Pandora’s stories: The agoge

You are very lucky to live in Athens, especially you Theodoros, for in Sparta your life would be very different.

In Sparta they have the agoge (ἀγωγή) which is a rigorous state education and training regime compulsory for all male Spartan citizens from the age of seven, except for the firstborn son in the ruling houses. The training involves learning stealth, cultivating loyalty to the Spartan group, military training (including pain tolerance), hunting, dancing, singing and social preparation.

The aim of the system is to produce physically strong males to serve in the Spartan army. It encourages conformity, the importance of the Spartan state over personal interest, and generates the future elites of Sparta. The men will become the ‘walls of Sparta’ because Sparta is the only Greek city with no defensive walls. Discipline is very strict and the males are encouraged to fight amongst themselves to determine the strongest member of the group.

Although some Greeks admire the system, and many aristocratic families from other cities vie to send their sons to Sparta to participate in the agoge for varying periods of time, I would not want to lose you. There is more to life than the army, and who would want to be given one cloak a year and be deliberately starved? In Athens we prefer to encourage free-thinking and debate. You wouldn’t want to be a ‘thigh-shower’ would you, Chloe?

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