Children in most of ancient Greece started their education at age seven. In Sparta, boys were given military training from ages seven to twenty to prepare them for service in the army. Girls also were required to train physically. They believed strong women produced strong babies.
In Athens, poor children did not go to school. They were needed around their homes to help their family make a living. Middle-class boys might go to school for only three to four years. For their lessons, the students used a wax-covered board with a stylus to carve out letters in the wax. When completed, the wax was smoothed over again and reused. The subjects they learned were reading, writing, basic math, music, and physical training. At the age of eighteen, most boys were required to join the army for two years of training.
After military training, boys from wealthy families studied under a sophist. Known as a “wisdom seller,” a sophist charged a fee to teach subjects such as public speaking or rhetoric. In Athens and other democracies, public speaking and persuasion were highly prized skills. Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, believed it was unethical to take money for teaching young people. He believed the pursuit of knowledge was more important than the art of speaking.
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