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.
city.  It is at length his chief thought, almost his entire life.  A very large part of the loyalty which an educated man of a later age will divide between his home, his church, his college, his town, and his nation, the Athenian lad will sum up in two words,—­“my polis”; i.e. the city of Athens.  His home is largely a place for eating and sleeping; his school is not a great institution, it is simply a kind of disagreeable though necessary learning shop; his church is the religion of his ancestors, and this religion is warp and woof of the government, as much a part thereof as the law courts or the fighting fleet; his town and his nation are alike the sovran city-state of Athens.  Whether he feels keenly a wider loyalty to Hellas at large, as against the Great King of Persia, for instance, will depend upon circumstances.  In a real crisis, as at Salamis,—­yes.  In ordinary circumstances when there is a hot feud with Sparta,—­no.

62.  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.[*] 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 Peireus, 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.[+] 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.

[*]One of the hundred or more petty townships or precincts into which Attica was divided.

[+]These two years which the ephebi of Athens had to serve under arms have been aptly likened to the military service now required of young men in European countries.

Chapter X. The Physicians of Athens.

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