6.2 History of Education: Can you give an analysis of the ancient Spartan educational system?

Chapter  6


6a ii). Analyze the educational system in ancient Sparta

Education in Sparta

Spartan education represented the old Greek education and was regulated by the Constitution of Lycurgus (850-800 B.C). The constitution established a military socialist state with state-controlled education to serve the needs of the various social military institutions in Sparta.

The city-state of Sparta was situated in the middle of a hostile conquered people who greatly outnumbered the Spartans, both in and outside the polis. As an indication of this disproportion, by about ninth century B.C. there were about nine thousand Spartan citizens against two hundred and fifty thousand non-citizens (a ratio of 1:28). Due to this, the main objective of Spartan education was to produce warriors for the survival of society. It was designed to instill and develop obedience and loyalty in Spartan youth and was highly paternalistic.

The paedonomus or superintendent was charged with the duty of educating Spartan youth.  At birth, infants were exposed to ice and snow   in the mountains to weed out the weaklings.  At the age of seven years,  boys began to live in barracks where they were given small ratios, bathed  in cold water and received beatings from elders.

Life in the barracks emphasized harsh existence. Educational activities included drills and gymnastics with a little informal training in intellectual education in the form of  basic  language.  Discipline  was harsh.

Between the age of 18 and 20, the boys became ephebi or cadet- citizens and underwent vigorous military training. From age twenty to thirty, they were posted to serve at border points. At age thirty  they became warriors, full citizens and could marry but continue to lead a communal life in the barracks. Women received gymnastic training at home aimed at producing mothers of strong and brave warriors.

Spartan education developed no art, literature, philosophy or science. They developed an education that produced physical strength, endurance, stamina, and strength of character, loyalty and patriotism.


Today, the word “Spartan” makes an image of discipline, obedience,  loyalty and hand-to-mouth existence.  In politics, it is derogatory to refer  to a regime “Spartan”.

Note:              The importance of the environment – geographical, social, political in influencing the kind of an education any particular society adopts to fulfil its needs.

Question:       What were the main stages in the education of Spartan youth?

Activity:         Look up the word Sparta in the dictionary and draw parallels between a modern and an ancient Spartan.


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