How Ancient Romans Created Social MediaRoundup: Talking About History
tags: social media, Ancient Rome
Tom Standage is digital editor of The Economist and author of “Writing on the Wall: Social Media—The First 2,000 Years” (Bloomsbury).
Who invented social media? It wasn’t the founders of Facebook, or Twitter, or even MySpace or Friendster. Social media—the exchange of media within networks of friends and acquaintances—is much older than the Internet. A social-media environment requires two things: a certain level of literacy, and the ability to copy and deliver information cheaply and quickly. This combination first arose in the late Roman republic of the 1st century BC, more than 2,000 years ago.
At the time there were no printing presses and no paper. Instead, information circulated among the intermarried families of the Roman elite through the exchange of papyrus rolls. The ruling class was well-educated and literate. And in place of broadband, which makes copying and sending information cheap and quick today, the Romans had scribes and messengers, many of whom were slaves.
The correspondence of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, the best preserved collection of letters from the period, shows that he and his friends wrote to each other constantly, recounting the latest political machinations, passing on items of interest from others and providing commentary and opinion. “I sent you on March 24th a copy of Balbus’ letter to me and of Caesar’s letter to him,” Cicero wrote to a friend in one typical example. Caesar’s missive was, in other words, sent to Balbus and then copied to Cicero, who recopied it in turn....
comments powered by Disqus
- Josh Hawley Earns F in Early American History
- Does Germany's Holocaust Education Give Cover to Nativism?
- "Car Brain" Has Long Normalized Carnage on the Roads
- Hawley's Use of Fake Patrick Henry Quote a Revealing Error
- Health Researchers Show Segregation 100 Years Ago Harmed Black Health, and Effects Continue Today
- Nelson Lichtenstein on a Half Century of Labor History
- Can America Handle a 250th Anniversary?
- New Research Shows British Industrialization Drew Ironworking Methods from Colonized and Enslaved Jamaicans
- The American Revolution Remains a Hotly Contested Symbolic Field
- Untangling Fact and Fiction in the Story of a Nazi-Era Brothel