The schools of republican Italy were private, not public. The republic was too thoroughly imbued with laissez-faire to establish a system of public education. . . A century before Cicero’s time Polybius, then a resident of Rome, criticized the lack of a public-school system. Quoting the criticism in one of his books, Cicero replies that the Romans did not care to have an educational system “fixed by law or artificially established, or uniform in all cases.” His argument is precisely that used in the United States against establishing a federal department of education with a member of the cabinet as its head.
[N.B., This book was published in 1942 in New York.]
The children were taught the three R’s at home or in private schools, conducted usually in Cicero’s time by a Greek slave or freedman who charged a nominal fee… The chances are that Marcus and Quintus [Cicero’s brother, Quintus Tullius Cicero, b. 102BC] followed the practice of many well-to-do Roman families and studied under their father, who gave them rudiments of an education together with the training of fundamentals of Roman citizenship that was traditionally stressed in family life.
This post is a part of the Cicero series, reading This Was Cicero, by H.J. Haskell.