Stephen Hodkinson

(University of Nottingham, Department of Classics)

Some recent controversies in the education of Spartan boys

The predominant modern image of the upbringing of Spartan boys envisages a publicly organised educational system, unique within the classical Greek world, dedicated primarily to military training. Over the last 15 years this image has come under increasing challenge in specialist works, perhaps not well-known outside the field of Spartan studies, which have questioned both the extent of state control over a boy’s upbringing and its military orientation. These new interpretations have been grounded in a more critical approach to the nature and quality of the ancient evidence and in a greater appreciation of how standard academic accounts of Spartan education have been influenced by the modern intellectual and political climate. Not unsurprisingly, these revisionist arguments have not gone unchallenged by proponents of the more traditional views; and the revisionists themselves are far from unanimous on certain crucial questions. My paper will outline developments in the historiography of Spartan education since the 1960s, discuss the main issues involved in current controversies, and assess the current state of debates about the character of the education of Spartan boys.

26 November 2010