Education in Ancient Rome

Education in Ancient Rome

Education was seen as very important within Ancient Rome. Rich people especially put a lot of faith into education and schooling. The poor did not have the opportunity to receive a formal education though they often still learnt to read and write. Children within rich families were well schooled and taught by a private tutor or went out to school. Schools equivalent to today were usually only for boys. 

Learning in public schools was heavily disciplined, with caning for the slightest mistake. This was to encourage the belief that boys would learn more quickly and accurately if they were in constant fear of making mistakes. For pupils who continually got things wrong, they were held down by two slaves and beaten by the tutor with a leather whip. 

"The teacher must decide how to deal with his pupil. Some boys are lazy, unless forced to work; others do not like being controlled; some will respond to fear but others are paralysed by it. Give me a boy who is encouraged by praise, delighted by success and ready to weep over failure. Such a boy must be encouraged by appeals to his ambitions."

Quintilian, a teacher in the 1st Century AD.

There were not many subject choices in Rome, so children probably became bored quite quickly. The days were also much longer than modern day schools, beginning from sunrise with a short lunch break during the day, then arriving home by sunset. Lessons were learned off by heart and without question - the children only needed to know facts to escape beatings. Books were too expensive so lessons were generally dictated to the class.

Ancient Rome had two types of schools - one for children up to 11 or 12 who learned reading, writing and basic mathematics using an abacus. Older children would attend more advanced schools, studying specific topics such as public speaking and writings of the great Roman intellects. Girls did not usually attend these schools as they were able to get married from age 12, where boys waited until 14.

Girls were only allowed to learn reading and writing while boys received lessons in honourability and physical training to prepare them for a man’s role in society. Girls from rich families received a home education to learn how to be a good wife and run a good household, with tasks such as music, sewing and the running of a kitchen.

A school week was seven days instead of five, with no weekend. However there were many school religious holidays, along with market days which meant school closure, and even a summer holiday.

See also: How was Rome Governed, Religion in Ancient Rome,  Health & Medicine in Ancient Rome, The History of Roman Numerals

MLA Citation/Reference

"Education in Ancient Rome". 2023. Web.