Children in the Ancient World

Children in Ancient Egypt

Most children in Ancient Egypt did not go to school. Instead, boys learned farming or other trades from their fathers. Girls learned sewing, cooking, and other skills from their mothers. Some girls were also taught to read and write. Boys from wealthy families sometimes learned to be scribes. They learned by copying and memorizing and discipline was strict. Teachers beat naughty boys.

Egyptian children played similar games to the ones children play today. They also played with dolls, toy soldiers, wooden animals, balls, marbles, spinning tops, and knucklebones (which were thrown like dice).

Children in Ancient Greece

In Greece when a child was born it was not regarded as a person until it was five days old when a special ceremony was held and the child became part of the family. Parents were entitled, by law, to abandon newborn babies to die of exposure. Sometimes strangers would adopt abandoned babies. However, in that case, the baby became a slave.

Girls married when they were about 15. Marriages were arranged for them and often their husband was much older than them. In Ancient Greece, girls learned skills like weaving from their mothers. Many girls were also taught to read and write at home. Boys from better-off families went to school when they were seven. They learned arithmetic and literature as well as music.

In Sparta, children were treated very harshly. At the age of 7 boys were removed from their families and sent to live in barracks. They were treated severely to turn them into brave soldiers. They were deliberately kept short of food so they would have to steal – teaching them stealth and cunning. They were whipped for any offense.

Spartan girls learned athletics and dancing – so they would become fit and healthy mothers of more soldiers. n In Ancient Greece boys and girls played ball games with inflated pig’s bladders. They also played with knucklebones. Children also played with spinning tops, dolls, model horses with wheels, hoops, and rocking horses.

Children in Rome

Many of the inhabitants of Rome were slaves. Prisoners of war were made slaves and any children slaves had were automatically slaves. n Boys and girls were given a kind of necklace called a bulla. It consisted of a charm inside a pouch. It was worn around the neck. When a boy became a man he discarded his bulla. A girl wore hers until she got married.

The sons and daughters of well-to-do Romans went to a primary school called a ludus at the age of 7 to learn to read and write and do simple arithmetic. Girls left at the age of 12 or 13 and only boys went to secondary school where they would learn geometry, history, literature, and oratory (the art of public speaking). Teachers were often Greek slaves. The teachers were very strict and they frequently beat the pupils.

Roman children played with wooden or clay dolls and hoops. They also played ball games and board games. They also played with toy carts and with animal knucklebones.