Spartan education of children

Topics: Sparta, Battle of Thermopylae, The 300 Spartans Pages: 4 (1281 words) Published: November 3, 2013

“Spartan policy was always mainly governed by the necessity of taking precautions against the helots.” (Thucydides; History of the Peloponnesian War). Since birth, Spartan men and women were inculcated with a mentality developed from the necessity to comply with a militaristic way of life. This society indeed grew out of a symbiotic tension with the vast population of Spartan helots.

Men were taught, through the agoge (education system) harsh training and self reliance that would later be necessary when they began their lives as an adult Spartiate. The purpose of training for women was to produce virile and healthy offspring for the defence of the state both against internal and external threats.

Since the conquest of neighbouring Messenia in 640BC, and the enslavement of the entire population, the Spartans found themselves outnumbered 10 to 1 by a hostile population. As a result, they developed a society revolving around the military as a necessity to keep these helots under control. Although widely held, this view is disputed by P. Cartledge who points to the emergence of hoplite warfare as [“the cause”? of] this social and political change. Nevertheless, the freedom from labour allowed the Spartans to pursue this way of life.

Plutarch attributes these institutions to the great (if not mythical) lawgiver Lycurgus. The resulting agoge indoctrinated both boys and girls with this militaristic mentality from birth. Spartan babies were (10 days after birth) inspected by the ephors for any defects and even washed the babies in wine in the belief that any sick or weak child would die. If found unsatisfactory, the baby would be abandoned in a jar by Mt Taygetus to die of exposure. There was no place in Spartan society for a child who would not grow up to be a fierce, ascetic warrior. Young children were supervised at home by their mothers and taught traditional answers to questions rather than from their own opinion. They grew accustomed to being left...
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