Copyright
Thomas Davidson.

Aristotle and ancient educational ideals online

. (page 3 of 17)
Online LibraryThomas DavidsonAristotle and ancient educational ideals → online text (page 3 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


when this came to be written down, it was termed
"letters." As every free man came to be his own



EDUCATION FOR WORK AND FOR LEISURE 35

minstrel and his own rhapsode, the professional min-
strel and rhapsode disappeared, and the Homeric
poems even, in order to be preserved from oblivion,
were committed to writing by an enlightened tyrant
Pisistratus.

The first portion of the Greek people that attained
a degree of civilization demanding an education for
hours of leisure, was the ^Eolian race, and particularly
the Asiatic portion of it. Accordingly we find that
all the earliest musicians and poets, didactic and lyric,
are .ZEoliaiis Hesiod, Terpander, Arion, Alcaeus,
Sappho, Pittacus, etc. Lesbos seems to have taken
the lead, in this "higher education." The last five
names all belong to that island, which produced also
the earliest Greek historian and prose-writer Hel-
lanicus. But the ^Eolians, though earliest in the
field, were soon outstripped by the other two races, the
Doric and the Ionic. ^Eolian education and culture
never advanced beyond music and lyric poetry. It
knew no drama, science, or philosophy.

The jEolians were followed, almost simultaneously,
by the Dorians and lonians, who pursued two widely
divergent directions. The former borrowed the lyric
education and culture of the ^Eolians, and produced
several lyric poets of distinguished merit Tyrtseus,
Alcman, Ibycus, Stesichorus : nay, they even advanced
far enough to take the first steps in science, philoso-
phy, and dramatic poetry. Pythagoras, Epicharmus,
Sophron, Xenarchus, and Susarion were all Dorians.
But the progress of the race was retarded and finally
checked^ by rigid political institutions of a socialistic
character, which, by suppressing individual initiative,
reduced the whole to immobility.



36 ARISTOTLE

The lonians, on the contrary, borrowing freely from
both jEolians and Dorians, and evolving ever freer and
freer institutions, carried education and culture to a
point which has never been passed, and rarely, if ever,
reached, in the history of our race. And when they
ceased to grow, and decay set in, this was due to ex-
actly the opposite cause to that which stunted them
among the Dorians; namely, to excessive individual-
ism, misnamed liberty. Individualism ruined Athens.

Although education assumed different forms among
different portions of the Greek race, there are certain
features that seem to have been common to all these
forms during the epoch of the " Old Education." Two
of these deserve attention.

First. Education was everywhere a branch of state-
craft, and the State itself was only the highest educa-
tional institution. This was equally true whether the
schools were public, as at Sparta, or private, as at
Athens. Everywhere citizenship was a degree, con-
ferred only upon sons of free citizens, after a satis-
factory examination (8o/a//xWa) .

Second. The stages or grades of education were
everywhere the same, although their limits were not
everywhere marked by the same number of years.
The first, extending usually from birth to the end of
the seventh year, was that of home education; the
second, extending from the beginning of the eighth
year to the end of the sixteenth or, perhaps oftener,
the eighteenth year, was that of school education ; the
third, extending from the beginning of the seventeenth
or nineteenth year to the end of the twentieth (in
Sparta of the thirtieth), was that of college education,



EDUCATION FOR WOKK AND FOR LEISURE 37

or education for the duties of citizenship ; the fourth,
including the remainder of life, was that of university
education, or education through the State, which then
was the only university. At the beginning of the third
period, the young men took their first State examina-
tion, and if they passed it successfully, they received
the degree of Cadet or Citizen-novice (2^/?os) ; but it
was only at the beginning of the fourth period, and
after they had passed a second examination (Soja/uacrt'a
is avS/oas), that they received the degree of Man and
Citizen and were permitted to exercise all the func-
tions of freemen. The State then became, in a very
real sense, their Alma Mater.

In most states, this graded education fell only to the
lot of males, the education of females stopping short
with the first grade, the family, which was regarded
as their only sphere. It was otherwise at Sparta,
Teos, and apparently among the ^Eolians generally.
As a consequence it is only among the j33olians and
Dorians that any poetesses of note appear Sappho,
Corinna, Telesilla, etc. Although, however, woman's
sphere was the family, and she was considered to have
done her duty when she worthily filled the place of
wife, mother, and mistress, there was nothing to pre-
vent her from acquiring the higher education, if she
chose to do so. That she did not often so choose,
seems true ; still there are examples of learned women
even among the Athenians. The daughter of Thucyd-
ides is said to have continued his history after his
death, and, whether the statement be true or not, the
fact that it was made shows that the ability to write
history was not regarded as impossible or surprising
in a woman.



CHAPTEK II

AEOLIAN OR THEBAN EDUCATION

Hesiod is the teacher of most. HERACLITUS.

When thou art dead, thou shalt lie in the earth.

Not even the memory of thee shall be

Thenceforward nor forever ; for thou hast

No share in the Pierian roses ; but

Ev'n in the halls of Hades thou shalt flit,

A frightened shadow, with the shadowy dead.

SAPPHO (to an uneducated woman).

What rustic hoyden ever charms the soul,

That round her ankles cannot kilt her "coats? Id.

THE JEolians appear to have been the earliest of
the Greek races to make any considerable advance in
culture. Their claim to Homer can hardly be sus-
tained; but they certainly produced Hesiod, most of
the greater lyric poets and poetesses, and the first
historian. For a time they bade fair to lead the cul-
ture of Greece. But the promise was not fulfilled.
During the palmy period of Greek history, they were
not only the most uncultured and uncouth of the
Greeks, but they even prided themselves upon their
boorishness of speech and manner,, and derided cul-
ture. In the glorious struggle in which Greece main-
tained the cause of culture and freedom against Persia,
Thebes, then the chief centre of ^Eolianism, sided with
the barbarian, as, indeed, was natural.
38



OR THEBAN EDUCATION 39

Theban education was, of course, a reflex of the
character of the Theban and, indeed, of the Boeotian,
people. Its main divisions were those of Greek edu-
cation generally, Gymnastics and Music; but the
former was learnt solely for athletic purposes, and
the latter mainly for use at banquets and drinking-
bouts, in which the Boeotians found their chief delight.
Letters were studied as little as at Sparta (see p. 47),
and the language of the people remained harsh and
unmusical. Of higher education there was hardly a
trace. The sophists passed Boeotia by. Even Pindar,
who was by birth a Theban, and a sincerely patriotic
one, sought and found recognition anywhere rather
than among his own people. He did not even write
in their dialect.

The reason for this backwardness on the part of the
Boeotian JEolians lay in the fact that they lived, as a
conquering race, in the midst of a people superior to
them in every respect save strength, and could main-
tain their ascendency only by brute force. When this
failed, and the conquered race, which had never for-
gotten Cadmus and its ancient traditions, came to the
front, education and culture found their way even to
Thebes. It was due to this change in political con-
ditions that a Pindar could arise, and it was doubtless
the demand for culture consequent thereupon that
induced certain members of the scattered Pythagorean
school (see p. 54) to seek refuge in Thebes and there
devote themselves to teaching. Among these were
Philolaus 1 and Lysis, the latter of whom was proba-

1 It is worth while to note that it was a passage from Philolaus
that suggested to Copernicus the revolution of the earth round a
centre.

IVERSITY /

e

ICABUtA* ^



40 ARISTOTLE

bly the author of the famous " Golden Words " (see
p. 57). But he has a better claim to fame than this;
for he was the teacher of the bravest and most lovable
man that Greece ever produced Epaminondas.

If any enthusiastic believer in the power of educa-
tion desire to fortify his cause by means of a brilliant
example, he will find none superior to Epaminondas ;
for there can hardly be any question that it was the
earnest, systematic, religious, and moral Pythagorean
training which he received from the aged Lysis, whom
he treated as a father, that made him what he was,
and enabled him to do what he did, which was
nothing less than to place Thebes at the head of
Greece. Thebes rose and fell with Epaminondas. But
that was not all. It was the example of Epaminondas
that kindled the ambition of Philip of Macedon, who
was educated under his eye, and of his far more
famous son, Alexander, who made all Greece a prov-
ince of his empire. Pythagoras, Lysis, Epaminondas,
Philip, Alexander in five brief generations an ear-
nest teacher conquers a world !

From the time of Epaminondas on, Thebes followed
the ordinary course of Greek education.



CHAPTER III
DORIAN OR SPARTAN EDUCATION

Go, tell at Sparta, thou that passest by,
That here, obedient to her laws, we lie.

SIMONIDES (Epitaph on the Three Hundred
who fell at Thermopylse) .

This is a matter for which the Lacedaemonians deserve appro-
bation : they are extremely solicitous about the education of their
youth and make it a public function. ARISTOTLE.

The Lacedaemonians impart to their children the look of wild
beasts, through the severity of the exercises to which they subject
them, their notion being that such training is especially calculated
to heighten courage. Id.

These are so far behind in education and philosophy that they do
not learn even letters. ISOCRATES.

OLD MEN. We were once strong men (youths).

MEN. And we are ; if you will, behold.

BOYS. And we shall be far superior. Spartan Choric Anthem.

They asked no clarion's voice to fire

Their souls with an impulse high :
But the Dorian reed and the Spartan lyre

For the sons of liberty !
So moved they calmly to their field,

Thence never to return,
Save bearing back the Spartan shield,

Or on it proudly borne ! HEMANS.

There was a law that the cadets should present themselves naked
in public before the ephors every ten days; and, if they were well
knit and strong, and looked as if they had been carved and ham-
mered into shape by gymnastics, they were praised; but if their
limbs showed any flabbiness or softness, any little swelling or sus-

41



42 ARISTOTLE

picion of adipose matter due to laziness, they were flogged and
justiced there and then. The ephors, moreover, subjected their
clothing every day to a strict examination, to see that everything
was up to the mark. No cooks were permitted in Lacedaemon but
flesh-cooks. A cook who knew anything else was driven out of
Sparta, as physic for invalids. JULIAN.

EVERY rational system of education is determined
by some aim or ideal more or less consciously set up.
That of the Dorians, and particularly of the Spartans,
may be expressed in one word STRENGTH, which, in
the individual, took the form of physical, endurance,
in the State, that of self-sufficiency (avrap/ceta). A
self-sufficient State, furnishing a field for all the
activities and aspirations of all its citizens, and
demanding their strongest and most devoted exertions
such is the Dorian ideal. It is easy to see what
virtues Dorian education would seek to develop
physical strength, bravery, and obedience to the laws
of the State. Among the Dorians the human being
is entirely absorbed in the citizen. The State is all
in all.

The Dorian ideal realized itself chiefly in two places,
Crete and Sparta. Both these were repeatedly held
up in ancient times as models of well -governed states,
and even Plato puts the substance of his Laws into
the mouth of a Cretan.

About the details of Cretan education we are but
poorly informed. Two things, however, we know:
(1) that Lycurgus, the reputed founder of Spartan
education, was held to have drawn many of his ideas
from Crete, and (2) that the final result of Cretan
education and the same is true of all education that
merges the man in the citizen was, in spite of its



DORIAN OR SPARTAN EDUCATION 43

strictness, demoralizing. The character of the people
was summed up by their poet Epimenides, a contem-
porary of Solon's, in a famous line quoted by St. Paul,
"The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy
bellies."

With regard to Spartan education our information
is much greater, and we may therefore select it as the
type of Dorian education generally.

The Peloponnesian Dorians having, through contact
with the more civilized peoples whom they conquered,
lost much of that rigorous discipline and unquestion-
ing loyalty which made them formidable, were, in the
ninth century B.C., becoming disorganized, so that in
two of the Dorian states they were assimilated by
the native population, the Argives and the Messe-
nians. The same process was rapidly going on in the
third state, Lacedsemon, when Lycurgus, fired with
patriotic zeal, resolved to put an end to it, by restor-
ing among his people the old Dorian military disci-
pline. To prepare himself for this task, he visited
Crete and studied its institutions. On his return he
persuaded his countrymen to submit to a " Constitu-
tion," which ever afterwards went by his name. This
constitution included a scheme of education, whose
aim was a thorough training of the whole of the free
citizens, both male and female, (1) in physical endur-
ance, and (2) in complete subordination to the State.
The former was sought to be imparted by means of a
rigorous and often cruel, system of gymnastics; the
latter, through choric music and dancing, including
military drill. Spartan education, therefore, was
confined to two branches, Gymnastics and Music.



44 ARISTOTLE

Instruction in letters was confined to the merest ele-
ments. Sparta accordingly never produced a poet,
an historian, an artist, or a philosopher of any note.
Even the arrangers of her choruses were foreigners
Tyrtaeus, Terpander, Arion, Alcman, Thaletas,
Stesichorus.

As Spartan education was nothing more or less than
a training for Spartan citizenship, we must preface
our account of it by a few words on the Spartan State.

The government of Sparta was in the hands of a
closed aristocracy, whose sole aim was the mainte-
nance of its own supremacy, as against (1) foreign
enemies, (2) Perioikoi, or disfranchised native citizens,
(3) Helots, or native serfs. To secure this, it formed
itself into a standing army, with a strict military
organization. Sparta, its one abode, was a camp; all
free inhabitants were soldiers. Though they were
compelled to marry, the city contained no homes.
The men and, from the close of their seventh year,
the boys, lived in barracks and ate at public tables
(Phiditia). The women had but one recognized func-
tion, that of furnishing the State with citizens, and
were educated solely with a view to this. No other
virtue was expected of them. Aristotle tells us that
"they lived in every kind of profligacy and in luxury."
Polyandry was common, and, when a woman lost all
her husbands, she was often compelled to enter into
relations with slaves, in order that she might not fail
in her political duty.

Among a people organized on the basis of brute
force, it were vain to look for any of the finer traits
of human nature gentleness, tenderness, sympathy,






DORIAN OR SPARTAN EDUCATION 45

pity, mercy. The mercilessness and cruelty of the
Spartans were proverbial. Perioikoi and Helots incur-
ring the displeasure or suspicion of the authorities
were secretly put to death, without even the form of
a trial. A striking instance of such cruelty is recorded
by Thucydides. The facts are thus stated by Grote
(History of Greece, vol. ii, pp. 376-7) : " It was in
the eighth year of the Peloponnesian War, after the
Helots had been called upon for signal military efforts
in various ways, . . . that the ephors felt especially
apprehensive of an outbreak. Anxious to single out
the most forward and daring Helots, as men from
whom they had most to dread, they issued proclama-
tion that every member of that class who had rendered
distinguished services should make his claim known
at Sparta, promising liberty to the most deserving.
A large number of Helots came forward to claim the
boon: not less than two thousand of them were
approved, formally manumitted, and led in solemn
procession round the temples, with garlands on their
heads, as an inauguration to their coming life of free-
dom. But the treacherous garland only marked them
out as victims for sacrifice : every man of them forth-
with disappeared ; the manner of their death was an
untold mystery."

Spartan education was entirely conducted by the
State, at the expense of the State, and for the ends of
the State. It differed in this respect from nearly
every other system of Greek education. It was divided
into four periods, corresponding respectively to child-
hood, boyhood, youth, and manhood.

(a) CHILDHOOD. As soon as the Spartan child



46 ARISTOTLE

came into the world, the State, through officers ap-
pointed for that purpose, sent to examine it. If it
seemed vigorous, and showed no bodily defect, it was
permitted to live, and forthwith adopted by the State;
otherwise it was carried to the mountains and thrown
over a precipice. The children accepted by the State
were for the next seven years left in charge of their
mothers, but, doubtless, still under State surveillance.
Just how they were trained during these years, we
do not know. We can only guess that they under-
went very much the same process as other Greek chil-
dren, any difference being in the direction of rigor.
As the details of Greek education generally will be
dealt with under the head of Athens, they may be
omitted here.

(&) BOYHOOD. On completing his seventh year,
the Spartan boy was transferred from his mother's
house and care to a public barracks and the direct
tuition of the State. Although the boys were in charge
of a special officer (TrcuSovo/xos), who divided them into
squads and companies, and arranged their exercises
for them, they were nevertheless taught to regard
every grown man as a teacher, and every such man
was expected to correct them promptly and rigorously,
whenever he saw them doing wrong. At the same
time, every boy was expected to form an intimate con-
nection with some one man, who then, to a large extent,
became responsible for his conduct; and, though the
choice in this matter rested with the parties concerned,
it was considered a disgrace in a man, no less than in
a boy, to be without such connection. Though this
arrangement, it is said, often led to lamentable abuses,



DORIAN OR SPARTAN EDUCATION 47

there can be no doubt that it admirably served the
purposes of Sparta. It furnished ever.y boy with a
tutor, who, under the circumstances, 'could hardly fail
to treat him kindly, and who was interested in making
him surpass all other boys in courage and endurance.
This friendly influence of teacher on pupil was some-
thing in which the Greeks at all times strongly be-
lieved, and which formed an important force in all
their education. In Sparta, as in Crete and Thebes,
4t was legally recognized. One of the duties of Spar-
tan " inspirer" (eio-TmjAas or etWv^Aos), as he was
called, was to teach his young friend (amis) to demean
himself properly on all occasions, and to hold his
tongue except when he had something very important
to say. In this way it was that the young Spartans
received their moral education, and acquired that
effective brevity of speech which to this day we call
"laconic."

The formal education of Spartan boys consisted
mainly of gymnastics, music, choric dancing, and
larceny. Their literary education was confined to a
little reading, writing, and finger-arithmetic; every-
thing beyond this was proscribed. And the reasons
for this proscription are not difficult to discover.
Sparta staked everything upon her political strength,
and this involved two things, (1) equality among her
free citizens, and (2) absolute devotion on their part
to her interest, both of which the higher education
would have rendered impossible. Education estab-
lishes among men distinctions of worth quite other
than military, and gives them individual interests
distinct from those of the State. It was the same



48 ARISTOTLE

reason that induced Rome, during the best period of
her history, <to exclude her citizens from all higher
education, which is essentially individual and cosmo-
politan.

The education of the Spartan boys was conducted
mostly in the open air and in public, so that they were
continually exposed to the cheers or scoffs of critical
spectators, to whom their performances were a con-
tinual amusement of the nature of a cock-fight.
Whether the different " inspirers " betted on their own
boys may be doubtful; but they certainly used every
effort to make them win in any and every contest, and
the " inspirer " of a " winning " boy was an envied man.
The result was that many boys lost their lives amid
cheers, rather than incur the disgrace of being beaten.
Inasmuch as the sole purpose of gymnastics was
strength and endurance; of dancing, order; and of
music, martial inspiration, it is easy to see what forms
these studies necessarily assumed ; and we need only
stop to remark that Dorian music received the unqual-
ified approbation of all the great educational writers
of antiquity, even of Aristotle, who had only words
of condemnation for Spartan gymnastics.

There was only one branch of Spartan school-educa-
tion that was not conducted in public, and that was
larceny. The purpose of this curious discipline was
to enable its subjects to act, on occasion, as detectives
and assassins among the ever discontented and rebel-
lious Helots. How successful it was, may be judged
from the incident recorded on page 45. Larceny, when
successfully carried out under difficult circumstances,
was applauded; when discovered, it was severely pun-



DORIAN OR SPARTAN EDUCATION 49

ished. A story is told of a boy who, rather than be-
tray himself, allowed a stolen fox, concealed under
his clothes, to eat out his entrails.

In one respect Spartan education may claim supe-
riority over that of most other Greek states : it was
not confined to one sex. Spartan girls, though appar-
ently permitted to live at home, were subjected to a
course of training differing from that of their brothers
only in being less severe. They had their own exer-
cise-grounds, on which they learnt to leap, run, cast
the javelin, throw the discus, play ball, wrestle, dance,
and sing; and there is good evidence to show that their
exercises had an admirable effect upon their physical
constitution. That the breezy daughters of Sparta
were handsomer and more attractive than the hot-
house maidens of Athens, is a well-attested fact. Many
Spartan women continued their athletic and musical
exercises into ripe womanhood, learning even to ride
spirited horses and drive chariots. If we may believe
Aristotle, however, the effect of all this training upon
their moral nature was anything but desirable. They
were neither virtuous nor brave.

(c) YOUTH. About the age of eighteen, Spartan
boys passed into the class of epheboi, or cadets, and
began their professional training for war. This was
their business for the next twelve years, and no light
business it was. For the first two years they were
called melleirenes, and devoted themselves to learning
the use of arms, and to light skirmishing. They were
under the charge of special officers called bideoi, but
had to undergo a rigid examination before the ephors
every ten days (see p. 41). Their endurance was put



50 ARISTOTLE

to severe tests. Speaking of the altar of Artemis
Orthia, Pausanias says: "An oracle commanded the
people to imbrue the altar with human blood, and
hence arose the custom of sacrificing on it a man
chosen by lot. Lycurgus did away with this practice,
and ordained that, instead, the cadets should be
scourged before the altar, and thus the altar is covered
with blood. While this is going on, a priestess stands


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryThomas DavidsonAristotle and ancient educational ideals → online text (page 3 of 17)