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Spartan Education: Boys

By Yona Williams    7/3/06

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The ancient Greek civilization of Sparta handled the education of their residents in a way that differed greatly from the Athenians. While Athenians are concentrating on the arts and philosophy, Spartans are concentrating on honing the skills of their citizens to prepare strong, well-disciplined soldiers for their army that marches throughout the lands, intimidating many.

 

When it came to Spartan boys, they were sent off to military school when they turned six or seven years of age. The majority of their youthful years were spent living and training within the barracks associated with the brotherhood that they belonged to. They also slept in the same place. Some of the school day lessons that they were taught dealt with developing survival skills, as well as gaining the necessary knowledge for becoming a great and respected soldier. These types of school courses were quite different from the reading, writing and arithmetic of today’s schools. Spartan boys endured rather difficult lessons, as well as numerous painful situations during their lessons.

 

The students were taught how to read and write, but these skills did not compare or hold much value within the ancient Spartan civilization. Survival and warfare were the most important aspects drilled into the heads of these boys. While attending school, they did not receive home cooked meals or meals that provided the energy needed to complete their intense studies. During these times, the boys were told that stealing food was not a crime if they didn’t get caught while in the act. If the boys were caught stealing food, they would be given a beaten. It was just another lesson in how to survive within this civilization. There were many other obstacles that the boys had to overcome. They also were made to perform marching drills without the use of anything on their feet. The training period could easily be viewed as an institutionalized form of torture.

 

When the boys reached the age of between 18 to 20, they were expected to pass a brutal test of their skills. Some of the fields that the boys were required to excel in included fitness, leadership skills, as well as their ability within the military arena. If a Spartan male did not pass these series of tests, they received what was viewed as a demotion in statue within society. They were branded as a perioikos, which was part of the middle class. They could purchase and own their own property, as well as become involved in business dealings, but there were disadvantages to this title. They did not have any political rights and they were not even considered to be a citizen of Sparta. When passing the examinations, the male was branded a full citizen and held the title of Spartan soldier.

 

There were distinct differences between the citizens and the middle class throughout Sparta. It is ironic that the most powerful of the inhabitants of this city-state were not allowed to touch the very thing that made them wealthy. The handling and touching of money was left to the middle class.

 

 

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