|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|The Education of a Persian Boy|
|By Xenophon (c. 430c. 350 B.C.)|
|CYRUS is said to have had for his father Cambyses, king of the Persians. Cambyses was of the race of the Perseidæ, who were so called from Perseus. It is agreed that he was born of a mother named Mandane; and Mandane was the daughter of Astyages, king of the Medes. Cyrus is described, and is still celebrated by the barbarians, as having been most handsome in person, most humane in disposition, most eager for knowledge, and most ambitious of honor; so that he would undergo any labor and face any danger for the sake of obtaining praise. Such is the constitution of mind and body that he is recorded to have had; and he was educated in conformity with the laws of the Persians.|| 1|
| These laws seem to begin with a provident care for the common good; not where they begin in most other governments: for most governments, leaving each individual to educate his children as he pleases, and the advanced in age to live as they please, enjoin their people not to steal, not to plunder, not to enter a house by violence, not to strike any one whom it is wrong to strike, not to be adulterous, not to disobey the magistrates, and other such things in like manner; and if people transgress any of these precepts, they impose punishments upon them. But the Persian laws, by anticipation, are careful to provide from the beginning that their citizens shall not be such as to be inclined to any action that is bad and mean. This care they take in the following manner. They have an agora, called The Free, where the kings palace and other houses for magistrates are built: all things for sale, and the dealers in them with their cries and coarsenesses, are banished from hence to some other place, that the disorder of these may not interfere with the regularity of those who are under instruction. This agora, round the public courts, is divided into four parts: of these, one is for the boys, one for the youth, one for the full-grown men, and one for those who are beyond the years for military service. Each of these divisions, according to the law, attend to their several quarters: the boys and full-grown men as soon as it is day; the elders when they think convenient, except upon appointed days, when they are obliged to be present. The youth pass the night round the courts, in their light arms, except such as are married: for these are not required to do so, unless orders have been previously given them; nor is it becoming in them to be often absent. Over each of the classes there are twelve presidents, for there are twelve distinct tribes of the Persians. Those over the boys are chosen from amongst the elders, and are such as are thought likely to make them the best boys; those over the youth are chosen from amongst the full-grown men, and are such as are thought likely to make them the best youth; and over the full-grown men, such as are thought likely to render them the most expert in performing their appointed duties, and in executing the orders given by the chief magistrate. There are likewise chosen presidents over the elders, who take care that these also perform their duties. What it is prescribed to each age to do, we shall relate, that it may be the better understood how the Persians take precautions that excellent citizens may be produced.|| 2|
| The boys attending the public schools pass their time in learning justice; and say that they go for this purpose, as those with us say that they go to learn to read. Their presidents spend the most part of the day in dispensing justice amongst them: for there are among the boys, as among the men, accusations for theft, robbery, violence, deceit, calumny, and other such things as naturally occur,and such as they convict of doing wrong in any of these respects they punish; they punish likewise such as they find guilty of false accusation: they appeal to justice also in the case of a crime for which men hate one another excessively, but for which they never go to law,that is, ingratitude; and whomsoever they find able to return a benefit and not returning it, they punish severely. For they think that the ungrateful are careless with regard to the gods, their parents, their country, and their friends; and upon ingratitude seems closely to follow shamelessness, which appears to be the principal conductor of mankind into all that is dishonorable.|| 3|
| They also teach the boys self-control; and it contributes much towards their learning to control themselves, that they see every day their elders behaving themselves with discretion. They teach them also to obey their officers; and it contributes much to this end, that they see their elders constantly obedient to their officers. They teach them temperance with respect to eating and drinking: and it contributes much to this object, that they see that their elders do not quit their stations to satisfy their appetites, until their officers dismiss them; and that the boys themselves do not eat with their mothers, but with their teachers, and when the officers give the signal. They bring from home with them bread, and a sort of cresses to eat with it; and a cup to drink from, that if any are thirsty they may take water from the river. They learn, besides, to shoot with the bow and to throw the javelin. These exercises the boys practice till they are sixteen or seventeen years of age, when they enter the class of young men.|| 4|