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date: 06 December 2023



  • Robert Garland


The division of life into age-groups was prominently adhered to in antiquity, though there was considerable disagreement as to their precise identification. The Pythagorean philosophers (see pythagoras) identified four (Diod. Sic. 10. 9. 5), whereas Hippocratic writers (see hippocrates (2)) acknowledged seven ages of man, each seven years in length (Poll. 2. 4). Since adult society was primarily organized on a two-generational principle, a threefold division probably served most practical purposes, viz. παῖς, νέος, and γέρων in Greek, puer, iuvenis, and senex in Latin. Mental ability was judged to be strictly a function of ageing, as indicated by the fact that there were minimum age qualifications for administrative and executive posts. So an Athenian councillor had to be 30 years old, as, probably, did a Spartan *ephor (see also age classes). Similarly the Roman *cursus honorum or ladder of office prescribed minimum ages for all magistracies. Belief in the magical power inherent in certain *numbers, notably seven and three, meant that certain ages were believed fraught with danger.


  • Gender Studies

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