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Training of the Youth

The training of Youth

 

As soon as a child was born in Sparta, the mother would wash it with wine, in order to make sure that it was strong. If the child was weak, it would die soon. Later it was brought by his father to the elders, who inspected carefully the newborn infant. If they found that the child was deformed or weakly, they threw it into Kaiada, the so called Apothetae, a chiasm at a cliff, of the mount Taygetos.
Until the age of seven the child was reared by his mother, who did not use the special cloths for children (phaskia) in order not to deform the body or make the child nervous or stubborn. They also made sure to remove everything around him, that it will make the child feel fear, disgust or cry.
Spartan women were so famous for the rearing of children, that they were hired by rich families, as for example the Spartan woman Amelia, who nursed the Athenian Alkibiades.
When the child completed the age of seven, it was taken from his mother and given to the state. A rigorous discipline and mainly military type education, the so-called Agoge, commenced, lasting twelve years.
The boys enrolled in one of the many troops (the Ageles), which was under the supervision of a senior Spartan and at thirteen under the leadership of a prudent and brave youth, called Eirena ,supervised by an official (Paidonomos) and were drilled in gymnastics, running, jumping, throwing of spear and discus, and also taught to endure pain and hardship, hunger, thirst, cold, fatigue and lack of sleep. They were walking without shoes, bathed at the cold waters of the river Eurotas and were dressed winter and summer, with the same piece of cloth, which the state gave them once a year. They were not using blankets and were sleeping on top of straws and reeds, which they were cutting without knives from the banks of the river Eurotas.
Their main meal was a broth (melanas zomos), but they were encouraged to steal food, to compensate for the meager portion they were given, but if they were caught, they were punished. They were eating also a lot of honey. For one whole month, before they finished their training, they were exercising and feeding themselves exclusively with honey (month of honey).
As for proper education, they were taught only the basics of how to read and write and to waste no words speaking to the point (Laconizein). They also learned military poems, war songs, how to dance and recited Homer.
The main purpose of Agoge was to discipline the youth. Once a year, they tested them for their endurance in front of the altar of Orthia Artemis, in the game of stealing cheeses whipping them severely. The ones who withstood this event, in which not a few died, without moans and cries, they crowned with wreathes.
As for the girls, they were also educated in classes under a similar system, but without much rigor and also took part at public competitions as the boys. Their education was ended when they married.
At the age of twenty, when the Agoge ended, the military service of the Spartan begun. He would join compulsory one of the dining messes or clubs (pheiditia, syssitia), which were composed from about fifteen members (one of Lykourgos laws) and he will eat and sleep at public barracks, until the age of sixty. At twenty, most of the men and women will also get married.
At the age of thirty, the Spartan will become citizen with full rights and duties and he would be able to take part in the assembly of the people (the Apella) and hold public office.

 
Spartans in hunting

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