Sian Lewis explores the role of news and information in shaping Greek society from the sixth to the fourth centuries, b.c. Applying ideas from the study of modern media to her analysis of the functions of gossip, travel, messengers, inscriptions, and institutions in the polis, she demonstrates that news was a vital concern for the ancient Greeks. Specifically, the acquisition and exchange of information played a key role in determining status and power.
Proceeding from a discussion of individual citizens involved in the exchange of news to an account of more complex forms of communication organized by the polis, Lewis traces the role of what we call news in a culture that was primarily oral. She contrasts the informal exchanges that occurred among travelers and merchants with the official announcements made by heralds and envoys. She also analyzes the motives behind such official announcements and the ways in which the authorities exerted control over the flow of information. Finally, she reconsiders the role of the political assembly and the origins of the public inscription, which has until now been assumed to have been the primary source of news for Greek citizens.
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