The Gymnasium of Virtue: Education and Culture in Ancient Sparta / Edition 2

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The Gymnasium of Virtue is the first book devoted exclusively to the study of education in ancient Sparta, covering the period from the sixth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D. Nigel Kennell refutes the popular notion that classical Spartan education was a conservative amalgam of "primitive" customs not found elsewhere in Greece. He argues instead that later political and cultural movements made the system appear to be more distinctive than it actually had been, as a means of asserting Sparta's claim to be a unique society.

Using epigraphical, literary, and archaeological evidence, Kennell describes the development of all aspects of Spartan education, including the age-grade system and physical contests that were integral to the system. He shows that Spartan education reached its apogee in the early Roman Empire, when Spartans sought to distinguish themselves from other Greeks. He attributes many of the changes instituted later in the period to one person—the philosopher Sphaerus the Borysthenite, who was an adviser to the revolutionary king Cleomenes III in the third century B.C.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A book of major importance which should transform our understanding of the long-term development of Spartan society.

Journal of Hellenic Studies

Required reading for anyone interested in the study of Greek history and society and in the history of education.

History of Education Quarterly

An excellent book, a model not least for its close attention to the sources and insistence on justifiable historical methodology.

New England Classical Journal

Of great significance for collections in ancient history, history of education, and classics.


Kennell has transformed our understanding of how Sparta's much-debated system of state training evolved through antiquity.

Antony J. S. Spawforth, University of Newcastle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807858745
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Series: Studies in the History of Greece and Rome Series
  • Edition description: 2
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 840,959
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Nigel M. Kennell is a faculty member in the College Year in Athens program at the International Center for Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies in Athens, Greece.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Ch. 1 In the Track of the Famous Agoge 5
Ch. 2 Training Up the Youth 28
Ch. 3 The Contests of the Later Agoge 49
Ch. 4 The Lycurgan Customs 70
Ch. 5 The Inventor of the Agoge 98
Ch. 6 From Artemis to the Dioscuri 115
Conclusion 143
Appendix 1. Testimonia on the Whipping Contest 149
Appendix 2. The Status of Amyclae 162
Notes 171
Bibliography 219
Index 235
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