Today I shall dwell on Sparta as a preamble and keep the meatier part dealing with Athens for next week. This in no way implies that the former does not deserve our attention. Far from it as we shall see below and as borne out by current research being carried out. A forthcoming book (5), for example, is likely to bring to the fore the revival of traditional Spartan discipline and martial values in the early Hellenistic period and call for a re-evaluation of its contribution to the final development of Greek education.
Owing to the very conditions of life to which it subjected its citizens, namely the defence and expansion of the fatherland, Sparta could not but place a premium on the warrior type at the expense of any other consideration. It was an odd educational paradigm which we can label conservative, totalitarian by its very nature and bound not to rise above the pragmatic, the ‘here and now’.
Frugality, fortitude, strict obedience of one’s superiors, subservience of individual aspirations to those of the city state were the rule. The Greek historian/moralist Polybius (c.200- c.120 B.C.) highlights these traits in the following terms: “As for learning they had just what was absolutely necessary. All the rest of their education was calculated to make them subject to command, to endure labour, to fight and to conquer.” Monroe (6) describes it as an education that consisted essentially of a specific training in definite practical activities with no place for instruction of a literary character.
Tellingly, in Homeric times, i.e. between 900 and 700 B.C when the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed, the ideal type which was sought after was the wily Odysseus, ‘the man of wisdom and man of action’. There was simply no place for the literary element: Odysseus’s ingenuity was equalled only by   his practical skill and ability to fight.
Spartan children and young men were taught that patriotism was the overriding principle to go by; and lying, for example, should not cause any compunction as long as national interest was at stake. The hardy, temperate and physically equipped Spartan youth was illiterate and innumerate, and did not feel culturally deprived, so long as he did not live far away from home for any length of time. Simply because he was conditioned right from the cradle to 30 +.
The state controlled absolutely every phase of his life by means of a graded system. Entrusted to his mother from birth to 7 for strict home training, he then underwent communal living and training under the paedonomus until the age of 12. For the next 6 years he was supervised by the elders, and the city even appointed an ‘inspector of youth’ for that purpose. From 18 to 20 he joined the ephebi (cadets) in view of strict military training to complement the physical training of the previous period.  Compelled to marry at 20, he was not allowed to cohabit with his wife until he was 30. During this time he served as supervisor/trainer of younger boys and adolescents. Even at 30 + when he became a fully grown citizen he went on residing in the public barracks, eating at the common table, serving as a teacher of the youth and ready to defend the fatherland, ”faring the same as the humblest or the noblest in all the necessities and comforts of life” (Monroe). It is interesting to note that this cutting out is featured in Plato’s Republic.
How girls fared
As male children were especially important for a militarist state, the preparation of girls for motherhood required some gymnastics and physical training as well. Boyd (7) notes: “A distinctive feature of the Spartan system that deserves mention was the attention paid to the training of the women. Elsewhere in Greece the girls were brought up in the seclusion of the home and received no education outside the sphere of domestic occupations. » Endowed with a clearer view of the value of education – we must reckon – , the Spartans allowed them to live a free outdoor life, and trained them in much the same way as they trained the boys in order that they might be worthy mothers of brave and resolute men. Interestingly girls had exercise grounds of their own where they learnt to jump and run, play ball, throw the javelin, wrestle, dance and sing, just like the boys. Instead of being segregated in packs, the girls were allowed to stay at home and their exercises were comparatively less demanding. It is a tribute to the effect of this training that the Spartan women enjoyed the same high reputation as nurses and mothers among the other Greeks as the Spartan men did as soldiers.
At the same time the preparation of girls for motherhood invites the following observation. It anticipates a similar common view held in the 18th century when for instance Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as complementary to the education of Émile, educates Sophie with the sole intention of making her a good wife and mother. Thus the family existed as a unit to produce children: it had a merely reproductive function (to use a term coined by many 20th century sociologists and psychologists commenting on the function of the modern family as they saw it in a broader perspective informed by change. Besides, we must reckon that matters could not have been otherwise in a relatively small community (probably numbering no more than 9000 families at their most flourishing time) with an agriculture based economy. Sparta was also shut off from the outside world by the high mountains to the north and by the rock-bound coast on the south.
Assessing Spartan education
Xenophon and Aristotle differed in their appreciation of the Spartan educational scheme. The former, quoting the Spartan chronicler Lycurgus, was full of praise for it while the latter, dissatisfied with its purely utilitarian aspect, saw in it a contradiction of his ideal aim of education as producing ultimate happiness. He also stated that if the system had succeeded for the men whom it had made temperate and hardy, it was an utter failure for the women who were intemperate and much given to luxury. No wonder this situation offended against the Greek virtues of harmony and moderation. All in all such fulsome vigour and institutional conservatism as prevailed among the Spartans were the very cause of their failure to meet the wholesome needs of human nature.
This ‘model’ was destined to be short-lived. It is no surprise then that Aristotle complained of the licence of the Lacedaemonian women as defeating the intention of the Spartan Constitution. Also Bowen (8) recalls that such scant leisure as the youths had was devoted solely to the task of equipping them as brave warriors. So we have to look elsewhere (in Athens) for a validation of what Monroe sees as the essence and significance of Greek education.