Constitution of the Lacedaimonians


Xenophon, creator; Scripta minora; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, translator; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, editor, translator; Bowersock, G. W, (Glen Warren), 1936-, editor, translator

When a boy ceases to be a child, and begins to be a lad, others release him from his moral tutor and his schoolmaster: he is then no longer under a ruler and is allowed to go his own way. Here again Lycurgus introduced a wholly different system.

For he observed that at this time of life self-will makes strong root in a boy’s mind, a tendency to insolence manifests itself, and a keen appetite for pleasure in different forms takes possession of him. At this stage, therefore, he imposed on him a ceaseless round of work, and contrived a constant round of occupation.

The penalty for shirking the duties was exclusion from all future honours. He thus caused not only the public authorities, but their relations also to take pains that the lads did not incur the contempt of their fellow citizens by flinching from their tasks.

Moreover, wishing modesty to be firmly rooted in them, he required them to keep their hands under their cloaks, to walk in silence, not to look about them, but to fix their eyes on the ground. The effect of this rule has been to prove that even in the matter of decorum the male is stronger than the female sex.

At any rate you would expect a stone image to utter a sound sooner than those lads; you would sooner attract the attention of a bronze figure; you might think them more modest even than a young bride in the bridal chamber.[*](Longinus and Stobaeus quote this with ὀφθαλμοῖς, eyes, in place of θαλάμοις, bridal chambers; and the former censures the use of παρθένων for κορῶν, meaning pupils of the eye.) When they have taken their place at a public meal, you must be content if you can get an answer to a question.

Such was the care that he bestowed on the growing lads.