Was Ancient Greek Education a Rape institution?

May 2013
622
New Zealand
#1
This is something I have come across recently and I don't think this should necessarily be controversial. I am starting to think that Ancient Greek schools and Palaestras existed in such a way as to rape and take advantage of vulnerable Greek children and men.

Around the time of the 3rd Century BC, it was common for Greeks in aristocratic households to start their schooling at the age of 7 in academic institutions. From then on it was common for them to be flogged by teachers all the whilst receiving an education and being taught literacy.

Many Greeks children or teens would then go on to be taught at Palestras where they would learn to exercise and wrestle. At these places, it is well known that they fought naked. And from this, young children were arguably placed in a situation where they were exposed and left vulnerable to harm by their peers. From this, we see a clear power dynamic, firstly young children have fear and control exerted over them and they are then being thrust into a situation where they are left exposed and vulnerable.

And if this wasn't enough these very same institutions contain artwork and mosaics glorifying pederasty both casually and approvingly depicting it. To me, this sends a very clear cut message, not only was this practice accepted but it was normalized as to become an experience someone would face under this system.

This comes in addition to the philosophers like Plutarch praising this practice. In fact, Plato's dialogue, Symposium both discusses and praises pedophilia. During this extract, Pasanius praises it as the ideal relationship. And it is even suggested that so-called "virtuous" and "wise" men are deserving of receiving it.

There is only one quote from this scene that gives a slight indication that this practice may be immoral. This is when Pasanius says "and secondly there is dishonor in being overcome by the love of money, or of wealth, or of political power, whether a man is frightened into surrender by the loss of them." Maybe this quote indicates that it was well understood how a young Greek can be taken advantage of and just how much they can be humiliated.

But with all these factors in mind, we, therefore, have to ask ourselves did these so-called "educational institutions" function in such a way as to purposefully inflict trauma, abuse, and cruelty of young Greeks?
 
May 2013
622
New Zealand
#3
Yes, so what? You simply cannot apply 21st century values to ancient and medieval history

Sparta sounds particularly horrific
Yes, I think I can. Because every atrocity in human history was not just the result of sheer societal ignorance. They happened when our basic human sense of empathy was forsaken for the sake of power, control, survival, greed, hatred, a so-called "Higher principle" or some other means. That is something I believe strongly.

Most horrors in history don't get accepted easily and without question.
 
Likes: bedb
Feb 2013
4,243
Coastal Florida
#4
Yes, so what? You simply cannot apply 21st century values to ancient and medieval history

Sparta sounds particularly horrific
It may be anachronistic to insist historical personages should have thought of things the same way we do. However, I don't believe it's anachronistic to characterize the actions of past civilizations using terminology as we understand it today. It was once considered acceptable for men to beat their wives but I don't see any reason we should refuse to characterize that as abuse merely because people in the past thought it was okay.
 
Likes: bedb
Aug 2010
15,222
Welsh Marches
#5
No, Greek and specifically Athenian attitudes to pederasty were much more complicated than you suggest; Kenneth Dover's old book on Greek Homosexuality might be a good place to start. The Symposium is a dialogue in which different people express different ideas, most of which are neither Plato's own nor represenative of general attitudes in Athenian society; in so far as Plato implicitly 'praises' pederasty, it is not as a source of sexual pleasure, let alone as a form of coercion or rape, but as a form of love that raises a man's aspirations beyond the physical toward the appreciation of divine forms of beauty. Generally speaking, in so far as pederasty and homosexuality in general were praised or admired (not in 'middle class' circles), it was not regarded as honourable for a youth to 'play the woman's part' and passively yield to an older lover. It can easily be seen that contradictions are involved here. In ordinary life people's sexual lives were naturally often as disordered or indeed grubby as in modern times (in which even priests or teachers sometimes take advantage of young people under their charge), but to present the Athenian aristocratic educational system as being one that encouraged rape or casually inflicted trauma is a caricature based on a variety of misunderstandings.
 
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Feb 2016
4,169
Japan
#6
I suspect there were men of a certain persuasion who used the system for their own gratification.

I doubt the system was created for that express purpose... or that it was even the main experience of most students.

And there is the imposition of modern values here. Nudity for one is not necessarily sexual... especially in people lacking any sexual features. So naked kids wrestling probably caused most Greeks to feel nothing... as it does for most normal men now.
 
Likes: bedb
Nov 2010
7,325
Cornwall
#7
It may be anachronistic to insist historical personages should have thought of things the same way we do. However, I don't believe it's anachronistic to characterize the actions of past civilizations using terminology as we understand it today. It was once considered acceptable for men to beat their wives but I don't see any reason we should refuse to characterize that as abuse merely because people in the past thought it was okay.
May be. But it's one step removed from the "Genghis Khan - was he guilty of bullying?" scenario
 
Feb 2013
4,243
Coastal Florida
#8
May be. But it's one step removed from the "Genghis Khan - was he guilty of bullying?" scenario
From Merriam-Webster:
bully verb
bullied; bullying

Definition of bully (Entry 2 of 4)

transitive verb
1: to treat (someone) in a cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive fashion : to act like a bully toward
bullied her younger brother

2: to cause (someone) to do something by means of force or coercion
was bullied into accepting their offer

intransitive verb
: to use language or behavior that is cruel, insulting, threatening, or aggressive
Did Genghis Khan do anything that can reasonably be considered to meet this definition? If so, I don't see why we can't characterize his actions as examples of bullying. Doing so is not a comment on what Genghis Khan or his contemporaries should have thought about his actions or how they would characterize them.

Consider the term genocide. It didn't exist until the 1940s but it's definition is as follows:
: the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group
Are we going to be barred from describing any event meeting this definition prior to the 1940s as a genocide because people before that time didn't have a term to succinctly describe this phenomena? I certainly hope not.
 
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Mar 2018
519
UK
#9
Did Genghis Khan do anything that can reasonably be considered to meet this definition? If so, I don't see why we can't characterize his actions as examples of bullying. Doing so is not a comment on what Genghis Khan or his contemporaries should have thought about his actions or how they would characterize them.
Are you sure it's not a comment? When you're using coloured language in it's way, you know that the reader will infer a certain from it. I think saying "Genghis Khan is a bully" is certainly judgement on your part, even if it isn't quite saying that his contemporaries judged him that way.
 
Feb 2013
4,243
Coastal Florida
#10
Are you sure it's not a comment? When you're using coloured language in it's way, you know that the reader will infer a certain from it. I think saying "Genghis Khan is a bully" is certainly judgement on your part, even if it isn't quite saying that his contemporaries judged him that way.
Logical and material consequences concerning character are not my problem when I'm clinically referring only to the lexical meaning of terms appropriately used to describe someone's actions or expressions. If someone asks for the result of the mathematical expression 2 + 2 and I say 3, I've obviously given a wrong answer. A consequence of that is that I would be a "wrong answer utterer". However, that's not your fault if you merely characterized my response as a wrong answer. Rather, that's my responsibility for giving it in the first place.
 
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