. and then by him and Adolf, A., and similar editions. Such series had a positive impact on treating works of pedagogues from the past as works within a system.

In its turn, in the late 20th century, the systemic nature of the monuments of the past served as grounds for a new attitude to the history of classical pedagogy and, consequently, to its “anthologization” for study purposes. This transition strives to take into account various sources, it does not give preference to major, “strong” texts that demonstrate only some aspects of classical education and upbringing, and sometimes, beget the “significance” of an ahistorical kind. Works by such scholars as Cribiore, Morgan, Kennell, Ducat, Rawson, Bobou, Szabat, Rogers (the list is far from complete) demonstrated that reconstructing classical pedagogy may be greatly aided by considering papyrus texts and inscriptions; by closely studying all the possible authors and works, including little-known ones and those of which only fragments are extant; by employing methods used in the history of ideas and in the cultural/social anthropology; by including into consideration the history of games and childhood, women’s education, pedagogy of theater and law, the history of school books, apprenticeship, teaching crafts, etc. (Dickey, 2016; Dillon, Garland, 2012; Gemeinhardt 2016; Kahn, 2016; Pitts, Hauge, 2016; Renger, 2012)


Such a view of things led to the creation of alternatively structured syllabi and university courses, as well as other general compendiums on the history of classical pedagogy, which, in turn, lead to the creation of a new type of anthologies that look at the classical pedagogy not only through the eyes of Plato, Aristotle, Quintilian, and Plutarch. A recently published anthology compiled by Joyal, McDougall, Yardley intended for university students is an example. This anthology is characterized by diversity of material, by an integrated and balanced approach to various sources; it also demonstrates to students the information opportunities afforded by said sources, and thus it creates grounds both for a modern take on the studied area and for attracting a large number of already existing digital resources of professional importance for a historian of learning. The question of how the sources on pedagogical past should be arranged in the digital era has been partially posited by the current transitions from one set of principles for selecting and arranging classical texts to a different set. The possibility of using the anthology to instantly access various databases and e-libraries puts forward an additional argument for transitioning from a particular list of authors/texts to a more variegated and diverse representation of the pedagogical reality of the past in anthologies/source books. “Great books” and “strong texts” still play an important role, but they are now on equal footing with other texts that, at first sight, do not appear to be as representative.

The work has been done within the framework of the State Assignment of the Institute for Strategy of Education Development of the Russian Academy of Education (No. 27. 8089.2017 / BCH).


  1. Banta, M. (1993). Why Use Anthologies? or One Small Candle Alight in a Naughty World. AL, 65, 2.
  2. Cubberley, Ellwood P. (1920). Readings in the history of education a collection of sources and readings to illustrate the development of educational practice, theory, and organization. Cambridge – Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  3. Dickey, E. (2016). Learning Latin the Ancient Way. Latin Textbooks from the Ancient World. Cambridge.
  4. Dillon, M., Garland L. (2012). The Ancient Greeks: History and Culture from Archaic Times to the Death of Alexander. Routledge.
  5. Gemeinhardt, P., (2016). Education and Religion in Late Antique Christianity. L.: Routledge.
  6. Glebovskij, V.A. (1903). Drevnie pedagogicheskie pisateli v biografijah i obrazcah. SPb.: Tip. P.P.cSojkina.
  7. Joyal, M.,  McDougall, I.,  Yardley, J.C. (2009). Greek and Roman Education: A Sourcebook. Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World. London/New York: Routledge.
  8. Kahn, C. (2016). Plato and the Post-Socratic Dialogue. Cambridge. University Press; Reprint edition.
  9. Kornetov, G.B. (2006). Vvedenie v pedagogiku: uchebnoe posobie: v.2. Moscow, ASOU, 2.
  10. Lefevere, A. (1992). Translation/History/Culture. A Sourcebook. L.: Routledge.
  11. Monroe, P. (1901). Source Book of the History of Education for the Greek and Roman Period. New York and London: Macmillan.
  12. Pichugina, V., Bezrogov, V. (2017). “Fathers and sons” in Xenophon’s teaching of the man caring for himself. History of education, 46.
  13. Piskunov, A.I. (1971). Hrestomatija po istorii zarubezhnoj pedagogiki. Moscow, Prosveshhenie.
  14. Pitts, A.W., Hauge, M.R. (2016). Ancient Education and Early Christianity (The Library of New Testament Studies). Bloomsbury T&T Clark.
  15. Renger, A.-B. (2012). Meister und Schüler in Geschichre und Gegenwart. Göttingen: V&Runipress.
  16. Saffroy, M., Noël, G. (1897). Les Écrivains pédagogues de l'antiquité: extraits des oeuvres de oeuvres de Xénephon, Platon, Aristote, Quintilien, Plutarque. Paris: Ch. Delagrave
  17. Svadkovskij, I. (1935). Hrestomatija po istorii pedagogiki. Moscow, Uchpedgiz, 1.

Copyright information

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

About this article

Cite this paper as:

Click here to view the available options for cite this article.


Future Academy

First Online




Online ISSN