Hypothesis: The main aim of a Spartan youth’s upbringing was to produce a professional warrior who was, physically fit, capable of enduring pain and hardship, obedient and disciplined, loyal to his fellow homoioi, devoted to Sparta and willing to die in battle if necessary. All of this was essential to keeping the helot slaves, who outnumbered them massively, under control. There was certainly brutality in the Agoge and boys were undeniably trained to think identically on many matters, not whether it completely robbed them of free thought needs to be scrutinised a little more closely.
In the Pre-Agoge years from birth life for a Spartan boy was immediately brutal. Nurses, not mothers, looked after the babies. They were given very simple basic food, were often left alone in the dark and were ignored when they cried. This was done to teach not to depend on others from a very early age. At the age of seven they were taken from their mothers and taken to the Agoge where they would stay for twenty-three years. This was brutal because it seems quite an extreme thing to do to a baby and it also shows the beginning of a ‘brainwashing’ process.
Academic education was very limited; there was basic reading, writing and counting but not much else. This was because Spartans didn’t have any interest in other academic subjects, in thinking for themselves or debating about life and religion or other cultures. They also did not see any need to review their education as they thought it was perfect already for bringing up each generation of children obedient and disciplined. The songs and stories they learned were always about particular courageous Spartans who had done well in battle. This set the path for next generation to make them aspire to be like them and was a bit like propaganda (often used by dictators in recent history) as a way of ‘brain washing’ them. This was ‘brainwashing’ because it made all the new generation of men learn not to think for themselves and...
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