A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 262 pages of information about A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life.

[*]Herodotus, VI. 27.

49.  The First Stories and Lessons.—­Athens has no kindergartens.  The first teaching which children will receive is in the form of fables and goblin tales from their mothers and nurses,—­usually with the object of frightening them into “being good,”—­tales of the spectral Lamie, or of the horrid witch Mormo who will catch nasty children; or of Empusa, a similar creature, who lurks in shadows and dark rooms; or of the Kabaloi, wild spirits in the woods.  Then come the immortal fables of Aesop with their obvious application towards right conduct.  Athenian mothers and teachers have no two theories as to the wisdom of corporeal punishment.  The rod is never spared to the spoiling of the child, although during the first years the slipper is sufficient.  Greek children soon have a healthy fear of their nurses; but they often learn to love them, and funeral monuments will survive to perpetuate their grateful memory.

50.  The Training of Athenian Girls.—­Until about seven years old brothers and sisters grow up in the Gyneconitis together.  Then the boys are sent to school.  The girls will continue about the house until the time of their marriage.  It is only in the rarest of cases that the parents feel it needful to hire any kind of tutor for them.  What the average girl knows is simply what her mother can teach her.  Perhaps a certain number of Athenian women (of good family, too) are downright illiterate; but this is not very often the case.  A normal girl will learn to read and write, with her mother for school mistress.[*] Very probably she will be taught to dance, and sometimes to play on some instrument, although this last is not quite a proper accomplishment for young women of good family.  Hardly any one dreams of giving a woman any systematic intellectual training.[+] Much more important it is that she should know how to weave, spin, embroider, dominate the cook, and superintend the details of a dinner party.  She will have hardly time to learn these matters thoroughly before she is “given a husband,” and her childhood days are forever over (see section 27).

[*]There has come down to us a charming Greek terra-cotta (it is true, not from Athens) showing a girl seated on her mother’s knee, and learning from a roll which she holds.

[+]Plato suggested in his “Republic” (V. 451 f.) that women should receive the same educational opportunities as the men.  This was a proposition for Utopia and never struck any answering chord.

Meantime her brother has been started upon a course of education which, both in what it contains and in what it omits, is one of the most interesting and significant features of Athenian life.

Chapter IX.  The Schoolboys of Athens.

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A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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