What does Aristophanes' "Clouds" tell us about Athenian society and education?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Aristophanes`Clouds represents a conflict between the old education and the new sophistic education in classical Athens. The old education was limited to gymnastics, music, and basic literacy and numeracy. Post-secondary training was normally apprenticeship, often in the form of `sunoisia`, in which an older relative would introduce a youth to civic life. This left a gap, between secondary education and the age at which youths could assume responsibility for the family estate. Pheidippiedes, Strepsiades` son in Clouds, is emblematic of the problem of wealthy youth with no meaningful activity, generally getting into trouble.

Two competing groups, philosophers and sophists, developed tertiary education in Athens, with the philosophers offering an environment in which one could devote oneself to free pursuit of theoretical knowledge and sophists such as Protagoras charging fees for practical training in rhetoric. The Socrates of Clouds is an amalgam of Protagoras and the historical Socrates.