Sparta – An Antique Educational Model?

Sparta – An Antique Educational Model?

Whenever the spirit of times comes to the limits of its development or cannot cope to the prevailing conditions , such as in our postmodern times, where the elites have failed fundamentally in politics, economy and culture, the public will look for “real” models ; as for example with historical events in the form of outstanding deeds of individual personalities or the creation of community. One such myth represents, e.g., the city-state of Sparta, who can fascinate as a special place in his military valor today, like no other phenomenon in ancient Greece.

The tremendous force that had to be applied in many of this city-state allegation battles, founded to an essential part in the unique system of education that helped Sparta to its centuries-long, unchallenged supremacy in Greece.

Many ancient observers sought an explanation for this unprecedented success, for the invincibility of the Spartan army and stability of its constitution and found them in a unique internal order, in a special loyalty to the laws, in a strictly regulated civil life and in our day almost totalitarian-style education of youth.

What were these educational criteria in each of which said the historian Plutarch, in ancient times: “No one was allowed to live like he wanted, in the city the Spartans had a camp of a defined set of lifestyle and employment, which was designed on the public welfare, because they thought they belonged entirely to the native country and not to themselves. ”

In general, the Spartan community rigorously regulated the life of the people. The aim of education (Agoge) was to educate citizens loyal to state. This unconditional loyalty led Sparta to the previously described position of power in ancient Hellas.

Thus, even newborns were presented to a Commission, which then decided whether the child could stay alive. Appeared the child not “viable”, because it was too weak, it was exposed and starved almost always miserably. The accepted child was granted a piece of land for the future.

Up to 8 age the boys lived with their families. They were raised by nurses. Even here the resilience began for later life in the community. Obedience, fearlessness, and mastery of one’s own feelings were taught.

They were then included in a group, called a “herd”. Here they lived in the community, were trained in martial disciplines and bowed themselves unconditionally to the Eirenes, the commanders of the group. Again, it was to toughen the kids. Thus, they often had to carry out in any season naked through the exercises. Their dwellings were more than simple. Breaches of discipline were punished by beating. The boys were also forced to steal their food. Who was caught, was beaten. Not because he had stolen, but because he had let himself be captured.

The boys were also trained in debating. The speeches should be short and to the point, hence the term “laconic” speech and language.

The coexistence of the boys, their binding to adult men led often to homoerotic connections that were tolerated by society and religion and promoted. Their cultural origin had this kind of Spartan discipline well from the time of the Dorian invasion. Because a strain could only survive if his warriors were superior by consisting of a special courage and camaraderie.

The inheritance of virtue (Arete) from father to son for the existence of society is of particular importance. Thus , it was common for the older warrior as a mentor to the younger men were standing to his side. The elder was the tutor of the young, and also the father of the young man’s equal before the law. This relation was used for the military by the two men fighting side by side.

From the youthful education in the Agoge the young man moved into a so-called tent community, which should also contribute to a solid group bonding. Up to 60 age the man was for the military then he was a vote in the People’s Assembly.

A hallmark of the tent communities (Syskenien) were the common meals of their members. This tent communities were also the smallest military unit. The community also decided who was admitted or was excluded. Who could no longer afford its financial contributions to the community , was as excluded. The Spartan then lost his civil rights. Even cowardice in war could lead to exclusion.

Some of these rigorous education ideas may be right in today , where real authorities are deficient in present adolescence, and give young men some guidance for their actions. However, to make the transition to maturity of the adults in a successful manner, it seems important to provide the youth with a high degree of safety, reliability and antecedents of a regular world.


Source: Early Sparta / Leonidas at Thermopylae / Louvre



One Response to “Sparta – An Antique Educational Model?”
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