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EDUCATION IN GREECE

The Greeks loved to learn! They believed that learning was one of the
best ways you could spend your time. They didnt see going to school as
a chore at all. They looked forward to the chance to improve their minds.

In Greeces very early history, only wealthy men were educated. Young
boys usually had their own tutors who taught them math, writing, and
military training. The things children were taught also depended on where
they lived in Greece. If a boy grew up in Sparta, for example, his entire
education was spent preparing him for the military. In Athens, which was
less focused on the military, students learned several subjects.

As boys grew older, they were also taught music, literature, astronomy,
and rhetoric. As Greece became more democratic, rhetoric became an
important subject for children to study. Greeks believed that in a
democracy, a person should be able to speak well! They learned rhetoric
by memorizing famous speeches from the past. They were also taught
poetry by memorizing entire poems. Those Greeks must have had great
memories!

Greek girls were not taught the same subjects as boys.


They were usually taught reading and writing, but were
not taught other subjects. Instead, they were taught
skills that would help them be good homemakers. They
were taught to cook, sew, and care for children. Like
boys, girls were sometimes given a different education
depending on where they lived. In Sparta, even girls
were given light military duties. They were also
expected to do a lot of exercise so that they would
have healthy babies who could serve in the army. In
Sparta, girls were usually given more education that
girls in Athens. But it was almost all physical training.
(No books! No homework! Just exercise!)

There were two kinds of education in Greece:


Formal: this was done in a school or was provided by a private tutor.
(Alexander the Greats private tutor was Aristotle!)
Informal: this was usually done in the home, by an unpaid teacher,
sometimes a slave.

Formal education was usually only for the sons of wealthy Greek
families. Women, slaves, and the children of poor families were not given
a formal education.

Greeks loved to learn, but they also wanted to develop their personalities
and their bodies. They believed that education should make you a better
person. Young children were taught morals to help them become good
people. Greek education also taught that exercise was important. The last
few years of a boys education would usually be spent in the gymnasium.
In the gymnasium, he worked on perfecting his appearance and his
health. This training also prepared young men for war.

Throughout their education, Greeks studied music and dance. They


enjoyed music and believed that it made life more pleasant. It was
common for educated Greeks to play several instruments.

The Greeks loved philosophy, too. But be glad you werent a philosopher
in ancient Greece. Greeks believed that philosophers had not learned
everything they needed to know until they reached thirty five!
Greek education was a huge role in ancient Greek life since the founding of the Poleis, until the
Hellenistic and Roman period. From the origin of education in the Homeric and the Aristocratic tradition,
Greek education infinitely democratized in the 5th century BC. There were two forms of education in
Ancient Greece: formal and informal. Formal Greek education was principally for men, and wasnt
offered to slaves, manual laborers, or women. In some Poleis, laws were passed to forbid the education
of slaves. A young lady would receive informal education from her mother, who taught her how to
maintain a household, to serve her father, and later in life-her husband.
Greek education focused mainly on training an entire person, which include education of the mind,
body, and imagination. The precise purposes of Greek education diverged from polis to polis. The
Spartans placed a high importance on military training, while the Athenians, by tradition, gave more
attention to music, literature, dance, and later also to the natural sciences, which included biology and
chemistry, as well as philosophy, rhetoric, and sophistry-the art of presenting an argument using
deception and reason to convince the public to agree with a certain point of view. The Spartans also
taught music and dance, but with the purpose of enhancing their maneuverability as soldiers.

Athenian System
Elementary:
In their early years, Athenian children were taught at home, and sometimes under the supervision of a
master. They were taught basic principles, until they began elementary education at about seven years
of age. Children were taught how to read, write, count and draw. Reading and writing were taught at
the same time, and students would write using a stylus, with which they would
write onto a wax-covered board. When children were ready to begin reading whole works, they would
often be given poetry to memorize and recite.

Gymnasium:
Having a physically fit body was extremely important to the Greeks. Physical training was seen as
necessary for improving ones appearance, preparation for war, and good health at an old age. Greek
boys would begin physical education either during or just after beginning their elementary education. In
the beginning they would learn from a private teacher known to them as a paidotribe. Eventually, the
boys would begin training at the gymnasium.

Secondary and Post-Secondary:


After turning fourteen years old, boys from wealthy families had the option of attending secondary
school. A secondary school might have been an everlasting one, or it could have been received from
traveling teachers. Secondary education included subjects such as natural science (biology and
chemistry), rhetoric (the art of speaking or writing effectively), geometry, sophistry, astronomy and
meteorology. The teaching of these subjects became greatly valued within Athenian society, because
the Athenians believed that intelligent education was a key component of a persons individuality,
making up a significant part of a persons reputation. Accomplishments in academics could help an
individual gain the respect of his peers.
Boys could continue their education after secondary school by obtaining Ephebic training, which was
military training. They could petition to become an Ephebe, or soldier, at the age of eighteen. In 5th
century BC, Ephebic training began as a military education, followed by two years of military service.
Later, however, more advanced academic schooling was included.

Other:
As mentioned earlier, children of poor families were often unable to receive a formal education.
These children, however, were not totally forgotten. Solon, a Athenian leader who lived during the 7th
to mid-6thcenturies BC, did a lot to reform his polis, and encouraged poor fathers to provide their sons
with a occupational education. By teaching these children a trade, they could also be viewed as
productive members of Athenian society.
Music and dance education were also very important to Athens. Throughout the many stages of an
individuals education, he was encouraged to practice dancing, singing and the playing of instruments.
Common instruments used in Athens included the harp, flute and lyre. By advancing in dance, singing
and the playing of instruments, an Athenian would help continue a tradition that was a key part of
Athenian history.

Spartan System
Agoge:
Military domination was of great importance to the Spartans of Ancient Greece. In response, the
Spartans structured their educational system as an extreme form of military boot camp, which they
referred to as Agoge. The pursuit of intellectual knowledge was seen as minor and as a result, academic
learning, such as reading and writing, was kept to a minimum. A Spartan boys life was dedicated almost
entirely to his school, and that school had but one purpose: to produce an almost indestructible Spartan
unit.
Formal education for a Spartan male began at about the age of seven when the state removed the
boy from the guardianship of his parents and sent him to live in a station with many other boys his age.
For all objectives and purposes, the stations were his new home, and the other males living in the
stations were his family.
For the next five years, until about the age of twelve, the boys would eat, sleep and train within their
stationed unit and received instruction from an adult male citizen who had completed all of his military
training and experienced battle. The instructor stressed discipline and exercise and saw to it that his
students received little food and minimal clothing in an effort to force the boys to learn how to hunt,
steal and endure extreme hunger, all of which would be necessary skills in the course of a war.
Those boys who survived the first stage of training entered into a secondary stage in which
punishments became tougher and physical training and participation in sports was almost non-stop in
order to build up strength and endurance. During this stage, which lasted until the males were about
eighteen years old, fighting within the division was encouraged, mock battles were performed, acts of
courage were praised, and signs of weakness and disobedience were severely punished.
During the mock battles, the young men were formed into groups to learn to maneuver as if they
were one body and not a group of individuals. To be more efficient and effective during maneuvers,
students were also trained in dancing and music, because this would enhance their ability to move
gracefully as a unit. Toward the end of this phase of the Agoge, the trainees were expected to hunt
down and kill a Helot (a Greek slave). If the student did not commit murder, he would be condemned
and disciplined-not for committing murder, but for his inability to complete the murder without being
seen.

Ephebe:
The students would graduate from the Agoge at the age of eighteen and receive the title of
Ephebes. Upon becoming an Ephebe (soldier), the male would pledge firm and complete allegiance to
Sparta and would join a private organization to continue training in which he would compete in
gymnastics, hunting and performance with planned battles using real weapons. After two years, at the
age of twenty, this training was finished and the now grown men were officially viewed as Spartan
soldiers.

Education of Spartan Women:


Spartan women, unlike Athenians, received a formal education that was supervised and controlled by
the state. Much of the public schooling received by the Spartan women revolved around physical
education. Until about the age of eighteen women were taught to run, wrestle, throw a discus, and also
to throw spears. The skills of the young women were tested regularly in competitions such as the
annual footrace at the Heraea of Elis. In addition to physical education ,the young girls also were taught
to sing, dance, and play instruments. The Spartan educational system for females was very strict,
because its purpose was to train future mothers of soldiers in order to maintain the strength of Spartas
units, which were essential to Spartan defense and culture.