Greece for Kids
Education was very different in Sparta
than it was in the other Greek city-states. In Athens, Corinth, Argos,
Megara and in hundreds of other Greek city-states, the purpose of
education was to produce good citizens. All citizens (remember,
citizens were only men - women, children, and slaves were not
citizens) were trained to be good soldiers. But they were also trained
in music, art, literature, and politics. In Sparta, the purpose of
education was to produce good soldiers.
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. 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 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. They
might be rough, but they had honor. They were great friends to have in
times of war.