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Greek/Ancient Greek classrooms


QUESTION: Hello Michael,

Not a question of language but of culture, I don't automatically assume you are better informed of your own ancient culture than I am of my own (even much less ancient). Still, I'm hoping you can answer my question.

Certain notable aspects of Spartan culture aside, I'm aware that women in ancient Greece as a whole were little more than slaves. Kept at home, weaving and cooking, they had in particular, no political power. I'm assuming that this state of affairs extended also to their education--which is to say they were given none; but am I wrong about that?  Did, for instance and possibly, women of the nobility or of the merely wealthy receive any sort of a formal (classroom) education?

In short, what are the possibilities that an ancient Greek female child would ever find oneself in a classroom?


ANSWER: Hello Bud,

thank you for your question and interest. I wouldn't answer as good as a historian but I can give you some ideas through my current knowledge. I checked up some famous women, too.

No political power shows, of course, what kind of position was attributed to women in politics, whereas education is a completely different matter. Let's say it was a kind of regulation or tradition or whatever.
Now concerning the education; I'll put it straightforward: can you cook, weave, sing, dance, or possibly play a musical instrument? Maybe you can, but you still have to learn them from someone, don't you.

Due to the fact that history is written by events of war, it is actually androcratic. No women are seen anywhere, although there were there, in history. Education in Ancient Greece was a matter of money. It was private anyway, so if one had enough money, they would send their boys or even girls to a teacher. There was a tradition, of course, regarding what a girl had to learn. Rudiments of education were given by a girl's mother, particularly on household matters. Those who could pay a teacher, sent their daughters to learn music (guitar, singing), dancing, or even writing and philosophy. Iamblichus of Chalcis (3rd century AD) tells us about famous women of the Pythagorian school, among which were Theano, Perictione, Philtys, Timycha, Myllia, Boeo, Cheilonis and many others. Pythagoras himself was taught ethics by the high-priestess of Delphi, Themistocleia! Then, in the Epicurean school we have the names of Antheia, Leontion, Erotion, and from Plato's Academy - the university of Ancient Greece - the names of Lastheneia and Axiothea, that have survived.

It was, after all, a matter of social class whether a woman would receive higher education, whereas almost all women learnt something from their mothers. And to answer your question on what the possibilities were for a female child to find herself in a classroom, I would say - from a personal estimation - something like 10-20% although it might be quite difficult to estimate.

Hope this helped a bit. Have a nice day.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again Michael,

Your comments are convincing. I was hoping that would be the case. This leaves only one, further and specific issue unanswered. I imagine that as a linguist it could well be beyond your knowledge. If so, perhaps you know of someone closer to the field of ancient Greek History?

As for the actual question:

So many of the ancient world cultures being similar, I'm assuming, off-hand, that, much like (say) the Arab cultures, whereas boys and girls were at, say, eight or above, educated separately, those younger were schooled together--in even the same classrooms. Again, I'm ready to be wrong, but I'm hoping I'm right.


Hi again Bud,

this is really outside my expertise and, unfortunately, I cannot offer something concrete. I don't happen to know any historians - at least from the other departments of this site - but I believe that you will find someone. Apologies for this. Wish you a nice evening.



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Michael Barkas


I provide assistance in linguistic, literary topics of Greek and Latin covering, thus, the following fields: translation, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etymology, morphology, semantics and interpretations etc.


Studies: University of the Aegean, Dept Rhodes Friedrich Wilhelm Universitšt Bonn

Magister Artium (Archeology/Linguistics) Bachelor (Latin/English/Greek)

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