Athenian and Spartan Ways of Life

Sparta 600-100BC


...A farmer did not have the right to bring up his child. but had to carry it to a certain place where the elders of the tribe judged the child. If they thought it well built and strong, they ordered the farmer to bring it up. But if it was mis-shapen, they sent it away to be exposed on the side of a nearby mountain. They considered that if a child did not start with health and strength, it was better for both itself and for the state that it did not live at all.

Nor was each man allowed to educate and bring up his son as he chose. As soon as a boy was seven years of age, he was taken away from his parents and put into an army company. Here a superintendent of the boys was appointed. He was one of the bravest and the best-born men of the state. The boys looked to him for orders, obeyed his commands, and endured his punishments, so that even in childhood they learned to obey.

They learned to read and write, but all of the rest of their education was meant to teach them to obey with cheerfulness, to endure labors, and to win battles...

Lycurgus, a Spartan leader, did not allow citizens to leave the country at will and wander in foreign lands. where they would be put into contact with foreign habits and learn to imitate the untrained lives found in other countries. Neither did he allow strangers in Sparta who were not there for a useful purpose. He feared that they might teach the people some mischief...


The Athenian Way of Life

Pericles, an Athenian leader, delivers a funeral oration for those Athenians who died defending their city during the Peloponesian Wars with Sparta:

...Before I praise the dead I should like to point out by what principles of action we rose to power, and under what institutions and through what manner of life our empire became great.

...It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and the few. But while the law secures equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as a reward of merit...

...Our city is thrown open to the world and we never expel a foreigner or prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face...when the hour comes, we can be as brave as those who never allow themselves to rest...

...We are lovers of the beautiful, yet with economy, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness...To avow (admit) poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect the State because he takes care of his own household... We alone regard a man who takes no interest in public affairs, not as harmless, but as a useless character.