Education was very different in Sparta than it was in the other ancient Greek city-states. The purpose of education in other Greek city-states was to produce good citizens. In Sparta, the purpose was to produce a powerful army.


In all the Greek city-states, except for Sparta, children were trained in music, art, literature, science, math, and politics. In Athens, for example, boys were taught at home until they were about six years old. Then boys went to school, where they learned to read and write. They learned to play a musical instrument, usually the flute or the lyre. They learned the poetry of Homer. They learned how to debate and how to give a persuasive speech. They studied science and math. After high school, they attended military school, where they learned to be good warriors. Boys did not graduate from all the schooling they were required to take until they were about 20 years old. Girls did not go to school. They were taught at home by their mothers. But, if their mother could read and write, they taught their girls how to do the same, as well as teaching them how to cook and sew and run a household.

Education in Sparta was completely different. The purpose of education in Sparta was to produce and maintain a powerful army. Sparta boys entered military school when they were about six years old. They learned how to read and write, but those skills were not considered very important except for messages. Military school was tough, on purpose. The boys were often hungry. They were often beaten. They slept away from home, in the barracks, with the men. If they cried, they were beaten, sometimes by their own parents. They were taught how to steal and lie and get away with it. These skills could save their life someday. Nearly everything in the Spartan educational system was about war and battle.

Spartan girls also learned to be warriors. Their school was not as brutal, but all girls in ancient Sparta could wrestle and fist fight and handle a weapon. They were taught how to kill. The Spartans believed that strong women produced strong babies. Besides, the women might have to defend the city if the men were away at war. No great works of art came out of Sparta. But most of the other Greek city-states wanted Sparta on their side. The Spartans were great friends to have in times of war.

Click on a pot to find more about ancient Greek education

Education - The Story, Athens & Sparta