The Schoolboys of Athens
It is a great day for an Athenian boy when he is given a pedagogue. This slave (perhaps purchased especially for the purpose) is not his teacher, but he ought to be more than ordinarily honest, kindly, and well informed. His prime business is to accompany the young master everywhere out-of-doors, especially to the school and to the gymnasium; to carry his books and writing tablets; to give informal help upon his lessons; to keep him out of every kind of mischief; to teach him social good manners; to answer the thousand questions a healthy boy is sure to ask; and finally, in emergencies, if the schoolmaster or his father is not at hand, to administer a needful whipping. A really capable pedagogue can mean everything to a boy; but it is asking too much that a purchased slave should be an ideal companion. Probably many pedagogues are responsible for their charges' idleness or downright depravity. It is a dubious system at the best.
The assigning of the pedagogue is simultaneous with the beginning of school days; and the Athenians are not open to the charge of letting their children waste their time during possible study hours. As early as Solon's day (about 590 B.C.) a law had to be passed forbidding schools to open before daybreak, or to be kept open after dusk. This was in the interest not of good eyesight, but of good morals. Evidently schools had been keeping even longer than through the daylight. In any case, at gray dawn every yawning schoolboy is off, urged on by his pedagogue, and his tasks will continue with very little interruption through the entire day. It is therefore with reason that the Athenian lads rejoice in the very numerous religious holidays.
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