Sparta Agoge

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Sparta Agoge

The Spartan Agoge


Plut. Lyc. 18.1Xen. Cont. Lac. 2.9Cartledge, Paul. Spartan Reflections. London: Ducworth, 2001.

The Spartan Krypteia was a special 'secret service.' Only the best of the Spartan students were allowed to join.The job of the Kryptoi was to train students to be assassins and to kill helots to keep them in fear. These special students would be sent alone into helot territory armed with only their cloak and knife, and be required to live in enemy territory for a set length of time.

Boys started attending the agoge at age 7. They were required to live at the school away from their families with the other students until the age of 30 when they finally graduated to the status of full Spartiate.


Spartan students were trained to be the deadliest warriors, regardless of the cost. When they were taken away from their families at the age of seven, they had to learn to live with almost nothing.Each student was only provided with one cloak per year, and was not allowed to wear any shoes. This caused them to become strong and resiliant, especially to cold weather. The students were also kept near the point of starvation, and only fed when they completed a task or assignment. This made them work harder for their goals. Students were encouraged to steal food to keep themselves nourished. This simulated a point in battle where they may be in enemy territory and have to steal food to stay alive. They stole often from the helots who were like slaves to the Spartans.These boys also had to pass a series of ritualistic initiations. One of these initiations required the student to steal cheese from the altar of Artemis Orthea while older graduate students guarded it with whips. The boy who could steal the most cheese showed that he could take the most lashings, proving him to be a great warrior.

How far would you go?There is a legendary story of a Spartan student who stole a live fox and hid it in his cloak. When asked by the elders whether or not he had stolen a fox, the boy denied it over and over again. Instead of confessing that he had stolen the fox, the boy allowed the fox to chew through his stomach beneath the cloak until he dropped dead in front of the elders.


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