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[1338b] [1] but rather because this study makes a man observant of bodily beauty; and to seek for utility everywhere is entirely unsuited to men that are great-souled and free. And since it is plain that education by habit must come before education by reason, and training of the body before training of the mind, it is clear from these considerations that the boys must be handed over to the care of the wrestling-master and the trainer; for the latter imparts a certain quality to the habit of the body and the former to its actions.

Now at the present time some of the states reputed to pay the greatest attention to children produce in them an athletic habit1 to the detriment of their bodily form and growth, while the Spartans although they have avoided this error yet make their boys animal in nature by their laborious exercises, in the belief that this is most contributory to manly courage. Yet, as has often been said, it is not right to regulate education with a view to one virtue only, or to this one most of all; indeed they do not even investigate the question whether this virtue is to be had in view at all. For neither in the lower animals nor in the case of foreign races do we see that courage goes with the wildest, but rather with the gentler and lion-like temperaments.2 And there are many [20] foreign races inclined to murder and cannibalism, for example among the tribes of the Black Sea the Achaeans and Heniochi, and others of the mainland races, some in the same degree as those named and some more, which although piratical have got no share of manly courage. And again we know that even the Spartans, although so long as they persisted by themselves in their laborious exercises they surpassed all other peoples, now fall behind others both in gymnastic and in military contests; for they used not to excel because they exercised their young men in this fashion but only because they trained and their adversaries did not. Consequently honor and not animal ferocity should play the first part; for it is not a wolf nor one of the other wild animals that will venture upon any noble hazard, but rather a good man. But those who let boys pursue these hard exercises too much and turn them out untrained in necessary things in real truth render them vulgar, making them available for statesmanship to use for one task only, and even for this task training them worse than others do, as our argument proves. And3 we must not judge them from their former achievements but from the facts of today; for they have rivals in their education now, but they used to have none before.

It is therefore agreed that we should employ gymnastic training, and how we should employ it. For until puberty we should apply lighter exercises, forbidding hard diet and severe exertions, in order that nothing may hinder the growth;

1 i.e. premature and disproportionate muscular development, directed to some particular competition. Cf. 1288b 12 ff.

2 Aristot. Hist. An. 629b 8 (the lion is gentle except when hungry); Plat. Soph. 231a (the dog the gentlest of animals).

3 This sentence would come better at the end of 3.4.

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  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), GYMNA´SIUM
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Plato, Sophist, 231a
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