The paper investigates the key particularities of the communication methods in Ancient Greece and Rome. The data is put in a chronological order. The paper shows the key functions the communication used to perform in the times of antiquity: cultural, cognitive, political, military, and communicative. The analysis of the means of communication in the ancient times shows that people felt a sharp necessity in relaying the message across to bring the country to success and development. Furthermore, the findings illustrate the high level of the ancient world’s development. This is determined by the fact that the means and devices of communication were unique and smart (for instance, the military communication). It means that the ancient people tended to perform the numerous functions that required recording and communication. To make it successful, numerous and famous thinkers of antiquity invented the means of communication. Thus, this paper is aimed at regarding the essential particularities of the communication process in the period of antiquity. This is believed to serve as a powerful tool in investigating the life and knowledge people had that time.

The Background

Many scientists try to set the time, place, and conditions of mass communication in the history of civilizations (Beattie & Ellis, 2014: 35). Regardless of the fact that this issue is devoid of special relevance, the social role of communication at an early stage of the cultural-historical evolution of society remains attractive for a variety of reasons. Enduring is the desire to study fundamental principles of human existence. Researchers try to discover the roots of some of today’s problems and contradictions with the help of deep excursion into history (Hannah 2004: 131). People tend to extract historical lessons from the study of the process of gradual transformation of the once mighty civilization to the backward community. Therefore, scientists need to return to the past to meet natural human curiosity (James & Dillon 2012: 59).

The role of communication in the early stages of the cultural-historical evolution of society has been investigated in a large number of scientific papers in the USA and Western Europe. The role of mass communication in the history of the different countries was studied and taught at major universities since the middle of the 1st century (Beattie & Ellis 2014: 39). However, the researchers’ attention was caught by the works of scientists so they independently attempted to perform a macro-historical analysis of the role of communication in the cultural evolution of society in ancient times (James & Dillon 2012: 59).

Currently, antiquity is seen as the heyday of Ancient Greek democracy, forming almost perfect society, in which every freeborn citizen could express their opinion in the assembly or at the court. It manifested as an active participant in the life of the polis (Bryant & Zillmann 1991: 36). However, it was also known that the development of the ancient civilization was accompanied by the tensions, political and ideological clashes, and the rulers such as Solon or Pericles (Hannah 2004: 133). They were known to successfully develop and apply the anti-crisis measures to facilitate the achievement of prosperity, harmony, and tranquility in society.

Solon carried out actions aimed at the normalization of the situation in Athens. He freed people from the debt of the mortgaged land and encouraged the craft and trade. Pericles of Athens gathered the best scientists and poets, whose activities contributed to raising the cultural level of the citizens, and for their integrity and honesty, no extravagance earned the love and respect of the people (Beattie & Ellis 2014: 85).

The National Assembly of Antiquity was believed to be a communicative space that was generally regarded as a public discourse generated by all societal actors such as government officials, politicians, and ordinary citizens (Skirbekk & Gilje 2001: 98). This form of cooperation between the authorities and the people allowed having feedback quite quickly. In addition to this, it helped learn the views and sentiments of citizens.

Communication in Ancient Greece

Consequently, the rudiments of modern social technologies such as a ‘workshop,’ ‘citizens’ juries’, and others emerged. Great importance was given to the ancient way of the laid-back method of establishing communication. The Ancient Greek scientists considered the art of dialog from the standpoint of dialectical conversation and sophistical argument. Public debates, public controversy aroused huge interest and attracted the attention of Athenian citizens.

The Greek Sophists skillfully used the word, considering it as a powerful influence on people’s minds (Bryant & Zillmann 1991: 36). This opinion is the most important evidence of the ‘discovery’ of the Sophists in public communication: the relativity of truth and verbal manipulation. The Sophists made an enormous contribution to the development of the theory and practice of speech, developing rules of making a monologue, dialog, debate, construction of the evidence, but they violated the basic principle of public communication. This principle was the accuracy of the information transfer (Hannah 2004: 133). Currently, the sophists can be considered the first creators of speechwriters and manipulative ways to produce the impact of the text on the readers and listeners’ minds (Beattie & Ellis 2014: 14).

They developed heuristic techniques based on logical and verbal tricks. With the criticism of the Sophists, Socrates initiated the public discourse, the aim of which was to find the truth. Socrates spoke as the author of an original technique of discussion based on dialog. It manifested itself when using elaborated questions and the sides had to seek truthful answers to promote the acute controversy (Bryant & Zillmann 1991: 39).

This method allowed obtaining new knowledge through the joint reflection and thorough discussion of relevant topics. This can be currently characterized as the basis for the feedback. It is no coincidence that Plato, who was a faithful disciple of Socrates, created their works specifically in the form of dialog, establishing the true meaning and essence of the basic concepts, perspectives, and opinions (Beattie & Ellis 2014: 98).

The ancient Greeks are believed to have made a great contribution to the modern theory of communication. They are rightfully considered the founders of the performance and symbolic communication. At the Great Dionysia, a performance model was first introduced. It used to consist of elements such as the parade, presentation, and appeal to the public (Hannah 2004: 136). A symbol in the Greek mythology was a complement for the appearance of the deity because it served as the artistic expression of the essence of the ‘activity’ of a god.

The concept of symbol was of great importance for the communication development in Ancient Greece (Beattie & Ellis 2014: 53). It literally means ‘to throw together’, and the ancient Greeks meant by a shard of pottery, broken into two parts, each of which was stored by the families in the breed (Dillon & Garland 2013: 73). The specificity of the symbol as a sign was to promote the object that contained a hidden meaning that extended the sign to esoteric (inner), sacral. A symbol has a visual graphic specifics and it is transferred to the adjacent concrete objects.

Obviously, the symbols emerged as cryptography – hidden information signs at thrift (Smarandache & Vlăduţescu 2014: 98). The sacred (or sacred) value of symbolization of power was made due to the fact that the authorities tended to desire for the sanctification of their status or/and political values ​​promoted by it. The sacral region was characterized by the fact that it was not subject to any change ‘from below’. The Sacral region manifested itself through rituals (Bryant & Zillmann 1991: 188).

Sacred service areas belonged to certain types of dedicated supervisors such as shamans, priests, party workers entrusted with the right interpretation of the sacred text and the organization of rituals. Visual symbols acted as a unifier that did not possess significant differences in the language important for a text message (Hannah 2004: 136). For the visual character, the difference in culture was more important (Smarandache & Vlăduţescu 2014: 98). Visual symbols from different systems weakly interacted with each other. Therefore, the city can be decorated with monuments from different eras. For instance, the scepter of Zeus, for example, was a symbol of power in later periods; the scales of Themis is still used in the justice system; snake on the Rod of Asclepius has been a sign of medicine; Lyre of Apollo represented the concept of art (Beattie & Ellis, 2014: 101).

Communication in Ancient Rome

Contrary to Ancient Greece, in Rome, there was no aristocratic Athenian-style democracy, but the constitution affirmed the right of the national assembly and the annual election (Holtzhausen & Zerfass 2015:141). The main features of public discourse of republican Rome had a clearly expressed, applied, and utilitarian character (Delile et al. 2014: 40). There was no place for the sophistical discussions on the ‘common places’ and other useless, from a practical point of view, exercises (Beattie & Ellis 2014: 101). Although oratory and eloquence were also used to provide the desired impact on the audience, in Rome, the ability to speak well, persuading and influencing the audience, was of absolute significance (Skirbekk & Gilje 2001: 98).
Cicero had a conviction that what was discussed in the people’s presence was to be discussed with moderation – with self-control and calmness. After all, the speaker has a great influence on not only the intention and the will but also, perhaps, the expression on the faces of those to whom he speaks (Delile et al. 2014: 44). If it happened in the Senate, it was not difficult to achieve this because the senator was not to submit the opinion of other people but make them want to follow his proposal exactly.

The main applications of communication tools in Rome were represented by the civil law and politics, where the Roman involvement of agents of public communication in politics and in public life was very significant (Dillon & Garland 2013: 73). Most of the famous Roman orators practiced in the forum, and many of them were senators and consuls. The case was a great Roman orator, indicating the intensity of the use of public communication tools in the social system of Ancient Rome (Beattie & Ellis, 2014: 105).

The characteristic feature of the public discourse of Ancient Rome was the professionalization of its subjects. Thus, it could be possible to claim that the Roman orators were the first professionals in the field of public communication. Romans actively used the possibility of written record information during the preparation, logging, and archiving of the speakers’ presentations.

The rules of construction of the speeches, teaching exercises, etc. were the preparation tools and the speaker practices were well developed and extensively used. At that time, the process of individualization oratorical activity intensified: there were differences in style, form, composition speeches, etc. (Delile et al. 2014: 39). Although, according to Cicero, it was a general trend in the development of rhetoric and not contrary to the traditions of the ‘Attic speech.’

The classical demand for ‘bread and circuses,’ which arose in Ancient Rome, was confirmed by Suetonius when describing the reign of Augustus (Dillon & Garland 2013: 95). He noted that in relation to spectacles, he had surpassed all his predecessors since his spectacles were more frequent, more varied, and more brilliant. He gave the game four times on its own behalf and twenty-three times on behalf of other judges when they were in the absences or had no means (Beattie & Ellis 2014: 104).

It should also be noted that, although the national assembly in Rome was not a form of democratic governance, it had retained powers of magistrates’ elections, the declarations of war and peace, and the adoption of laws up to the imperial era. In addition, in Rome, the important social reforms were carried out: the Roman plebs achieved equal rights with the patricians and they could hold their meetings with the adoption of resolutions (plebiscite); people tribunes defended people’s rights; one of the two consuls was a plebeian (Crowley & Heyer 2015: 102). All these factors and events could be achieved only by the means and devices of communication.

Good communications were of great importance for the effective conduct of military operations. They were held at two levels, the strategic and tactical ones, although the difference could have been erased (Dillon & Garland 2013: 95). Polybius had left an accurate description of a flare receiving invented by the Alexandrian engineers Kleoksenom and Demokletom (Allen 2016: 6). At each station, two walls having gaps between the teeth at a distance of two feet from one another were arranged. With the help of the torches, exhibited in these spaces, one could send signals to another station. A simple form of communication signal was used also on the battlefield (Delile et al. 2014: 40).

Onasandr often advised to use the signals as communication produced by the body or in movement of weapons so that they were less well understood for more enemies and foreign allies. Frontin recommended giving voice signals, if desired, to mislead the enemy (Bryant & Zillmann 1991: 102). Thus, the various secret data transmission systems could fully meet the needs of the military command only in the case of their integrated use. Roman postal service functioned only in Italy and some of the most developed provinces (Dillon & Garland 2013: 95). According to sources, the use of birds and animals for the delivery of the messages was a less common phenomenon (Allen 2016: 6). Cryptography served the interests of only educated people. More to say, it could be an effective alarm communication. Where the exchange of information was limited to technical equipment, Romans used a sign language (Delile et al. 2014: 40). At large distances, they used smoke and fire signals, but their substantial occupancy was not great. The Roman army used encrypted messages when dealing with people close to the commanders, staff officers, and intelligence agents.


Initially, the problem of communication was seen solely as a problem of human communication. Although human communication has always been the foundation of social life, its meaning and the essence were perceived differently at various stages of formation and development of human society. In the framework of the traditional mythological worldview characteristic of the pre-philosophic stage of cultural development, the problem of the relationship of man-to-man, of human communication did not stand as an independent concept. Users cannot select it, firstly, due to underdevelopment of abstract thinking. Secondly, they cannot do it due to the dissolution of the individual being in a collective where there is no opposition between the individual and the orientation of the primitive human consciousness in its relation to the nature and management of the world and their own spirits, totems, gods, rather than their fellows.

The main elements of the historic changes that take place within society are represented by the process of the transformation of social communication. Different approaches to the disclosure of the essence of their nature were described by the philosophers of antiquity. Socio-political thought illuminated communication indirectly because as an independent theory, it appeared only in the twentieth century.

Scholars’ descriptions of the phenomena and events in the light of a comparison of practical communication management enable the contemporary investigation to track the nature and essential characteristics of communication. In addition to this, it contributes to the reveal of the phenomenon of social communication – a specific type of subject-subject interaction where mediated information makes sense to all the communicants.

The first primitive communication evolved from the natural world. At the same time, it is closely connected with it as initial contacts are made as part of the team. The goal was the implementation of effective and low performers’ efforts of their own service. In other words, the problem was limited to the use of those forms of communication that had been previously instinctive: stalking, protection from other animals, etc. Forms of interaction between people, people and animals, humans, and plants were reflected in the myths (Delile et al. 2014: 40).

Myths were archaic narrations of the deeds of gods and heroes, behind which stood a fantastic view of the world, their control of gods and spirits. Genetically and structurally, myths had been associated with the rituals that were the traditional activities accompanying the important moments of life of the human communities (Crowley & Heyer 2015: 102). Over the time, disappearing as a form of primitive consciousness, the myth remained. One could say that, as a product of human imagination, the myth continues to have a fantastic effect on all human life, outlook, and attitude.

In the initial stage of the development of philosophy, in antiquity during the reign of the natural philosophy, philosophical reflection was focused on the problem of physics and the cosmos – nature and harmony (Bryant & Zillmann 1991: 115). Thinking about nature, pre-Socratics used the so-called anthropomorphic patterns of social and ethical representation. They composed an inseparable part of the communication process.

The main thing that distinguished the outlook of the Sophists from those of previous thinkers was a clear distinction that existed by nature, and that there was a human establishment, by law, i.e., the distinction between the laws of macrocosm and microcosm (Allen, 2016: 6). The Sophists’ attention was shifted from the problems of the cosmos, the nature of human problems, society, and knowledge. For the first time, the Sophists put forward the opposition to natural laws and regulations, the famous antithesis of “immutable laws of nature – the changing human institutions.” It was used as the ideological material for the theoretical thought’s prior development via the wealth of the Greek culture, especially its value orientation on the man and his mind (Crowley & Heyer 2015: 135).

Not only did the Sophists put the problem of human nature but they also tried to answer questions on what the laws of man lived in society and who formed his personality. The Sophists taught the art of convincing, beautiful speaking and properly arguing one’s ideas; most importantly, they taught the art of refuting propositions opposing party (Crowley & Heyer 2015: 137). It was thanks to the activities of the Sophists that rhetoric emerged as the art of speech. The largest contribution to its development was made by the sophist Gorgias (5th-6th centuries BC). Sharing the main thesis of his school, according to which there was nothing stable in the world and, therefore, there was no absolute truth and everything was relative, people believed that only the word was absolute, as soon as it was autonomous and not associated with being (Bryant & Zillmann 1991: 147).

Rhetoric as the art of persuasion, using the possibilities of speech, in ancient Greece, was of great importance for the policy makers (Delile et al. 2014: 40). Polis called the orator who was able to convince the judges of the Tribunals, advisors to the Council, the national assembly members and citizens. Socrates laid the foundation of moral philosophy (Allen 2016: 6). In the center of his attention was the problem of man and his nature (Strechie 2014: 10). Socrates believed that there were moral qualities common to all people (thesis, directed against the moral relativism of the Sophists), which made a person virtuous and capable of living in society. To navigate in the world, a person must know himself as a social and moral being (Crowley & Heyer 2015: 14).

Although the term communication did not exist in antiquity in the form of professional activity, however, from the point of view of the prehistoric times, it could be interpreted as a positive regulator of the social, political, and economic processes and relations in society in historical perspective. A study of communication in the framework of prehistory postulated the thesis that the earliest forms of communication were born and developed in ancient times and used in various spheres of society. Since antiquity, people have viewed the reflex nature of the field of practical research methods of social management and analysis of their communicative framework.

Socrates saw the task of philosophy in the study of ethical and cognitive aspects of human life and activity (Skirbekk & Gilje 2001: 98). He believed that the people were most in need in the knowledge of themselves and their affairs, the definition of the program and the purpose of their activities, a clear awareness of what was good and evil, beautiful and ugly, truth and error. In their discussions, philosophers produced the so-called Socratic method of dialectics as a method of reasoning (Crowley & Heyer 2015: 96). Its essence lies in the fact that in the dialog, in the form of questions and answers, it is necessary to reveal the contradictions in the views of the interlocutor through the clash of different points of view on the subject under discussion in order to reach the truth.


Thus, the period of ancient Greece and Rome gave remarkable examples of oral and written communication, paving the way for new forms and means of social interaction. Social Communication and Public Relations, to which they belong as a kind of professional activity, occurred relatively recently, but they are inseparably linked with the entire history of humanity. In this case, many technological methods and principles were laid down in the ancient times, so the reference to this period allows the researchers to discover patterns and underlying theoretical positions, allowing extrapolating this work to the modern tools of constructive dialog and interaction.

Thus, the consideration of the representations of communication in the ancient times shows that the person is treated as a dichotomy of microcosm and macrocosm. To the ancients, not only peace but also a man as an integral part of nature was a cosmos, a rationally conceivable measure, harmony, and orderly system of things. Therefore, the “word” and “reason” were not for them only a subjective property rights and they expressed the very nature of things.

With the deepening of the scope of the analysis of the individual, their relationship with the community and other people, the ancient philosophers asked questions about the causes of human actions, the peculiarities of the human mind, about the difference between a human soul and the natural environment, and so on. There, everything was built on communication.

This was due, firstly, to the recognition of the equality of all people before God(s), which was proper to the ancient consciousness. The people and the god(s) are equal, the Greeks and the barbarians are not equal, the owners and the slaves are not equal. Secondly, the emergence of religion proclaimed that the behavior of each person depended on himself, on his/her free choice, and his/her individual mental qualities since God had given man free will. Thirdly, the emergence of religion has defined a special place of man in the created world. If ancient human consciousness was considered as a particle of the cosmos, subordinate to him, to live and to act according to its laws, the Christian vision of man, created in the ‘image of God,’ which was originally put him over all things, a master of nature. Fourthly, communication proclaimed the most important principle of human relations.