As a rule schools as we know them today didn't exist in the Roman era and there was no free public education. Education for the most part was in the hands of scholarly people, known as "pedagogues," who set themselves up as schoolmasters in private houses and enrolled pupil boarders. In most cases a "school" consisted of a single teacher who taught all the subjects.vBoys of wealthy parents were tutored in mythology, Greek language, literature and rhetoric. Girls generally did not receive a formal education, and when they did it was by private tutors who came to their homes. At Greek gymnasiums students studied the "seven liberal arts" (arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, grammar, dialectic (logic) and rhetoric). Romans adopted a similar curriculum.

It was estimated that about 10 percent of the population of the city of Rome was literate. This means that when the city was at its height with around 1 million people about 900,000 were illiterate. The Romans performed various exercises to improve their memory. The elder Seneca used to have his student recite poetry to him and then would read it back wards. St. Augustine had a friend that could recite the hole text of Virgil backwards.

Education among the Romans, though not usually endowed by the state, was very general and was highly appreciated. Its main features were derived from the Greeks. It was intended to develop all the mental powers, and to train a man for public life. Children—both boys and girls—began to attend school at six or seven years of age. The elementary studies were reading, writing, and arithmetic. The children were tempted to learn the alphabet by playing with pieces of ivory with the letters marked upon them. They were taught writing by a copy, set upon their tablets; and arithmetic by means of the calculating board (abacus) and counters (calculi). The higher education comprised what were called the liberal arts (artes liberales), including the Latin and Greek languages, composition and oratory, and mental and moral philosophy. An important part of education consisted in public recitals and declamations, which were intended to train young men for the forum, and which were often held in the temples. The state sometimes patronized education, as we have already seen in the case of Nerva. Hadrian afterward instituted a public school in a building called the Athenaeum. Public fees were sometimes paid to the instructors (professores) in addition to the fees of the pupils. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901),]

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity ; Forum Romanum ; “Outlines of Roman History”; “The Private Life of the Romans”|; BBC Ancient Rome; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; Lacus Curtius; The Roman Empire in the 1st Century; The Internet Classics Archive ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors; British Museum; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive ; Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Internet Classics Archive ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy;
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame / ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History

High Value Placed on Education by Romans

William Stearns Davis wrote: “During the later Republic and Early Empire the craving for a good education was probably more prevalent than in any other age, barring the present. Even the lower classes were not usually illiterate (witness the numerous wall scribblings at Pompeii), although there was no system of free public schools.. [Source: William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 227-230]

According to Listverse: “Education was very important to the Ancient Romans. The rich people in Ancient Rome put a great deal of faith in education. While the poor in Ancient Rome did not receive a formal education, many still learned to read and write. Children from rich families, however, were well schooled and were taught by a private tutor at home or went to what we would recognise as schools. [Source: Listverse, October 16, 2009]

The lengths one father went through did to give his son all possible advantages is told by Horace in Satires, I.6.xi.70-90: “If I dare venture to speak in my own praise, and say that I live undefiled, innocent, and dear to my friends, let me confess that I owe all this to my father. A poor man he was, and on a lean farm, yet he was not content to send me to a local school [Source: Venusia, his home town] under the pedant Flavius, though boys of pretensions, sons of prominent centurions, went there with their school bags and writing tablets slung over their left arms, and carrying their teacher the fee in their hands on the Ides of eight months in the year. On the contrary, he had the spirit to bring me even as a child to Rome, to be taught those liberal arts which a senator or eques requires for his children. If anyone had seen my dress and the slaves that attended me in the big city, he would have guessed that I was maintained by some hereditary estate. My father---most faithful of guardians---was ever present at all my studies. Why need I say more? He preserved my modesty (the first point of virtue) not merely untainted, but free from the very rumor of taint. He was not afraid lest any one should reproach him [for giving an education to a son] who turned out to be an auctioneer, or as my father was, a tax gatherer. I should not then have complained. But all the more is praise due to him, and from me the greater gratitude. As long as I keep my senses I will never be ashamed of such a father, nor apologize for my [humble] birth as do so many, asserting "it is no fault of theirs." [Source: Horace, Satires, I.6.xi.70-90, William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 227-230]

Quality of Education and Social Status in Ancient Rome

Jana Louise Smit wrote for Listverse: “Education depended on a child’s social status and gender. Formal education was the privilege of high-born boys, while girls from good families were only allowed to learn how to read and write. Schooling in Latin, reading, writing, and arithmetic were usually the mother’s duty until age seven, when boys received a teacher. “Affluent families had private tutors or educated slaves for this role; otherwise, the boys were sent to private schools. Education for male pupils included physical training to prepare them for military service as well as later assuming a masculine role in society. Country folk or children born of slaves received little to no formal education. To them it was more practical that sons learn their trades from their fathers and little girls learn housekeeping. There were no public schools for disadvantaged children to attend. The closest thing was informal get-togethers that were run and taught by freed slaves.” [Source: Jana Louise Smit, Listverse, August 5, 2016]

aristocratic boy

Harold Whetstone Johnston wrote in “The Private Life of the Romans”: “The actual instruction given to the children by the father would vary with his own education and would at best be subject to all sorts of interruptions due to his private business or his public duties. We find that this embarrassment was appreciated in very early times, and that it was customary for a pater familias who happened to have among his slaves one competent to give the needed instruction to turn over to him the actual teaching of the children. It must be remembered that slaves taken in war were often much better educated than their Roman masters. Not all households, however, would include a competent teacher, and it would seem only natural for the fortunate owner of such a slave to receive into his house at fixed hours of the day the children of his friends and neighbors to be taught together with his own. [Source: “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) |+|]

“For this privilege he might charge a fee for his own benefit, as we are told that Cato actually did, or he might allow the slave to retain as his peculium the little presents given him by his pupils in lieu of direct payment. The next step, one taken in times too early to be accurately fixed, was to select for the school a more convenient place than a private house, one that was central and easily accessible, and to receive as pupils all who could pay the modest fee that was demanded. To these schools girls as well as boys were admitted, but the girls had little time for studying more than their mothers could teach them; those who did carry their studies further came usually of families that preferred to educate their daughters in the privacy of their own homes and could afford to do so. The exceptions to this rule were so few that from this point we may consider the education of boys alone.” |+|

Quintilian and the Alexander-Aristotle Model of Education

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (b.30/35-A.D. c.100) was a famous orator and teacher originally frm Spain. Oliver Thatcher wrote: “ He began to plead causes in Spain, but after accompanying Galba to Rome where the latter was proclaimed emperor, took up pleading and the teaching of rhetoric there. To understand the position of oratory and of an instructor in it at Athens or Rome the reader must consider how little there was to learn then as compared with today. The ordinary education of a boy was supposed to include music, gymnastics, and geometry. Under music was included Greek and Latin literature, under geometry what little was known in science. The subjects for education above what might be called the grammar school were oratory and the philosophers. A Roman's fields for action were politics and war. He learned to command in the field, and usually won the right to command through politics. The open highway through politics was oratory, and hence oratory was considered practically the only subject worthy to be the end of a youth's education. So Quintilian won honors and wealth in his profession. He was highly rewarded by Vespasian and was later the instructor of the grand-nephews of Domitian. His last years were spent in preparing his work on the education of an orator, the "Institutes." We give below his ideas of the ideal Roman education preliminary to the education of the orator.” [Source: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 370-391]

Alexander the Great and Aristotle

Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) was tutored by the great philosopher Aristotle, who was hired by Alexander’s father Philip of Macedon. For some Romans this presented a model for ideal education. Quintilian wrote in “The Institutes,” Book 1: 1-26 (c. 90 A.D.): “Would Philip, king of Macedon, have wished the first principles of learning to be communicated to his son Alexander by Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of that age, or would Aristotle have undertaken that office, if they had not both thought that the first rudiments of instruction are best treated by the most accomplished teacher, and have an influence on the whole course? [Source: Quintilian (b.30/35-A.D. c.100), The Ideal Education, “The Institutes,” Book 1: 1-26 (c. 90 A.D.), Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 370-391]

“Let us suppose, then, that Alexander were committed to me, and laid in my lap, an infant worthy of so much solicitude (though every man thinks his own son worthy of similar solicitude), should I be ashamed, even in teaching him his very letters, to point out some compendious methods of instruction? For that at least, which I see practiced in regard to most children, by no means pleases me, namely, that they learn the names and order of the letters before they learn their shapes.

“This method hinders their recognition of them, as, while they follow their memory that takes the lead, they do not fix their attention on the forms of the letters. This is the reason why teachers, even when they appear to have fixed them sufficiently in the minds of children, in the straight order in which they are usually first written, make them go over them again the contrary way, and confuse them by variously changing the arrangement, until their pupils know them by their shape, not by their place. It will be best for children, therefore, to be taught the appearances and names of the letters at once, as they are taught those of men. But that which is hurtful with regard to letters, will be no impediment with regard to syllables. I do not disapprove, however, the practice, which is well known, of giving children, for the sake of stimulating them.”

Roman Views on Age and Education

The famous orator Quintilian (b.30/35-A.D. c.100) wrote in “The Institutes,” Book 1: 1-26 (c. 90 A.D.): “Some have thought that boys, as long as they are under seven years of age, should not be set to learn, because that is the earliest age that can understand what is taught, and endure the labor of learning. Of which opinion a great many writers say that Hesiod was, at least such writers as lived before Aristophanes the grammarian, for he was the first to deny that the work Hypothekai, in which this opinion is found, was the work of that poet. [Source: Quintilian (b.30/35-A.D. c.100), The Ideal Education, “The Institutes,” Book 1: 1-26 (c. 90 A.D.), Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 370-391]

“But other writers likewise, among whom is Erastothenes, have given the same advice. Those, however, advise better, who, like Chrysippus, think that no part of a child's life should be exempt from tuition; for Chrysippus, though he has allowed three years to the nurses, yet is of the opinion that the minds of children may be imbued with excellent instruction even by them.

“And why should not that age be under the influence of learning, which is now confessedly subject to moral influence? I am not indeed ignorant that, during the whole time of which I am speaking, scarcely as much can be done as one year may afterwards accomplish, yet those who are of the opinion which I have mentioned, appear with regard to this part of life to have spared not so much the learners as the teachers.

“What else, after they are able to speak, will children do better, for they must do something? Or why should we despise the gain, how little soever it be, previous to the age of seven years? For certainly, small as may be the proficiency which an earlier age exhibits, the child will yet learn something greater during the very year in which he would have been learning something less.

“This advancement extended through each year, is a profit on the whole; and whatever is gained in infancy is an acquisition to youth. The same rule should be prescribed as to the following years, so that what every boy has to learn, he may not be too late in beginning to learn. Let us not then lose even the earliest period of life, and so much the less, as the elements of learning depend on the memory alone, which not only exists in children, but is at that time of life even most tenacious.

“Yet I am not so unacquainted with differences of age, as to think that we should urge those of tender years severely, or exact a full complement of work from them; for it will be necessary, above all things, to take care lest the child should conceive a dislike to the application which he cannot yet love, and continue to dread the bitterness which he has once tasted, even beyond the years of infancy. Let his instruction be an amusement to him; let him be questioned and praised; and let him never feel pleased that he does not know a thing; and sometimes, if he is unwilling to learn, let another be taught before him, of whom he may be envious. Let him strive for victory now and then, and generally suppose that he gains it; and let his powers be called forth by rewards, such as that age prizes.”

Educating Young Children

Quintilian wrote in “The Institutes,” Book 1: 1-26 (c. 90 A.D.): “Let a father, then, as soon as his son is born, conceive, first of all, the best possible hopes of him; for he will thus grow the more solicitous about his improvement from the very beginning; since it is a complaint without foundation that "to very few people is granted the faculty of comprehending what is imparted to them, and that most, through dullness of understanding, lose their labor and their time." For, on the contrary, you will find the greater number of men both ready in conceiving and quick in learning; since such quickness is natural to man; and as birds are born to fly, horses to run, and wild beasts to show fierceness, so to us peculiarly belong activity and sagacity of understanding; whence the origin of the mind is thought to be from heaven. [Source:Quintilian (b.30/35-A.D. c.100), The Ideal Education, “The Institutes,” Book 1: 1-26 (c. 90 A.D.), Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 370-391]

“But dull and unteachable persons are no more produced in the course of nature than are persons marked by monstrosity and deformities; such are certainly but few. It will be a proof of this assertion, that, among boys, good promise is shown in the far greater number; and, if it passes off in the progress of time, it is manifest that it was not natural ability, but care, that was wanting.

“But one surpasses another, you will say, in ability. I grant that this is true; but only so far as to accomplish more or less; whereas there is no one who has not gained something by study. Let him who is convinced of this truth, bestow, as soon as he becomes a parent, the most vigilant possible care on cherishing the hopes of a future orator.

“Before all things, let the talk of the child's nurses not be ungrammatical. Chrysippus wished them, if possible, to be women of some knowledge; at any rate he would have the best, as far as circumstances would allow, chosen. To their morals, doubtless, attention is first to be paid; but let them also speak with propriety.

“It is they that the child will hear first; it is their words that he will try to form by imitation. We are by nature most tenacious of what we have imbibed in our infant years; as the flavor, with which you scent vessels when new, remains in them; nor can the colors of wool, for which its plain whiteness has been exchanged, be effaced; and those very habits, which are of a more objectionable nature, adhere with the greater tenacity; for good ones are easily changed for the worse, but when will you change bad ones into good? Let the child not be accustomed, therefore, even while he is yet an infant, to phraseology which must be unlearned.

Child Rearing in Ancient Rome

Harold Whetstone Johnston wrote in “The Private Life of the Romans”: “The training of the children was conducted by the father and mother in person. More stress was laid upon moral than upon intellectual development: reverence for the gods, respect for the law, unquestioning and instant obedience to authority, truthfulness, and self-reliance were the most important lessons for the child to learn. Much of the training came from the constant association of the children with their parents, which was the characteristic feature of the home training of the Romans as compared with that of other peoples of early days. The children sat at table with their elders; in early times they helped to serve the meals. Until the age of seven both boys and girls had their mother for their teacher. From her they learned to speak correctly their native tongue. The mother taught them the elements of reading and writing and as much of the simpler operations of arithmetic as children so young could learn. [Source: “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) |+|]

“From about the age of seven the boy passed under the care of regular teachers, but the girl remained her mother’s constant companion. Her schooling was necessarily cut short, because the Roman girl became a wife so young, and there were things to learn in the meantime that books do not teach. From her mother she learned to spin and weave and sew; even Augustus wore garments woven by his wife. By her mother she was initiated into all the mysteries of household economy and fitted to take her place as the mistress of a household of her own, to be a Roman matrona, the most dignified position to which a woman could aspire in the ancient world. |+|

“The boy, except during the hours of school, was equally his father’s companion. If the father was a farmer, as all Romans were in earlier times, the boy helped in the fields and learned to plow and plant and reap. If the father was a man of high position and lived in the capital, the boy stood by him in his atrium as he received his guests, learned to know their faces, names, and rank, and acquired a practical knowledge of politics and affairs of state. If the father was a senator, the boy (in the earlier days only, it is true) accompanied him to the senate house to hear the debates and listen to the great orators of the time; the son could always go with his father to the Forum when the latter was an advocate or was concerned in a public trial. |+|

“Then, since every male Roman was bred a soldier, the father trained the son in the use of arms and in the various military exercises, as well as in the manly sports of riding, swimming, wrestling, and boxing. In these exercises strength and agility were kept in view, rather than the grace of movement and symmetrical development of form on which the Greeks laid so much stress. On great occasions, too, when the cabinets in the atrium were opened and the wax busts of the ancestors displayed, the boy and girl of noble family were always present and learned the history of the great family of which they were a part, and with it the history of Rome.” |+|

Plutarch: The Training of Children

Oliver J. Thatcher wrote: “Plutarch was born of a wealthy family in Boeotia at Chaeronea about 50 A.D. Part of his life seems to have been spent at Rome, but he seems to have returned to Greece and died there about 120 A.D. But little further is know of his life. He was one of the greatest biographers the world has ever known, while his moral essays show wide learning and considerable depth of contemplation. [Source: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 370-391]

Plutarch wrote in “The Training of Children” (c. A.D. 110): “1. The course that ought to be taken for the training of freeborn children, and the means whereby their manners may be rendered virtuous, will, with the reader's leave, be the subject of our present disquisition. 2. In the management of which, perhaps it may be expedient to take our rise from their very procreation. I would therefore, in the first place, advise those who desire to become the parents of famous and eminent children, that they keep not company with all women that they light on; I mean such as harlots, or concubines. For such children as are blemished in their birth, either by the father's or the mother's side, are liable to be pursued, as long as they live, with the indelible infamy of their base extraction, as that which offers a ready occasion to all that desire to take hold of it of reproaching and disgracing them therewith. “Misfortune on that family's entailed,/ Whose reputation in its founder failed.”

“Wherefore, since to be well-born gives men a good stock of confidence, the consideration thereof ought to be of no small value to such as desire to leave behind them a lawful issue. For the spirits of men who are alloyed and counterfeit in their birth are naturally enfeebled and debased; as rightly said the poet again — “A bold and daring spirit is oft daunted,/ When with the guilt of parents' crimes 'tis haunted.

“So, on the contrary, a certain loftiness and natural gallantry of spirit is wont to fill the breasts of those who are born of illustrious parents. Of which Diaphantus, the young son of Themistocles, is a notable instance; for he is reported to have made his boast often and in many companies, that whatsoever pleased him pleased also all Athens; for whatever he liked, his mother liked; and whatever his mother liked, Themistocles liked; and whatever Themistocles liked, all the Athenians liked. Wherefore it was gallantly done of the Lacedaemonian states, when they laid a round fine on their king Archidamus for marrying a little woman, giving this reason for their so doing: that he meant to beget for them not kings, but kinglings.

“3. The advice which I am, in the next place, about to give, is, indeed, no other than what has been given by those who have undertaken this argument before me. You will ask me what is that? It is this: that no man keep company with his wife for issue's sake but when he is sober, having drunk either no wine, or at least not such a quantity as to distemper him; for they usually prove wine-bibbers and drunkards, whose parents begot them when they were drunk. Wherefore Diogenes said to a stripling somewhat crack-brained and half-witted: Surely, young man, your father begot you when he was drunk. Let this suffice to be spoken concerning the procreation of children; and let us pass thence to their education.

Plutarch on Teaching Virtue and Morality

Plutarch wrote in “The Training of Children” (c. A.D. 110): “4. And here, to speak summarily, what we are wont to say of arts and sciences may be said also concerning virtue: that there is a concurrence of three things requisite to the completing them in practice---which are nature, reason and use. Now by reason here I would be understood to mean learning; and by use, exercise. Now the principles come from instruction, the practice comes from exercise, and perfection from all three combined. And accordingly as either of the three is deficient, virtue must needs be defective. For if virtue is not improved by instruction, it is blind; if instruction is not assisted by nature, it is maimed; and if exercise fail of the assistance of both, it is imperfect as to the attainment of its end. And as in husbandry it is first requisite that the soil be fertile, next that the husbandman be skillful, and lastly that the seed he sows be good; so here nature resembles the soil, the instructor of youth the husbandman, and the rational principles and precepts which are taught, the seed. And I would peremptorily affirm that all these met and jointly conspired to the completing of the souls of those universally celebrated men, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato, together with all others whose eminent worth has begotten them immortal glory. And happy is that man certainly, and well-beloved of the Gods, on whom by the bounty of any of them all these are conferred. [Source: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 370-391]

“And yet if any one thinks that those in whom Nature has not thoroughly done her part may not in some measure make up her defects, if they be so happy as to light upon good teaching, and withal apply their own industry towards the attainment of virtue, he is to know that he is very much, nay, altogether, mistaken. For as a good natural capacity may be impaired by slothfulness, so dull and heavy natural parts may be improved by instruction; and whereas negligent students arrive not at the capacity of understanding the most easy things, those who are industrious conquer the greatest difficulties. ...A man's ground is of itself good; yet, if it be not manured, it will contract barrenness; and the better it was naturally, so much the more is it ruined by carelessness, if it be ill-husbanded. On the other side, let a man's ground be more than ordinarily rough and rugged; yet experience tells us that, if it be well manured, it will be quickly made capable of bearing excellent fruit. Yes, what sort of tree is there which will not, if neglected, grow crooked and unfruitful; and what but will, if rightly ordered, prove faithful and bring its fruit to maturity? What strength of body is there which will not lose its vigor and fall to decay by laziness, nice usage, and debauchery? And, on the contrary, where is the man of never so crazy a natural constitution, who can not render himself far more robust, if he will only give himself to exercise activity and strength? What horse well-managed from a colt proves not easily governable by the rider? And where is there one to be found which, if not broken betimes, proves not stiff-necked and unmanageable? Yes, why need we wonder at anything else when we see the wildest beasts made tame and brought to hand by industry? And lastly, as to men themselves, that Thessalian answered not amiss, who, being asked which of his countrymen were the meekest, replied: Those that have received their discharge from the wars.

“But what need of multiplying more words in this matter, when even the notion of the word athos in the Greek language imports continuance, and he that should call moral virtues customary virtues would seem to speak not incongruously? I shall conclude this part of my discourse, therefore, with the addition of one only instance. Lycurgus, the Lacedaemonian (Mesopotamia) lawgiver, once took two whelps of the same litter, and ordered them to be bred in quite a different manner; whereby one became dainty and ravenous, and the other of a good scent and skilled in hunting; which done, a while after he took occasion thence in an assembly of the Lacedaemonians (Spartans) to discourse in this manner: Of great weight in the attainment of virtue, fellow-citizens, are habits, instruction, precepts, and indeed the whole manner of life---as I will presently let you see by example. And, withal, he ordered the producing those two whelps into the midst of the hall, where also there were set down before them a plate and a live hare. Whereupon, as they had been bred, the one presently flies upon the hare, and the other as greedily runs to the plate. And while the people were musing, not perfectly apprehending what he meant by producing those whelps thus, he added: These whelps were both of one litter, but differently bred; the one, you see, has turned out a greedy cur, and the other a good hound. And this shall suffice to be spoken concerning custom and different ways of living.

Professional Training in Ancient Rome

Harold Whetstone Johnston wrote in “The Private Life of the Romans”: “For training in certain matters, a knowledge of which was essential to a successful public life, no provision was made by the Roman system of education. Such matters were jurisprudence, administration and diplomacy, and war. It was customary, therefore, for the young citizen to attach himself for a time to some older man, eminent in these lines or in some one of them, in order to gain an opportunity for observation and practical experience in the performance of duties that would sooner or later devolve upon him. [Source: “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) |+|]

“So Cicero learned Roman law under Quintus Mucius Scaevola, the most eminent jurist of the time, an in later years the young Marcus Caelius Rufus in turn served the same voluntary “apprenticeship” (tirocinium fori) under Cicero. This arrangement was not only highly advantageous to the young men, but was also considered very honorable for those under whom they studied.

“In the same way the governors of provinces and generals in the field were attended by a voluntary staff (cohors) of young men, whom they had invited to accompany them at state expense for personal or political reasons. These tirones became familiar in this way (tirocinium militiae) with the practical side of administration and war, while at the same time they were relieved of many of the hardships and dangers suffered by those, less fortunate who had to rise from the ranks. It was this staff of inexperienced young men who hid in their tents or asked for leave of absence when Caesar determined to meet Ariovistus in battle (Caesar, De Bello Gallico, I, 39), although some of them, no doubt, made gallant soldiers and wise commanders afterwards.” |+|

Plutarch on Specialized Training Versus General Education for All

Plutarch wrote in “The Training of Children” (c. A.D. 110): “11. In the next place, the exercise of the body must not be neglected; but children must be sent to schools of gymnastics, where they may have sufficient employment that way also. This will conduce partly to a more handsome carriage, and partly to the improvement of their strength. For the foundation of a vigorous old age is a good constitution of the body in childhood. Wherefore, as it is expedient to provide those things in fair weather which may be useful to the mariners in a storm, so is it to keep good order and govern ourselves by rules of temperance in youth, as the best provision we can lay in for age. Yet must they husband their strength, so as not to become dried up (as it were) and destitute of strength to follow their studies. For, according to Plato, sleep and weariness are enemies to the arts. [Source: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 370-391]

“But why do I stand so long on these things? I hasten to speak of that which is of the greatest importance, even beyond all that has been spoken of; namely, I would have boys trained for the contests of wars by practice in the throwing of darts, shooting of arrows, and hunting of wild beasts. For we must remember in war the goods of the conquered are proposed as rewards to the conquerors. But war does not agree with a delicate habit of body, used only to the shade; for even one lean soldier that has been used to military exercises shall overthrow whole troops of mere wrestlers who know nothing of war.

“But, somebody may say, while you profess to give precepts for the education of all free-born children, why do you carry the matter so as to seem only to accommodate those precepts to the rich, and neglect to suit them also to the children of poor men and plebeians? To which objection it is no difficult thing to reply. For it is my desire that all children whatsoever may partake of the benefit of education alike; but if yet any persons, by reason of the narrowness of their estates, cannot make use of my precepts, let them not blame me that give them for Fortune, which disabled them from making the advantage by them they otherwise might. Though even poor men must use their utmost endeavor to give their children the best education; or, if they cannot, they must bestow upon them the best that their abilities will reach. Thus much I thought fit here to insert in the body of my discourse, that I might the better be enabled to annex what I have yet to add concerning the right training of children.”“

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons and "The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity ; Forum Romanum ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) |+|; BBC Ancient Rome ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, BBC and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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