Children in ancient socities went barefoot. Clothing was much more
expensuve in real terms in ancient socities than it is today. Thus even
in socities that developed to the point that sandals were widely available,
children probably continued to go barefoot. Chilren from wealthy families
may have worn sandals, but most children probably did not. As socities developed, more and more people including children began to wear sandals.
Many Greek city states apparently developed to the point that some children did wear sandals. Although the Spartans, as with many other matters, differed from the other Greek city states.
Xenophon (circa 431-circa 352 B.C.) is a highly regarded Greek historian.
In his account of Spartan culture he gives many details of the laws
set out by the Spartan Lycurgus (9th century B.C. Spartan lawgiver) who was
the traditional founder of institutions designed to produce tough, able
warriors. Just think, the policies he is referring to were set down
nearly three thousand years ago!! Xenophon was trying to evaluate what
made the Spartans such a formidable adversary (even though their region
was so thinly populated).
Here are some relevant extract from the Constitution of the
[2.1] Having dealth with the subject of birth, I wish next to explain the
educational system of Lycurgus, and how it differs from other systems.In the
other Greek states parents who profess to give their sons the best education
place their boys under the care and control of a moral tutor as soon as they
can understand what is said to them, and send them to a school to learn
letters, music and the exercises of the wrestling-ground. Moreover, they
soften the children's feet by giving them sandals, and pamper their bodies
with changes of clothing; and it is customary to allow them as much food as
they can eat.
[2.2] Lycurgus, on the contrary, instead of leaving each father to appoint a
slave to act as tutor, gave the duty of controlling the boys to a member of
the class from which the highest offices are filled, in fact to the "Warden"
as he is called. He gave this person authority to gather the boys together,
to take charge of them and to punish them severely in case of misconduct. He
also assigned to him a staff of youths provided with whips to chastise them
when necessary; and the result is that modesty and obedience are inseparable
companions at Sparta.
[2.3] Instead of softening the boys' feet with sandals he required them to
harden their feet by going without shoes. He believed that if this habit
were cultivated it would enable them to climb hills more easily and descend
steep inclines with less danger, and that a youth who had accustomed himself
to go barefoot would leap and jump and run more nimbly than a boy in sandals.
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