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Book VII: Chapter IV 


Now those states which seem to take the greatest care of their children's education, bestow their chief attention on wrestling, though it both prevents the increase of the body and hurts the form of it. This fault the Lacedaemonians did not fall into, for they made their children fierce by painful labour, as chiefly useful to inspire them with courage: though, as we have already often said, this is neither the only thing nor the principal thing necessary to attend to; and even with respect to this they may not thus attain their end; for we do not find either in other animals, or other nations, that courage necessarily attends the most cruel, but rather the milder, and those who have the dispositions of lions: for there are many people who are eager both to kill men and to devour human flesh, as the Achaeans and Heniochi in Pontus, and many others in Asia, some of whom are as bad, others worse than these, who indeed live by tyranny, but are men of no courage. Nay, we know that the Lacedaemonians themselves, while they continued those painful labours, and were superior to all others

(though now they are inferior to many, both in war and gymnastic exercises), did not acquire their superiority by training their youth to these exercises, but because those who were disciplined opposed those who were not disciplined at all. What is fair and honourable ought then to take place in education of what is fierce and cruel: for it is not a wolf, nor any other wild beast, which will brave any noble danger, but rather a good man. So that those who permit boys to engage too earnestly in these exercises, while they do not take care to instruct them in what is necessary to do, to speak the real truth, render them mean and vile, accomplished only in one duty of a citizen, and in every other respect, as reason evinces, good for nothing. Nor should we form our judgments from past events, but from what we see at present: for now they have rivals in their mode of education, whereas formerly they had not. That gymnastic exercises are useful, and in what manner, is admitted; for during youth it is very proper to go through a course of those which are most gentle, omitting that violent diet and those painful exercises which are prescribed as necessary; that they may not prevent the growth of the body: and it is no small proof that they have this effect, that amongst the Olympic candidates we can scarce find two or three who have gained a victory both when boys and men: because the necessary exercises they went through when young deprived them of their strength. When they have allotted three years from the time of puberty to other parts of education, they are then of a proper age to submit to labour and a regulated diet; for it is impossible for the mind and body both to labour at the same time, as they are productive of contrary evils to each other; the labour of the body preventing the progress of the mind, and the mind of the body.

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