GREEK BOYS
     

         The first decision of any father  was whether or not to keep his child.  In Greece (and later in Rome) keeping a child was a conscious choice.  In most cases if the child were a boy, he was kept.  Girls were not so lucky.  Girls were a disappointment, a worry to their fathers.  There was an old Greek saying, "If you have a boy, keep it.  If you have a girl, expose it."  It was perfectly legal for a father to leave his child in some public place (usually a temple) or even in the wilderness outside the city to die.  If a child were to be kept, it would be paraded around the family hearth, the center of the home, and after feasting and sacrificing, named and officially declared a member of the family.
         Boys and girls were educated by their mothers until they were seven or eight years old, and then their lives diverged.  Girls prepared for a life of domesticity, while boys started to attend the schools.  Boys were put under the care of a pedagogue, a male slave or servant who accompanied the boy to and from his classes and beat him if his behavior was less than satisfactory.
         At the schools, which were all private in nature, boys were first taught letters:  reading, writing, basic arithmetic, and recitation.  Homer's works, the
Iliad and Odyssey, were the typical tools for instruction.  A cultured young man would be expected to quote at length from these epic poems.  The Iliad was called the "bible of the Greeks" for the importance they placed on knowledge of the poem. 
         Around the age of thirteen, boys branched out into musical and athletic training.  A music teacher would instruct them in the art of playing the lyre (a six-stringed harp) and singing.  Here again, Homer was used, as the boys were expected to put Homeric passages to music.  The boys received a separate teacher at the gymnasium, one who developed the boy's bodies and health through exercise.

CONTINUE A BOY'S LIFE

LEARN ABOUT THE GYMNASIUM

READ MORE ABOUT HOMER

LEARN ABOUT A GIRL'S LIFE

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ABOVE:  A Young Greek Boy

BELOW:  A Boy and His Grammarian, "Teacher of Letters"