chapter  1
25 Pages

Classical origins

Foundations and variations

Education for citizenship emerged in Greece during the Archaic Age (776-479 BC) and flourished in the following Classical Age, during which time it was the subject of some distinguished thinking. Both the pedagogical and literary activities were occasioned by the development of the status of citizenship: individuals needed to learn how to act in that capacity. By the eighth century the typical Greek sociopolitical entity was no longer the kingdom or tribe, it was the polis. The polis (we shall avoid the somewhat misleading translation ‘city-state’) – Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, for example – was a micro-state by today’s standards. Even the demographically bloated and democratically governed Athens at its apogee contained during its very brief maximum probably only about 50,000 members of citizen families, though to this number must be added resident foreigners and slaves. Population size and structure and geographical constriction indeed provide the basic clues to the origins of citizenship. The polis was a compact community dominated by a relatively small and ethnically cohesive group, for whom outsiders – the foreigners and slaves – undertook vital work. As a consequence, the dominant group enjoyed the privileges of relative wealth and leisure to participate in the government of the polis, to be, in short, citizens.