Could a social function for intellectuals -- that is to say, could intellectuals -- have existed before the invention of writing? Hardly. There has always been a social function for shamans, priests, magi, or other servants and masters of rites, and we may assume also for those whom we would today call artists. But how could intellectuals have existed before the invention of a system of writing and numbers that needed to be manipulated, understood, interpreted, learned, and preserved? However, once these modern instruments of communication, calculation, and, above all, memory had arrived, the exiguous minorities who were masters of these skills probably exercised more social power for a time than intellectuals have enjoyed ever since. The masters of writing could, as in the early cities of the first agrarian economies in Mesopotamia, become the first "clergy," a class of priestly rulers. Until well into the 19th and 20th centuries, the monopoly of literacy in the lettered world, and the education necessary for its mastery, also implied a monopoly of power, safeguarded against competition by education in specialized, ritually or culturally prestigious written languages.