Education in Ancient Greece

Education played a significant role in ancient Greek life since the founding of the poleis till the Hellenistic and Roman period.

With origins lying on the homeric and the aristocratic tradition, education was vastly "democratized" in the 5th century BC, influenced by the Sophists, Plato and Isocrates. In the Hellenistic period, education in a gymnasium was considered an inexctricable prerequisite for participation in the Greek culture.

The Athenian Ephebeia

In Athens, adolescents were required to pass a bi-annual training in order to become citizens called "ephebeia". After the battle of Chaeronia, when a major reform was undertook by Lycurgus, ephebeia became compulsory for all Athenian to-be-citizens Lycurgus, "Against Leocrates", [ LXXVI] ] . There is no accordance among historians as to if there were any timocratic criteria for acceptance in the body of the ephebes in any of the phases of the institution. Besides Lycurgus' evidence , there is no such information concerning the time c. 325 in the relevant chapter of Constitution of the AtheniansAristoteles, Constitution of the Athenians, ]


A non-negligible aspect of education was consisted of close interpersonal relationships and telling pederasty. Pederasty's great importance was due to the fact that education provided by teachers was mainly technical and, therefore, the young man's moral formation was relying on his erastes. In the age of 15-18, same sex "eros" with a mature man, as the par excellence field of emulation, was related to traditional heroic education. Homosexual educational bonds between females were restricted within private clubs, like the one around Sappho.


The most known exception of the common educational system is that of Sparta, a polis that maintained till the Roman age the harsh military agoge training system for boys and girls in the same form as it was created in the 6th century BC.



Primary sources (Greek)

*. See original text in [ Perseus program] .
* Lycurgus, Contra Leocratem.

econdary sources


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