Citizenship and state-sponsored physical education: Ancient Greece and ancient China

Paik Wooyeal, Daniel A. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In ancient Greece and ancient China, small states engaged in intense military competition and incessant warfare. In such contexts, there was naturally much emphasis on the training of soldiers. One might have expected state-sponsored physical education to develop as a by-product of the need to train soldiers, but the historical record shows that ancient Greek states placed far more emphasis on physical education compared to their counterparts in ancient China. This essay attempts to (partly) explain the divergent outcomes with reference to the idea of citizenship. The first part outlines the practice and philosophy of state-sponsored physical education in ancient Greece and ancient China and addresses the question of why the two ancient civilizations should be compared in this respect. The main body of the article discusses the political differences between ancient Greece and ancient China that help to explain the different outcomes regarding state-sponsored physical education. The last part ends with some normative reflections that may be relevant for present-day societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-34
Number of pages28
JournalReview of Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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