The man silently bending over the book raised many questions. Once upon a time, reading was quite a noisy activity. It meant declamation: always read aloud.
It's hard to believe, but in ancient times they read only aloud. Reading in silence was simply not accepted. Even at the turn of the 4th-5th centuries. The "sinister" silent reading still needed explanation and justification.
Once upon a time, reading was quite a noisy activity. Back in the II century. n. NS. it meant declamation: always read aloud.
Here are some passages from Lucian of Samosata ("The ignoramus who bought many books") that attest to this:
2. You gaze at your books with all your eyes, just, I swear by Zeus, you gorge yourself on them, and you even read some of them, albeit too hastily, so your eyes are always ahead of your tongue.
7. You do not see that the same thing, of course, happens to you when you hold in your hands the most beautiful book, clothed in purple skin, with a gold clasp, and you read it, shamefully distorting words, so that educated people make fun of you, the flatterers who are with you praise, but inwardly, turning away, they also laugh a lot.
19. Demetrius the Cynic, while in Corinth, saw an ignorant man reading a most beautiful book, namely the Bacchae of Euripides, reaching just the point where the messenger tells of the suffering of Pentheus and the deed committed by Agave. Dimitri tore the book away from him and tore it apart, declaring: "It is better for Pentheus to be torn to pieces by me once than you - many times."
28. But if you nevertheless decided to stay invariably in your illness, then go buy books, keep them at home under lock and key and reap the owner's laurels. Enough with you and that. But do not ever touch them, do not read, do not humiliate with your language the words spoken by the men of antiquity, and their creations, which have done nothing wrong to you.
Scientists believe that reading aloud helped to better understand the meaning - since in those days there were no generally accepted punctuation marks and even separation of words. I think it can be added to this that poetry, the word of art in general, from ancient times influenced primarily the ear - hence the ancients' attention to the rhythm and style of both poetic and prosaic speech.
By a lucky coincidence, history has preserved that moment from which one can conditionally begin the countdown of the process (probably long) of refusal from declamation and the transition to reading "with eyes", "to oneself."
Saint Augustine in his youth (until 364) was a disciple of Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Mediolana. When, thirty years later, already an elderly man, he wrote his "Confession", an unusual sight still stood before his inner gaze:
When Ambrose read, he ran his eyes over the pages, penetrating into their soul, doing it in his mind, without uttering a word or moving his lips. Many times - because he did not forbid anyone to enter and there was no custom to warn him about someone's arrival - we saw him reading in silence, always just silently …
A man who silently bent over a book … The students were perplexed about this behavior of the teacher and tried to find an explanation for him:
After standing for a while, we left, believing that in this short period of time, when he, freed from the confusion of other people's affairs, could catch his breath, he does not want to be distracted, and, perhaps, fears that someone, listening to him and noticing difficulties in the text, he will ask to explain a dark place or decide to argue with him, and then he will not have time to read as many volumes as he wants. I suppose he read in such a way as to protect his voice, which he often lost. In any case, whatever the intention of such a person, it, without a doubt, was good.
The last words of St. Augustine show that at the turn of the IV-V centuries. tacit reading still needed not only an explanation, but even an excuse.
The art of reading to oneself transformed literature, led to the dominance of the written word over the spoken word, and left the reader alone with the author.