Ancient Greece was comprised of small city-states, of which Sparta and Athens were two. Athens was renowned as a center of wisdom and learning. The people of Athens were interested in arts, music, and intellectual pursuits. Sparta, on the other hand, was recognized for its military strength. A Spartan’s life was centered on the state, because he lived and died to serve the state. Although the competing city-states of Sparta and Athens were individually different as well as governmentally diverse, they both managed to become dominating powers in Ancient Greece.
Athens became a democracy under the rule of Solon in 594 B. C. In addition to eliminating serfdom, Solon altered the stringent laws of a previous ruler, Draco, making murder the only crime punishable by death. Under the democracy, Athens entered its golden age, becoming a center of wisdom and learning. The Spartans also entered their golden age with the forming of their military state. This military state was established to control the people they had conquered, the Messenians.
Because the Messenians outnumbered their conquerors on a ratio of ten to one, the Spartans turned them into agricultural slaves, or helots. Thus, while Athens was liberating everyone by becoming a democracy, Sparta was enslaving a large amount of people for its own benefit. The forming of Sparta’s military state changed the Spartan way of life. At the tender age of seven, all Spartan males entered a military school. During thirteen years of harsh training, the young men learned toughness, discipline, endurance of pain, and survival skills.
Sparta Vs Athens Essay
Finally, at age twenty, men entered the military. At this point, the young Spartan might became a hoi homoioi, or a “Similar,” one of the “warrior elite,” if he was accepted into a certain mess unit. If he did not become a “Similar,” he and all his descendants were doomed to enter one of the lesser castes, either the “Inferiors” or the “Tremblers. ” Although living in the barracks, the soldiers were allowed to take a wife. At age thirty, although still in the military, a Spartan man was allowed to live at home, with his wife and family.
He did not retire until age sixty. On the contrary, in the Athenian military, a soldier’s rank was decided by his social or economic status before he entered the army. Instituted by Solon in the sixth century B. C. , four classes made up the Athenian social ladder. Defined by income, each class had a certain measure of political responsibility. The wealthiest class supplied the army with leaders. Called the hippeis or “horsemen,” the second class made up the Athenian cavalry. The third class, called the zeugitai, made up the foot soldier, or hoplite section of the army.
Finally, the poorest class, called the thetes, served either as oarsmen for the Athenian fleet, or as archers on land. In addition, while Spartan soldiers trained for thirteen years, Athenian soldiers only trained for two years. Thus, while Spartan military rank was determined by a person’s performance after entering the army, the soldier’s social class predetermined Athenian military status. Unlike their husbands, Athenian women were forced to stay indoors at all times. They were controlled by their fathers through childhood and by their husbands after marriage.
Mostly uneducated, except for learning how to read, they spent their time managing the household and slaves. They were only allowed to leave the house to attend certain religious festivals. In contrast with Athenian women, Spartan women led a free life and were allowed to leave their houses. They were required by state policy to have an academic and physical education. This grueling physical training helped prepare them for having healthy children. Like the men, they existed solely for what they could give the state.
In this case, the state expected Spartan women to produce strong babies who would grow into robust soldiers. If a woman’s husband did not accept her baby because of its weakness or deformity, the child was left to die outside the city. Ruled by an oligarchy, the Spartan military state had a stable government, which led to political stagnation. A duel monarchy was at the top of the pecking order, followed by a council of two kings and twenty-eight noblemen. All these men were retired from the military, and thus were over sixty years of age. In contrast, Athens was a democracy, ruled by the people.
A Council had both executive and administrative control. Members of this Council were chosen by lot every year. Any male citizen over the age of thirty was eligible to be chosen. An Assembly, made up of all male citizens, had veto power over the Council. In addition, the Assembly was the only branch of the government, which could declare war. Thus, while Sparta was ruled by only a few of its men, all of its male citizens ruled Athens. The civil accomplishments and differing ideas of Athens and Sparta influenced Greece into becoming what it is today.