|The Story of the Greeks|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Greece, made up principally of stories about persons, giving at the same time a clear idea of the most important events in the ancient world and calculated to enforce the lessons of perseverance, courage, patriotism, and virtue that are taught by the noble lives described. Beginning with the legends of Jason, Theseus, and events surrounding the Trojan War, the narrative moves on to present the contrasting city-states of Sparta and Athens, the war against Persia, their conflicts with each other, the feats of Alexander the Great, and annexation by Rome. Ages 10-14 |
THE BRAVE SPARTAN BOY
AS greedy and disobedient children were viewed at Sparta
with the contempt they deserved, all the boys were
trained to obey at a word, whatever the order given,
and were allowed only the plainest and scantiest food.
Strange to relate, the Spartans also trained their boys
to steal. They praised them when they succeeded in
 doing so without being found out, and punished them
only when caught in the act. The reason for this queer
custom was this: the people were often engaged in war,
and as they had no baggage wagons following their army,
and no special officer to furnish food, they had to
depend entirely upon the provisions they could get on
Whenever an army came in sight, the people hid not only
their wealth, but also their food; and, had not the
Spartan soldiers been trained to steal, they would
often have suffered much from hunger when they were at
To test the courage of the Spartan boys, their teachers
never allowed them to have a light, and often sent them
out alone in the middle of the night, on errands which
they had to do as best they could.
Then, too, once a year all the boys were brought to the
Temple of Diana, where their courage was further tried
by a severe flogging; and those who stood this whipping
without a tear or moan were duly praised. The little
Spartan boys were so eager to be thought brave, that it
is said that some let themselves be flogged to death
rather than complain.
The bravery of one of these boys was so wonderful that
you will find it mentioned in nearly every Greek
history you read. This little fellow had stolen a live
fox, and hidden it in the bosom of his dress, on his
way to school.
The imprisoned fox, hoping to escape, began to gnaw a
hole in the boy's chest, and to tear his flesh with his
sharp claws; but, in spite of the pain, the lad sat
still, and let the fox bite him to death.
 It was only when he fell lifeless to the floor that the
teachers found the fox, and saw how cruelly he had torn
the brave little boy to pieces. Ever since then, when
boys stand pain bravely and without wincing, they have
been called little Spartans, in memory of this lad.
In order that the boys should be taught to behave well
under all circumstances, they were never allowed to
speak except when spoken to, and then their answers
were expected to be as short and exact as possible.
This style of speaking, where much was said in few
words, was so usual in the whole country of Laconia,
that it is still known as the laconic style.
To train them in this mode of speech, the elders daily
made the boys pass an oral examination, asking them any
questions they could think of. The boys had to answer
promptly, briefly, and carefully; and if they failed to
do so, it was considered a great disgrace.
These daily questionings were meant to sharpen their
wits, strengthen their memories, and teach them how to
think and decide quickly and correctly.
The Spartan youths were further taught to treat all
their elders with the greatest respect; and it must
have been a pretty sight to see all these manly fellows
respectfully saluting all the old people they met, and
even stopping their play to make way for them when they
came on the street.
To strengthen their muscles, the boys were also
carefully trained in gymnastics. They could handle
weapons, throw heavy weights, wrestle, run with great
speed, swim, jump, and ride, and were experts in all
exercises which tended to make them strong, active, and
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