|ATHENS vs. SPARTA|
Education & Military Training
The primary purpose of Spartan education, and indeed of Spartan society as a whole, differed greatly from that of the Athenians. The primary goal of Spartan education was to produce good soldiers. Training for the military began at age 7, as all Spartan boys left home to go to military school. From then until the time they were 18, they were subject to harsh training and discipline. Historical accounts tell of Spartan boys as being allowed no shoes, very few clothes, and being taught to take pride in enduring pain and hardship.(1)
Throughout their adolescent and teenage years, Spartan boys were required to become proficient in all manner of military activities. They were taught boxing, swimming, wrestling, javelin-throwing, and discus-throwing. They were trained to harden themselves to the elements. At the age of 18, Spartan boys had to go out into the world and steal their food. Getting caught would result in harsh punishment, including flogging, which was usually a practice reserved only for slaves. The concept was that a soldier must learn stealth and cunning.
At age 20, Spartan men had to pass a series of demanding tests of physical prowess and leadership abilities. Those that passed became members of the Spartan military, and lived in barracks with the other soldiers. They were allowed to take a wife, but they weren't allowed to live with her. At age 30, they became full citizens of Sparta, provided they had served honorably. They were required to continue serving the military, however, until age 60.
Unlike their Athenian counterparts, Spartan girls also went to school at age seven. There they learned gymnastics, wrestling, and did calisthenics. These schools were similar in many ways to the schools Spartan boys attended, as it was the Spartan opinion that strong women produced strong babies, which would then grow into strong soldiers to serve the state.(1)
Somewhat ironically, women in Sparta had much more independence than women in other city-states, partially because their husbands never lived at home, and partially because Spartans had tremendous respect for Spartan mothers.
While no marvelous works of art or literature ever came of this system, it did accomplish the Spartan goal of producing elite soldiers. The Spartan military was universally disliked, but they were also universally respected.
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