6.1 History of Education: Do you fully understand ancient Graeco-Roman education?

Chapter  6


6a i). Give an explanation of ancient Graeco-Roman education


In our last chapter, we looked at the contribution of three major religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) to education in ancient India. In this lecture, we shall discuss education in ancient Greece and how Greek educational thought affected that of the rest of Western Europe and consequently shaped educational systems in Africa after being fused with

Roman civilization after the Roman conquest.


  • Greek Civilization, The Old and New Education

The Greeks or Hellenes settled in the Greek Peninsula sometimes after 2,000 B.C. They formed themselves into twenty city-states or polis.  Though there was no unified government, the Greeks were united by language, religion, and a common civilization.

Greek society was regimented into three classes: the citizens, the non-citizens, and state-owned slaves. Provision or non-provision of education was determined by one’s social class. In terms of education, the city-states of Sparta and Athens were the most important. However, their education was not as religious as that of the other ancient civilizations.

Greek education can be divided into two methods, the old and the new. The first is referred to as the Age of Homer, which began about 900

B.C. and ended about 776 B.C., the date of the first Olympiad. This education was dominated by the Homeric epics, was theologically and discipline-based, and was represented by Spartan education.

The new education lasted from about 431 B.C and extended to the point Greek civilization was fully integrated into Roman life after the 4th century B.C. This education marked the peak of Greek civilization characterized by a cultural revolution in which old traditions in education, religion and morality were discarded. By the close of this period philosophical schools had been established, being later organized into the University of Athens. The new education was philosophically oriented towards peace and war and is represented by Athenian education.

Note:  The new and old education periods were punctuated by the age of Pericles (459 – 431 B.C.), which was a transitional era that was not significant in terms of educational development.

Question:  What were the main characteristics of the new and old Greek education?

Activity:    Name the three classes into which Greek society was stratified.


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