Ancient Greece was famous for its educators like Plato, Sophists and Isocrates who are known and studied even today.

Schools began to be established by the 5th century BC, before which education was supposed to have been given by private educators.

Education was very important, especially for upper class males, which was considered to be a mark of prestige. War was the first prior and the best way to fame but along with rhetoric and oratory was also an important method to gain fame and popularity. Leaders like Pericles were famous for their rhetorical skills which were a direct result of their educational training. Even Philip called on Aristotle to educate his son Alexander to become respectable and prestigious among the Greeks.

The Ancient Greek Education System was different for boys and girls. The style of life was different in the different states of Greece. Athens was the most flourished state of Greece as far as the education system was concerned.

The Athenians considered themselves superior to everyone else. Spartans were concerned more about education in the art of warfare. They were brave people and had a powerful military system.

Education to Boys

The male citizens of the state were well trained in arts. The young people were trained so that they could face both waves of peace as well as war conditions. There were private schools throughout the state. Until the age of six or seven boys received education at home. Either their mothers taught them or they were taught by a male slave serving the house.


After the boys attained the age of 7 they were sent to elementary school. They studied in these schools until they were 13 or 14 years of age.

They were also given training in physical education. Gymnastics were taught to these boys in school. Sports were given equal importance in the schools. They were taught to run, jump, wrestle and also boxing. The boys had singing classes in school.

There they were taught the poems of Homer, they were taught how to read, and write, they were taught how to do public speaking, solve mathematics etc. in middle school they were taught science, math and how the government machinery functions.

A Greek School in Ancient Athens

Books were read in those times. Therefore the subjects were read out loudly by the teachers. The boys memorized everything and had to rely on memory to reproduce them later. They also made use of writing tablets and rulers while learning subjects. Those who were poor could not carry on with their education after they were 13 or 14 years old.

They took up the job of an apprentice in a trade. The boys from well-to-do families sought education from the great philosophers of Greece. People who enlightened their minds were the great philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Education of Girls

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 and were then married off with a dowry by the male members of the society.

Ancient Athenian Education

Old Education

In classical Athens, education focused on two things- physical and intellectual. Physical education was considered very important as a good physique was an element of beauty for ancient Greek males. They would start their physical training at the age of seven at the gymnasium along with their elementary education.

The students used to learn Greek classical texts, dance, music, philosophy and Poetry. Both were considered equally important for the development of a child. This system was also known as the old education.

Higher Education

From about 420 BC, under the influence of philosophers like Socrates and also the Sophistic movement, a new Higher education became prominent. In this system, intellectual capabilities were being held in greater value than physical qualities which even caused great controversies among the Athenians.

It focused more on reason and logic as their framework and subjects like mathematics, astronomy, harmony, rhetoric and harmonics flourished. This can be said to be a reason for the great Athenian achievements in the field of science, art, literature, dramas, etc. in the classical Age.

Ancient Spartan Education

The Spartan system was quite different from the other Greek system of education, especially from Athenians. Their main aim was to develop physical and military skills, and getting to be a part of the Spartan phalanx was considered to be the ultimate goal. Their education schools were similar to a Military boot camp which was referred to as Agoge.

Intellectual activities like reading and writing were kept to a minimum as they believed it led to softening of the citizens which could lead to degeneration of the spartan ways.

The spartan males began training in this from the age of 7 when they were removed from their families to live in the barracks. They stayed here under strict discipline and practised extreme physical training up to the age of 12. Living in this was hard to acquaint with hardships and stealing was encouraged.

Along with physical training, teamwork and bonding were stressed. They were taught to fight as a unit rather than as an individual, and they were acquainted with all the military tactics of the famed Spartan army. After graduating they were known as Ephebe and were expected to join fighting groups and continue their physical training until the age of 22 when they were included in the Spartan army.

Spartan Women

The Spartan women also received formal education in contrast to other Greek states where girls were forbidden in educational spaces. They received physical training and learned to run, wrestle, throw discus and javelins. Apart from physical training they also learned to sing, dance and play instruments. They were often trained to become future mothers and become strong to build another strong future Spartan soldier.

6 Facts about Ancient Greek education