17. The boys of Sparta were trained for adulthood from a very early age – and this included learning how to kill
In the ancient Greek city state of Sparta, boys were prepared for manhood from a very early age. In fact, as soon as they were born, a baby would be bathed in wine. How the infant reacted to this determined their path in life. If they showed courage and strength, they were destined to become a Spartan warrior. If the baby cried and showed signs of distress, they were deemed to be a future helot, or Spartan slave. Then, at the age of 7, the ‘warrior class’ of boys would be sent to the Agoge, a special school dedicated to turning them into not just men but into the most loyal and fearsome fighters of the ancient world.
The biggest test came at the age of 12. Then, a boy would be given nothing but a spear and a blanket and sent out into the wilderness. The aim was to survive for a whole month. Many boys failed, returning to their schools tired and hungry after just a week. They were dismissed from the Agoge and would live the life of the Spartan Perieci¸ or middle classes. Boys who survived a whole month were welcomed back as men. They would become full Spartan citizens and permitted to take a wife and have children.