Education In Sparta And The Expectations Of A Professional Teacher

College of Education Assignment: Education In Sparta And The Expectations Of A Professional Teacher

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When examining any society, one of the most important aspects of its civilization to identify is the education of the youth. Children yearn to please their instructors. Therefore, when all children throughout a society are taught a certain way to live and think, when they grow up, the society itself models these values instilled upon the children. Naturally, when using this ideal to study the history of the Ancient Greeks, focus falls upon its two major city-states, Athens and Sparta. As in almost every aspect of comparison, the difference between the education of the warlike Spartans compared to the education of the philosophical Athenians is like comparing black to white. The main focus of a Spartan education was not to focus on literacy. Instead, as a result of the system of helotry practiced in Sparta, fitness, obedience, and courage had to be taught in order for the Spartans to retain the militaristic supremacy that they had over the rest of the Peloponnesus.

In the eighth century B.C., Sparta was in need of more fertile land to support an ever-growing population that demanded food. Consequently, Sparta was forced to do what any ancient civilization did when in need of resources: They invaded their neighbors, the Messenians, and after a twenty year war, enslaved them as their agricultural laborers, henceforth known as Helots.

The Spartiate was considered a fierce and brutal warrior, excellent in physique, un-yielding in dedication, unmatched in combat, and constantly willing to die for Sparta. This ideal warrior was created almost forcefully through the “physical, social and moral education” system, the agoge.


Spartan education began soon after birth, where babies were inspected by Ephors and cast onto the slopes of Mt Taygetus if the Spartan health standards were not met. Boys were raised by their mothers until the age of seven, at which point they entered the agoge.

Within the barracks they immediately joined an agelai, or herd of boys. Here they learnt military and basic reading and writing skills. They were taught obedience and how to fend for themselves, share responsibilities and bond with each other. At ten they were taught music, dancing and athletics. These were integral in establishing agility and response and obedience to orders in battle, which were dictated using musical instruments. Spartans would have sung lyrics like “it is fine to die in the front line” . Along with laconic phrases like “Chilly willy!” or “True manly qualities” these formed an almost propaganda-like method of education that forced Spartan ideas like the nobility of death or the masculinity of rejecting delicacies into the subject’s mind.

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From twelve to eighteen they learnt games of endurance and skill. They were further disciplined by “cutting their hair short . . . walking barefoot and . . . playing naked” . Their tunics were replaced with a single cloak, which they received each year, and their rations limited. This encouraged theft, which was a display of speed, skill, and stealth. Capture, however, was seen as failure, and severe beatings ensued. We recall the famous tale of a young boy who had stolen a fox cub and hidden it under his cloak. Rather than reveal the cub and admit to thievery, he kept it hidden while it clawed at his stomach until death. This would have been seen as perfect example of Spartan dedication and obedience, but also shows the fear and brutality felt during the agoge.

Boys also had to make their own beds from thae “tips of reeds growing along the river Eurotus, broken off by hand without . . . any iron blade” . This taught Spartan boys that pain and hardship must be endured if comfort or leisure were to be enjoyed. They also took part in violent ball games, with the only objective to hold the ball at the game’s conclusion; “this could be achieved by any method.” Common technique included “kicking, biting and eye-gouging”.

Spartan boys also loosened their bonds with their biological parents, and were encouraged to “consider all Spartans of their father’s age to be in loco parentis” , (i.e. in the role of a parent. Cartledge speaks of the “institution of ritualised pederasty” in which twelve year olds are given a “young adult . . . lover”. He acknowledges however that this relationship was not strictly sexual, and notes the story of a youth who cries out in a “regular brutally physical” contest. The punishment then falls on the boy’s lover, “for having failed to educate his beloved properly.” This indicates that in addition to drilling, athletics and other exercises, boys received private education by older males, and that this was a rather significant role.

Education was not limited to boys, and although girls did not have to endure the agoge, they did join ‘herds’ and receive rigorous physical training. The ‘bibasis’ exercise, which saw girls jumping up and down and touching their heels to their buttocks, was particularly arduous. The girls were also involved in sports like “running, wrestling, throwing the javelin and discus, and ball games.” The entire premise of the education of girls was to create physically and emotionally mature women who would act as fine mothers and child bearers for a generation of strong warriors. It was, in essence, eugenics.

THE SYSSITIA, in order to progress through the agoge, Spartan boys had to endure and pass certain stages. If these were not passed, one could not be considered a full Spartiate Citizen. Admission into the syssitia or common mess was one of the latter stages and took place during training as eirenes. Members would eat meals with and train alongside their fellow members, of which they were around fifteen. Cartledge tells us that some messes were more elite and restricted than others, with the most exclusive being the royal syssitia, which housed the two kings.

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When applying for a syssitia, each member had to approve of the applicant. If but one disapproved, “the suitor was rejected, so desirous were they that all the members should be agreeable to each other” . This suggests that all relationships within the close-knit syssitia were expected to be strong. Herodotus shows that close relationship within the syssitia incited “bravery and a keener sense of shame” during battle. After all, it was expected that your shield defended not only yourself in battle, but also your closest friends.

Training and education did not stop when a Spartiate entered a syssitia. If anything, their physical training became all the more rigorous. Men trained together and perfected their bodies and were expected to watch over and teach boys and younger men. Between the ages twenty-three and thirty, men were full-time soldiers and so focused their lives almost entirely on reaching the ideal.

Even leisure was a form of training, with hunting developing “ancillary military skills” and stealth, and chariot races encouraging strong competition and athletic prowess. Education was also still drilled into soldiers almost sub-consciously. For example, “No torches were permitted when passing to and from the mess to dine” , which was meant to adjust Spartans to moving with stealth in darkness. We can see that education was involved with every facet of Spartan life, and strove to maintain ‘Eunomia’ and perfection.

Note: If the content of this material is useful for your academic work(s), feel free to contact us anytime for your assignments and term papers (any topic). @ Sir Pee Integrated Services – #3 College Road, Afaha Nsit – Phone: 07068634102

The Expectations Of A Professional Teacher

The goal of education in Sparta, an authoritarian, military city-state, was to produce soldier-citizens. In ancient Sparta, the purpose of education was to produce a well-drilled, well-disciplined marching army. Spartans believed in a life of discipline, self-denial, and simplicity. They were very loyal to the state of Sparta.  Every Spartan, male or female, was required to have a perfect body.

However, the study of history of education such as the Spartan education system will help a provisional teacher to understand how the past events shaped the present education systems, theories and related phenomenon in the area of teacher education in particular and education in general. Secondly, it will enable you to appreciate the importance of education to mankind since time immemorial across the generations. By so doing, you will be able to critically examine the fundamental part which education plays in the transformation of society. Note that as a teacher, you are a change agent so learning the history of education will prepare teachers in training to examine present trends and dynamics in education, draw practical lessons from the past, avoid possible mistakes, and initiate more viable plans for the benefit of Society. Specifically, the expectations of professional teachers in the learning of history of education, such as that of Spartan education will:

  1. Help professional teachers to appreciate the various aspect of our past education process so as to link them to the present.
  2. Enables professional teachers know what type of education we had and the purpose it served in the past.
  3. Gives professional teachers the opportunity of knowing our past mistakes in our education with the view to making necessary amends.
  4. Gives professional teachers the opportunity of studying other people’s educational ideals and programs with the aim of developing ours.
  5. It also gives professional teachers a solid foundation to plan for our present and future education development.
  6. Guides us to proffer some positive solutions to our present day educational problems.
  7. The study of history of education helps teachers in training to appreciate the various aspects of their past educational process so as to link them to the present;
  8. It enables professional teachers in training to know what type of education we had and the purpose it served in the past;
  9. It gives professional teachers in training the opportunity of knowing our past mistakes in our education with the view to making necessary amends;
  10. History of education gives professional teachers in training the opportunity of studying other people’s educational ideas and programmes with the aim of developing ours;
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The typical Spartan may or may not have been able to read. But reading, writing, literature, and the arts were considered unsuitable for the soldier-citizen and were therefore not part of his education. Music and dancing were a part of that education, but only because they served military ends. At 18, Spartan boys became military cadets and learned the arts of war. At 20, they joined the state militia–a standing reserve force available for duty in time of emergency in which they served until they were 60 years old.

Unlike the other Greek city-states, Sparta provided training for girls that went beyond the domestic arts. The girls were not forced to leave home, but otherwise their training was similar to that of the boys. They too learned to run, jump, throw the javelin and discus, and wrestle mightiest strangle a bull.

Note: If the content of this material is useful for your academic work(s), feel free to contact us anytime for your assignments and term papers (any topic). @ Sir Pee Integrated Services – #3 College Road, Afaha Nsit – Phone: 07068634102

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