Mon-Fri 8:00am - 6:00pm EST
Find Close

How Were Children Educated in Ancient Times?

Education is a key component of a productive, progressive society. Of course, education has evolved throughout the centuries, and the subjects that were considered crucial have transformed across time and civilizations. However, when looking back on how children were taught in ancient times, there are also many parallels. Education in ancient Egypt focused on math, writing, morals, and social graces, while education in ancient China embraced rituals, archery, calligraphy, and Confucianism. Education in ancient Rome had stages of school that children progressed through similar to today, but it was more focused on ability rather than age. This infographic from AAA State of Play explores how children were educated throughout history:



Click to view the full-size infographic


How Were Children Educated in Ancient Times? - - Infographic


Embed this image on your site:

Here is a basic overview of the main subjects these civilizations valued in education:

  • Education in Ancient Mesopotamia: Reading, writing, storytelling
  • Education in Ancient Egypt: Math, writing, morals, social graces
  • Education in Ancient India: Religion, discipline, selflessness, medicine, enlightenment
  • Education in Ancient China: Rituals, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, math, Confucianism
  • Education in Ancient Japan: Buddhism, military strategy, agriculture, accounting, literacy, calligraphy
  • Education in Ancient Persia: War, gymnastics, justice, morals
  • Education in Ancient Athens: Strength, stamina, music, poetry, dance, logic, philosophy, math, astronomy
  • Education in Ancient Sparta: Strength, war, discipline, music, dance
  • Education in Ancient Greece Under Pythagoras: Selflessness, math, philosophy, detachment from material possessions
  • Education in Ancient Rome: Public speaking, politics, literacy, poetry, philosophy
  • Education in Ancient Africa: Survival skills, dancing, agriculture, history, culture, endurance, integrity
  • Education in the Middle Ages: Latin, math, physics, botany, geography, religion
  • Ancient Aztec Education: Military, writing, astronomy, cultural ideals
  • Ancient Mayan Education: Math, astronomy, medicine, farming, work ethic, trade skills 


  • How Were Children Educated in Ancient Egypt?

Formal education in ancient Egypt was mainly reserved for boys who came from wealthy families, starting at the age of 7. Subjects that were emphasized in ancient Egypt included reading, writing, math, sports, and social graces. A recent discovery uncovered evidence that classrooms were arranged in a similar fashion to modern ones, with inscriptions on the walls about proper behavior and etiquette. Boys who did not come from wealthy families were expected to learn their father’s trade through apprenticeships. How were girls educated in ancient Egypt? Girls generally did not receive formal education; they were taught skills such as cooking, baking, child-rearing, and medical knowledge by their mothers. While the ancient Egyptian class system was generally rigid, becoming a scribe was one of the few career choices that provided opportunities for upward mobility through society. 


  • How Were Children Educated in Ancient Greece?

School in ancient Greece varied by region. In classical Athens, education consisted of two major parts: physical (gumnastike) and intellectual (mousike). Physical education involved military ideals such as stamina, strength, and readiness for war. Boys cultivated these qualities in the gymnasium. This gymnasium would not be like a modern day gym or playground, but would look more like a military training ground. Mousike embraced music, dance, poetry, and lyrics. Beauty and nobility were paramount. Students used a stylus to write on wax tablets. Philosophy, math, astronomy, and logic emerged as key subjects by 420 B.C., but the shift caused controversy, with traditionalists arguing that the cerebral nature of these studies left Athens vulnerable in war. 

Education in Sparta was all about preparation for war. The primary goal was to craft all male citizens into formidable soldiers who could serve as part of a Spartan phalanx. Formal education in Sparta was structured like a boot camp and was called agoge. Here, boys were subjected to extreme hardships like exposure and starvation. Discipline was the pinnacle of these trials. By age 18, students were expected to kill a Greek slave without being caught to prove their worth as a soldier. 

This infographic was created by AAAStateofPlay playground equipment and outdoor playsets.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

We can't find products matching the selection.