When examining any society, one of the most important aspects of its civilization to identify is the education of the youth. Children yearn to please their instructors. Therefore, when all children throughout a society are taught a certain way to live and think, when they grow up, the society itself models these values instilled upon the children. Naturally, when using this ideal to study the history of the Ancient Greeks, focus falls upon its two major city-states, Athens and Sparta. As in almost every aspect of comparison, the difference between the education of the warlike Spartans compared to the education of the philosophical Athenians is like comparing black to white. The main focus of a Spartan education was not to focus on literacy. Instead, as a result of the system of helotry practiced in Sparta, fitness, obedience, and courage had to be taught in order for the Spartans to retain the militaristic supremacy that they had over the rest of the Peloponnesus. In contrast, an Athenian education was devoted to the three basic categories of literacy, music, and physical education in hopes of creating intelligent, well-rounded citizens who could responsibly participate in the Assembly. For purposes of comparison, the education of both societies can be broken down into three distinct periods of age in which certain traits were taught and which certain schools were attended. When education was complete, the society had successfully refined another child into its strict system of beliefs and principles.
In the eighth century B.C., Sparta was in need of more fertile land to support an ever-growing population that demanded food. Consequently, Sparta was forced to do what any ancient civilization did when in need of