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St. Ambrose, the non-whisperer (December 7)

December 5, 2013


Vigorous persecutor of pagans is a fine job, but this 4th cent. bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose, is also the first man in recorded history who used to read to himself in silence, in his head, instead of pronouncing audibly what his eyes were scanning. The trick seemed so amazing, that even St. Augustine dwells on it at length in his Confessions:
“When he was reading, his eyes glided over the pages, grasping the sense in his heart, while his voice and tongue were at rest”, etc.
(Sed cum legebat, oculi ducebantur per paginas et cor intellectum rimabatur, vox autem et lingua quiescebant.)…
… and he goes on describing how he stood there, spying on him from the shadow, in silent awe.
Actually, the world remained a puzzle of oral cultures until Gutenberg… Sentences, whenever written, were meant to be read aloud, and not in the head.
Personally, I got back into the ancestral habit of spelling out loudly and slowly; I read so many idiotic things, that I have to pronounce them aloud to prove to myself that they possess a real existence.
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