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Education in Ancient Greece Illustration

Education in Ancient Greece

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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.

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