Life of children was in Ancient quite especially for children than what we perceive now in the modern world. It was a hard world, in which the sol and the weather were hard and so were the people. It was a world where war was quite regular and the powerful openly claimed superiority over the weak.
So similarly children were bred in that way, where weakness was despised. It was a very gendered society with very specific gender roles, and education was also on that specific lines.
Ancient Greek Children
Life in ancient Greece was not a bed of roses for babies. They had a hard time surviving with very high infant mortality rates. Many died in the first couple days of life explaining why babies did not receive names until the seventh or tenth day of life.
If a baby was born deformed, it might have been abandoned on a mountain (more often female babies were abandoned than males). Although such babies were raised by slaves and poor people as their own to make up for their own children.
In some Greek cities, there was an unusual practice; Ancient Greek Children were wrapped up in clothes until they were about two years old to ensure straight and strong limbs. The children mostly spent their childhood in the company of their mothers. They were breastfed by their mother and sometimes even by wet nurses. They were even fed in bottles made through pottery. They slept in cradles that were specially made for children of wood or wicker wood.
After five days of their birth they were formally included into the family with a ceremony known as Amphidromia, where the the father carried the child around the hearth which held great meaning for the Ancient Greeks. It was also an offering to the goddess of the hearth, Hestia to pray for her protection.
Growing up in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greek Children spent the majority of their time with their mother and growing up in ancient Greece. While they were being raised, girls would receive their entire education and training in the home with their mothers. Boys, on the other hand, might learn their father’s trade or go to school around the age of seven.
Boys were given more priority in comparison to girls in Ancient Greece just like in many other civilizations. They took their first sips of wine during a festival for the God of vines, Dionysus and also began assisting rituals meant for Gods.
From the age of six, their formal education began in schools. They were required to read Greek texts, and philosophical theories and memorize the poems. They were also trained to become warriors, and for that, they were physically trained to fight. So the boys were able to recite poems and even learned to sing. They were also able to read and write.
From a young age, they started practising in the gymnasium to improve their physicality which was greatly valued for males in ancient Greece. Many became experts in running, jumping, discus, wrestling, and throwing spears as athletes who held great prestige in society.
After stating the age of 18, they were required to mandatory serve the army for 2 years and in some city states they were only allowed to join politics after reached the age of 30.
The girls were not allowed to go to school and their education took place at their homes mostly from their mothers. They were taught to cook, weave and spin. They remained under the protection of their mother until they reached puberty by the age of 12 or 13 when they were required to leave their toys at the temple of Artemis which signaled the end of their childhood.
After attaining the age of puberty they were married off by their father or brothers which included paying a high dowry to the groom.
They had a peculiar ceremony of drowning their children in wine to test their strength as the ones who cried were abandoned to die or made into slaves. They started training their children at the age of 7. They took boys to barracks at that age and would not be allowed to leave until he was 30 years old.
Even girls were given education in weaponry as even women were expected if required. They were prepared to direct slaves as agriculture was a field overseen by the women with the help of the slaves in Sparta.
The children were left in extremely tough conditions and treated harshly to make them tough. They were encouraged to steal but on being caught, they would be whipped without mercy.
Ancient Greek Children’s Games
The kids in ancient Greek had a number of toys to play with, in their pastime. Dolls, rattles, tops, swings, and many other items have been unearthed by archaeologists. As is seen today, those from richer families had a greater assortment of toys, while those from poorer families were expected to work for the family at a much younger age. Evidence also shows that Greeks kept pets such as dogs, pigs, tortoises, and caged birds. One ritual designated for young girls was the agora or swinging ritual.
There were many games common for ancient Greek children like Ephedrismos which was a type of piggyback game, Ostrakinda which included chasing each other. Juggling was another common game that was encouraged to improve their senses and instincts. The Greeks had many ball games like Episkyros but they used pig bladders for a ball instead of rubber like in modern times.
Some other games were:
- Ourania: It was a sort of catching game
- Aprrhaxis: It was a game which bouncing a ball
- Passe-boule: It was sort of passing game resembling modrn day basketball
The social status of a child determined whether life was going to be hard or fun for him/her. Certainly, the life of a child of an aristocrat or citizen was different from the life of a child slave. Lives also varied from one city-state to another.