Athens and Sparta are two prominent Greek rival city-states. Though these are not very far away from each other, there are many differences between these two states. Athens was the centre for arts, learning and philosophy while Sparta was a warrior state. Moreover, Athens’ economy was mainly based on trade, whereas Sparta’s economy was based on agriculture and conquering.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Athens
– Society, Governance, Athenians
2. What is Sparta
– Society, Governance, Spartans
3. What are the Similarities Between Athens and Sparta
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Athens and Sparta
– Comparison of Key Differences
Athens, Athenians, Sparta, Spartans
What is Athens
Athens was one of the largest and most influential city-states of Greece. The city got its name after Athena, the Goddess of warfare and wisdom. The Parthenon, the temple built for Athena, sits on top of a hill in the centre of the city. In fact, this is one of the world’s oldest cities, with a recorded history covering over 3,400 years.
Ancient Athens was the centre for the arts, philosophy, and learning. Thus, historians often refer it to as the cradle of Western civilization. It is also the home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. Historians consider Athens to be the birthplace of democracy. Ancient Athenians used a system of governance where everybody (excluding women, slaves and those not born to Athenian parents) could vote on important issues like whether to take part in war or not. Also, there existed a lottery system to elect all public officials. The city of Athens reached its golden era under the leadership of Pericles (461 to 429 BC). So, this is also called the Age of Pericles.
The Agora, which was a large open area for meetings, was the centre of commerce and government in Athens. It was the place where people got together to discuss philosophy and politics. The famous Acropolis is also located in the middle of the city of Athens. It was built as a fortress where people could retreat to when the city is attacked. Later, many temples and buildings were also built there.
What is Sparta?
Sparta is also a major city-state in ancient Greece. The city-state was actually known as Lacedaemon, while the name Sparta itself referred to the main settlement on the banks of the Eurotas River in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. However, today, we use the name Sparta to refer to the city-state. Sparta was a warrior society; society was mainly based on loyalty to the state and military power. In fact, Sparta was a leading force of the Greek military during the Greco-Persian Wars.
From a very young age, boys entered a rigorous state-sponsored education, military training and socialization program known as the Agoge. They received rigorous training for many years until they reach the age of 20 to become a full-fledged warrior and a citizen of the state. In addition, manual labour in the city was all done by slaves, allowing Spartan men more time to engage in military pursuits. Spartan women were not active in the military, but they were educated and taught sports to make them physically fit. Moreover, Spartan women had more rights and freedom compared to women in other Greek states.
Sparta reached the height of its power after defeating Athens in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. However, Sparta’s decline began a few decades later, after a defeat against the Thebans at the Battle of Leuctra.
Similarities Between Athens and Sparta
- Athens and Sparta are two prominent Greek city-states in classical antiquity.
- Both states used many slaves. In fact, it is said that each state had about a hundred thousand salves.
- These two states had powerful military forces.
- Both states had their own government system that had ensured the welfare of their citizens.
- Athens and Sparta possessed stable economies when compared to other regions.
Difference Between Athens and Sparta
Athens is the Greek city-state that is considered to be the cradle of civilization and the home to democracy. Sparta, on the other hand, was a prominent city-state in Greece that rose to become the dominant military land-power in the region.
Type of Society
Athens was a centre of arts, learning and philosophy, whereas Sparta was a warrior society.
Athens had a form of democracy where every free Athenian male over 18 years old was considered citizens while Sparta had an oligarchic government.
While Athens’ economy was mainly based on trade, Sparta’s economy was based on agriculture and conquering.
Moreover, Athens had a powerful navy, whereas Sparta had a powerful land-army.
Spartan women had more status and freedom than Athenian women. Spartan women were educated and could own and manage property, unlike Athenian women.
Education and Training
In Athens, boys received a well-rounded education, but girls were only taught household chores. In Sparta, both boys and girls received physical training to stay fit. Spartan boys received a military education and training for many years.
Athens and Sparta are two prominent Greek rival city-states. Though these are not very far away from each other, there are many differences between these two states. The main difference between Athens and Sparta is their government, economy, and society. Athenian society, which was based on trade, valued art and culture and was ruled under a form of democracy. Spartan society, on the other hand, was a militant society whose economy was based on farming and conquering.
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2. Mark, Joshua J. “Athens.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 7 Nov. 2019, Available here.
3. “History of Ancient Sparta.” LiveScience, Purch, Available here.
4. “Sparta.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 12 Nov. 2009, Available here.
1. “The Parthenon in Athens” By Steve Swayne – File:O Partenon de Atenas.jpg, originally posted to Flickr as The Parthenon Athens (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Map ancient Athens” By Singinglemon – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “SpartaGreatRhetra” By Publius97 at en.wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
4. “Ancient sparta theater” By Κούμαρης Νικόλαος (Attribution) via Commons Wikimedia