What was it like to grow up in ancient Sparta?
Growing Up Spartan
Growing up in Sparta was not easy. The first thing you had to do was to survive the beginning of your life. The most important thing for all Spartan children was to grow up to be a good soldier, so the city’s leaders inspected every baby soon after birth. If a baby wasn’t healthy and strong, they would take it up into the mountains, and they would leave it there to die.
Both boys and girls trained as soldiers. Their training began when they were very young. Girls exercised so they would have strong bodies. They also competed in foot races, and they learned gymnastics. They had sword fights, and they learned to wrestle.
Spartan boys lived in training camps. When a boy turned seven, he left his family and went to live with other boys his age. The boys trained together and learned how to fight.
Spartan boys were expected to become brave soldiers. They learned to suffer pain without complaining. They slept on hard beds and washed in cold water. They marched without shoes. They did not have enough food, so they learned to go hungry.
As they grew older, boys had to pass tests to show that they were strong and brave. One of the hardest tests happened at a festival that was held at the temple of Artemis. Artemis was the goddess of hunting. Some food would be put on the steps of the temple, and a group of guards would line up in front of the food. Then the boys had to try and get the food by running through the line of guards. As the boys ran through the line, the guards whipped them until they were bleeding.
In another test, the boys had to go outside the city and live alone for several weeks without food or shelter. Their job during this time was to kill runaway slaves. Some boys died during these tests.
Text excerpts from Start-to-Finish Core Content “Daily Life in Ancient Greece” by Wendy Frey. Copyright© 2005.
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