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The Schoolboys of Athens

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Page 13

The "Ephebi"

 

    The Athenian education then is admirably adapted to make the average lad a useful and worthy citizen, and to make him modest, alert, robust, manly, and a just lover of the beautiful, both in conduct and in art. It does not, however, develop his individual bent very strongly; and it certainly gives him a mean view of the dignity of labor. He will either become a leisurely gentleman, whose only proper self-expression will come in warfare, politics, or philosophy; or—if he be poor—he will at least envy and try to imitate the leisure class.

    By eighteen the young Athenian's days of study will usually come to a close. At that age he will be given a simple festival by his father and be formally enrolled in his paternal deme.[14] His hair, which has hitherto grown down toward his shoulders, will be clipped short. He will allow his beard to grow. At the temple of Aglaurus he will (with the other youths of his age) take solemn oath of loyalty to Athens and her laws. For the next year he will serve as a military guard at the Peiræus, and receive a certain training in soldiering. The next year the state will present him with a new shield and spear, and he will have a taste of the rougher garrison duty at one of the frontier forts towards Boetia or Megara.[15] Then he is mustered out. He is an ephebus no longer, but a full-fledged citizen, and all the vicissitudes of Athenian life are before him.

 

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