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Athens Vs. Sparta Essay, Research Paper
Athens Vs. Sparta
Athens and Sparta were both City-states in Greece in ancient times, yet they had no social similarities. They were constantly at war, and at one time at a stalemate. They existed in the same time and place, but had totally different views on life and lifestyles. There were differences in the family life of people and paradigm of Athenians and Spartans.
Sparta was Drastically unlike Athens and all other city-states in this aspect. In Sparta the men were full time soldiers. Even though there were few Spartans, there well-trained warriors were feared by other city-states. The way Spartans should act was based on keeping the slaves (also known as serfs or heliots) from revolting becuase heliots vastly outnumbered Spartans. Citizens were taught to think alike to keep from fighting because this might encourage heliots to attack. Boys lived in barracks and had the same education. As well, drunken soldiers would make it easier for heliots to revolt so prohibition was practiced in Sparta. Family Life was almost nonexistent. Sparta resembled more an army camp. Males of all ages were kept together and spent a lot of time with each other. This was meant to make them grow similar in character as well as devoted to each other so they would be an efficient fighting force. Family life would breed diversity and the Spartans believed in unity to be more important than families. At a very young age boys were taken from the home to train together. Girls might sleep at home, but during the day they worked and exercised together, spending less time with their families than most Greek girls. Men could marry young but were not allowed to spend time with their wives until the age of thirty. Most married couples met in secret. The Spartans knew of these secret meetings, but did not care. They wanted them to take place so the couples could breed more Spartans. These meetings, however, were not allowed to be too frequent because then soldier might become more interested in his wife than his army. This shows very much what family meant to Spartans. Family was a man and wife getting together to breed children, but to have a functional family setting was hurtful to the army and was not practiced. Women in Sparta were given more freedom and held more responsible than women in Athens. Men were either at war or training most of their lives leaving women free to go out and spend time with each other. They had much more freedom and wealth than women in Athens. When men went to war women were left to make decisions for the community– women in Athens would never have been left alone to do this. Mothers of Spartan soldiers were very harsh towards their sons. If a soldier throws their shield down it is to run away from battle like a coward.. To come home on a shield means the soldier is dead. Spartan mothers would send their sons with these words: ” Come home with a shield or on one.” This meant if you lost your shield don’t bother coming home. In conclusion, Spartans had no family life, boys were kept together to create unity, and women had more power, respect, and equality than Athenian women.
In Athens there was a family life, but it was often separated by genders. In a wealthy family, husband and wife lived in almost different worlds. He was outdoors in the community with the other men. The wife stayed indoors with her daughters and other female relatives. Neither did housework or shopping. Slaves took care of that. In a rich house their were different place to live for men and women. The Husband and wife would not converse very much. Another reason for separation was the age difference. The man was often married in his thirties and the women was in her teens. They never had much in common at first so most women had young boyfriends near their age. This way of life was common, but in poorer houses life was different under the circumstances. Poverty forced husbands and wives to live together because of small quarters. Women and children would do the work in these houses. Sometimes young girls would go out into the market to shop. Poor Athenians often married young and for love spite tradition common in richer houses. Sometimes men would not marry until they were over thirty which caused problems in the house. The child of thirty would want independence as an adult but the father still wanted to maintain his reign over his household. This caused a lot of fighting between father and son in Athenian households. Women in Athens were not respected. They were not seen to have any opinions on anything, and were better seen and not heard. They were weak and were controlled by their husbands. If a women had a child, she could be a little relaxed becuase the man was then less likely to divorce her. A divorced women was shunned by Athenians. This shows that a women’s usefulness to her husband ends if she cannot bear children. They could own no land or objects. All in all, women stayed indoors, men worked outside the home, women had no power or respect, and families were kept together as having war-ready men was not as important.
No similarities can be found within the social aspect of culture between Athens and Sparta. Athens was much like the rest of Greece, but Sparta was truly the black sheep. As far as my studies reach, I could not find any research or evidence that would lead me to believe that there were any similarities between Athens and Sparta in this respect.
These City-states were flashes in the pan of history. They were both way ahead of thier time, yet had different veiws on life. There were differences in the family life of people and paradigm of Athenians and Spartans. Sparta concentrated on unity while Athens made the individual important. Sparta gave equality to women while Athens allowed women to own nothing. Sparta chose to open the city to its surroundings, while Athens built a wall around its city. Which made for a better City-state, and a better life for each citizen? Each city state came up with its own view on how we should live, and each can be held as an example of how a community can have a brilliant answer to these questions and its neighbor can have the inverted answer just as brilliant.
Pearson, Anne. Eyewitness Books Ancient Greece. New York: Afred A Knopf, 1992.
Pearson Anne. What do we know about the Greeks? New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1992.
Schofield, Louise. Ancient Greece. New South Whales: Weldon Owen Pty Limited, 1997.
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