That fancy title actually means I read James McGrath’s post and was reminded of some late night viewing I did recently.
In HBO’s Rome (great plot and acting, but my, the nudity! I know it’s a cable show, you don’t have to remind me twice an episode!) a recurring character is the news reader (I know there’s a Latin term, but I’m lazy, as even the unobservant know by now) who gives out official announcements in the town market, presumably because there are too few people who can read to make putting up a written notice worthwhile.
Contrast that with Appaloosa, (R rated for language, violence, and brief nudity) where our hero become town marshal and proceeds to justify his “obey or die” tactic for cleaning up the town by telling the baddies that the new town laws are posted outside prominent buildings for everyone to read and obey.
So, the telling difference is (and of course it could be wrong, because we all know popular media is no place to get historical or scientific fact) that in ancient times literacy was low enough to be assumed absent, while in nineteenth century America at least, literacy was great enough to be presumed upon. That’s the popular perception, at least. On the other hand, my paternal great-grandfather apparently couldn’t read or write terribly well, and he was born in the late nineteenth century.
Anyway, there you are, for what it’s worth.