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III
Since close to half of Philogelos is occupied with the antics of
scholastikoi — university men — at home in their villages, in their
student digs, and sometimes even on the battlefield, let us take a
moment to view their situation.
Philogelos assumes (and so should we) that Athens was the first
choice for higher education: most of student life is imagined in
Athens. Whether the scholastikos travelled there by land or sea,
from a coastal town in Ionia or Thrace, or from far-flung Libya
or Syria, the expenses of getting to Athens, and of living there,
were great. Room and board, tuition, and books were a terrific
financial burden on most fathers, and some of them even took up a
collection among friends and neighbors back home to sustain their
sons through a four- or five-year struggle with higher learning.

Was it all worth it? What outcome was anticipated? The answer
lies in the Greek notion of citizenship and civic responsibility. To
contribute fully to your polis — your community back home —
you needed to do more than fight in its wars and cast your vote
in its assembly. You needed to speak, and to speak eloquently,
in a variety of civic contexts. Eloquence was essential even for
generals and bureaucrats, but most of all for lawyers and politicians
who could argue a persuasive case before a magistrate or a
public body. And here, of course, there was money to be made.
Here, through your powers of persuasion, you could gain both a
handsome living and respect from your community.
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