At What Age Were Boys Considered Adults in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the concept of adulthood was quite different from what we understand today. Boys were considered to transition into adulthood at a specific age, which varied depending on the city-state and cultural norms of the time.

Age of Adulthood in Ancient Greece

In most city-states of ancient Greece, boys were considered to become adults at the age of 18. This age was significant as it marked the end of their formal education and training. At this point, they were expected to take on adult responsibilities and actively participate in society.

Coming-of-Age Rituals

The transition from boyhood to adulthood was often accompanied by coming-of-age rituals that varied from region to region. These rituals served as a way to celebrate and acknowledge the young men’s entry into adulthood.

Rites of Passage

Rites of passage were common in ancient Greece and typically involved ceremonies and tests that symbolized the transition. One well-known example is the Athenian ritual called ephebeia, which marked the moment when young men became epheboi (ephebes). The ephebeia included physical and mental tests, military training, and participation in religious events.

  • Physical Tests: The physical tests aimed to assess the young men’s fitness and endurance. They had to demonstrate their strength, agility, and ability to endure challenging physical tasks.
  • Military Training: Military training played a significant role in ancient Greek society.

    As part of their coming-of-age process, boys received military instruction to prepare them for potential military service.

  • Religious Events: Religious ceremonies were an integral part of Greek culture. Young men participated in rituals and sacrifices to honor the gods and seek their blessings as they entered adulthood.

Educational Transition

Another important aspect of the transition into adulthood was the completion of formal education. In ancient Greece, education was highly valued, particularly in Athens.

Boys received education from private tutors or attended public schools called gymnasia. The curriculum included subjects like reading, writing, music, mathematics, philosophy, physical education, and public speaking.

Once boys reached the age of 18 and completed their education, they were considered ready to take on adult responsibilities.

Social Roles of Adult Men

Upon reaching adulthood, young men in ancient Greece were expected to fulfill various social roles. These roles included military service, participation in civic affairs, marriage and starting a family, and contributing to society.

  • Military Service: Adult men were typically expected to serve in the military. They would join the army or navy of their city-state and actively participate in military campaigns when required.
  • Civic Participation: Adult men were also expected to actively participate in civic affairs. This could involve serving on juries, participating in political assemblies or councils, and fulfilling other civic responsibilities.
  • Marriage and Family Life: Marriage was considered a significant milestone for adult men.

    They were expected to find a suitable spouse and start a family. Family life played an essential role in ancient Greek society.

  • Social Contributions: Adult men were encouraged to contribute to society through various means such as art, literature, philosophy, or public service. Many notable philosophers, poets, playwrights, and statesmen emerged from ancient Greece during this time.


In ancient Greece, boys were considered adults at the age of 18. The transition into adulthood was marked by coming-of-age rituals and the completion of formal education.

Adult men took on important social roles, including military service, civic participation, marriage, and contributing to society. Understanding the age at which boys were considered adults provides valuable insight into the cultural norms and expectations of ancient Greek society.