The Spartans and Athenians were the first to have a type of physical education.
Though very different, both systems served the people and their needs. The Spartan system was similar to a dictatorship. Male children were taken at the age of seven to learn basic military skills while living in barracks. When the children reached the age of fourteen, they began learning group fighting tactics which would allow them to succeed while in the military from the ages of twenty to thirty. Once thirty, the men could then marry a women who had been doing some training of her own in order to make strong babies. The philosophy of the Spartans was basically to allow them to invade other countries if desired, and to prevent other countries from invading them.
The philosophy of the Athenians was quite different compared to the Spartans. The Athenian culture was very democratic, and focused on training the mind and body. Reading and writing was a large part of society as well as physical activity which took place in the center of the city where the gymnasium was located. The physical education philosophy of the Athenians was the high point of physical education for many years.
Some other cycles in physical education that we have evolved from are that of the Romans, the dark ages, and the crusades. The Roman era is a bit disturbing, but is nonetheless a cycle of physical education.
Physical education for the Romans was about athletics, which was primarily about entertainment. People were forced to fight to the death, and oftentimes fed to lions. During the dark ages, religion viewed physical education as a waste of time and a work of the devil. The dark ages were a very sedentary time for human civilization. Following the dark ages in approximately 1096, were the crusades. The crusades were a time of muscular Christianity, because of the Muslims conquering Jerusalem.
Muscular Christianity is basically Christians believing that the more one trained to become good soldiers, the more Christian a person was. In 1270, the crusades ended and so did the thought of physical education being worthwhile until approximately 1400 when the renaissance period began. Physical education during the renaissance period is quite similar to physical education today. It is done to better oneself, not to be doing something for someone else. The development of physical education had another setback in the 1600’s when it was very functional and not a priority. People believed that if it did not have a specific purpose, than it was a waste of time.