On the primary school the boys learned to read, to write and to calculate. They sat on small stools, and the magister sat on a chair. They wrote on wax-boards, wooden boards with a thin layer of wax, with a sharp stylus. The handy thing of these boards was, that you could use them over and over, by spreading the wax evenly and smoothly over the board. Other writing-methods whom used by the Romans:
- With ink on papyrus
- With ink on parchment
Papyrus descended from the papyrus-plant. This plant grew on the banks of the Nile in Egypt. It had an angular stalk, from which you could cut out very thin strips. These strips were placed next to each other, and after that, there was a second layer put over it, squared on the first layer. This was pressed all together, and then you had a charta, a sheet of papyrus. A few of these chartae were stuck together. The result was called a volumen, a book-roll.
Parchment was comparatively much more expensive then papyrus, but you could keep it much longer. Parchment was made out of specially treated animal's skins, mostly sheepskins. In the beginning, the people made a volumen of parchment too, but later, in the 1st century BC, they invented the codex. The pieces of parchment were now folded and cut, and together with a jacket they formed a book (the codex).
The secondary school
As told before, the boys of rich parents went to the secondary school after the primary school, till their 15th. There agrammaticus taught them. He taught them in Latin (see chapter: Language) and Greek. When the students knew their own language, Latin, a lot better then before, and they knew the principles of the Greek language, the big authors were read. For Greek they started for example with the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer. Subjects like Geography and History came up for consideration too, but only when the texts of the education of literature gave occasion to it. Like this, the students became familiar in the Greek world, and they learned a lot about the Roman history.
A small and select group of boys from the highest social circles of the Roman Empire went to the oratorschool after their successful career at the primary and secondary school. These boys were predestined to have great success in the political or the juridical world. These boys had very rich parents, because the oratorschool was very expensive.
At the oratorschool they learned how to speak well in public. To reach that, you had to build op your oration well, put up your arguments at the right time and in the right order, and speak the whole message with cogency. You also had to learn a few important and famous political orations by heart, so you could quote pieces of it in the future.