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
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
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
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
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.