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ATHENS vs. SPARTA

Athens and Sparta were the two major city-states during the ancient Greece time period. These two city-states were very different from each other in many ways. One reason for this was because the city-states were separated from each other by low rugged mountains. This made travel and communication difficult. The main difference between the two city-states was in their government. The Athenian government had a democracy, while the Spartan government had a military aristocracy. The two governments differed in many ways. These differences can be put into three main categories: ideas, values, and institution. Each of these will be explained thoroughly in this essay.

The first category that will be compared and contrasted comprses as institution. In Sparta, military was very important in their lives. Sparta took boys from their homes at the age of seven and put them in military barracks. They stayed there and were involved in military activities until they were 60. At that time, they were allowed to retire from the military. The women were also influenced by the military. They ate healthy, trained in athletics, and were told to have children at a later age so the babies would most likely be strong and healthy. Because of this military training, Sparta usually had the best athletes at the Olympic games. The Spartan government included an aristocracy. It was ruled by two kings. They led religious ceremonies and the military. The government structure included an Assembly, the Ephors, and a Council of Elders. An Assembly passed laws and made decisions concerning war and peace. The Ephors administered public affairs. The Council of Elders proposed laws to the assembly and served as a supreme court to mediate justice. Athens, on the other hand, had differing institutions. Education was a priority to Athens. They expected each citizen to hold public office at some time in his life after attending school from age 7-18. Athenians, being highly educated, are responsible for a variety of innovations. In school, they concentrated mainly on the two great Epic poems: Iliad and Odyssey. Athen’s government, in contrast to the Spartan government, was a democracy. This proved very successful because it gave everyone a say in the government. It comprised of a Council of 500 which were picked through a lottery. This Council administered everyday government business such as the implementation of taxes, treaties, and the establishment of public works. Athens had a Assembly in which all citizens could belong. They passed laws and served as a supreme court. In addition, each year the Assembly chose ten generals to run the army and navy. Athens also included a jury system to decide court cases. Juries contained from 201 to 1,001 jury members, with a majority vote needed to reach the verdict. Athenian democracy also included a system called ostracism. Under this system, an undesirable politician could get exiled for ten years if his name appeared on 6,000 pieces of baked clay called ostraca during a meeting or session. Each of these groups helped make democracy effective and successful.

The second category includes values. One important value includes the military. Sparta believed that the only way to attain domination is through a military society. They believed in being defensive and ready to fight under any circumstance. Therefore, weapons and fighting techniques were important. A few examples include swords, bow and arrows, and the phalanx. Another important value relates to respect for a hierarchy. Sparta believed that having an aristocracy would be the best way of ruling their people. The value of belief in a deity to insure mans fate came from their religion. Sparta’s religion was based mainly on worshipping gods. Their favorite gods to worship were war gods. An example is Ares. Athens had different values from Sparta. Another significant value in Athens society came from their emphasis on education. They believed that every citizen once educated could hold public office at some time in his life, which was a highly respected position. Athens believed in the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” which was the opposite of Sparta’s belief. The value of


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