Jan 25, 2018 in Research

Development of Ancient Sparta and Athens

Comparison between Ancient Athens and Sparta Development


Sparta and Athens are city-states, which existed in ancient Greece. The cities were located closely to each other geographically. Athenian and Spartan societies had various aspects just like modern society. They shared some characteristics while some aspects were totally different. These differences set the cities apart, while the similarities united them creating the united Greek. The paper will study the differences and similarities that existed in Sparta and Athens, in terms of governance, judgment, foods and drinks, values, social structure, education, women’s views, social gatherings and military forces.

There existed different systems of governance in Sparta and Athens, which made great differences in these ancient societies. Sparta was generally an Oligarchy state, which meant that it was ruled by the minority. Every year, the society selected five Ephors and two kings. The Kings and the Ephors attended the general assembly regularly to pass decrees. The general assembly also voted legislation bills and made civil decisions. They were only expected to shout yes or no to show their stand. The Ephors were the overall rulers and had power over the kings. The Sparta Government was closed and exclusive only to the members of the highest social classes (Scarre, and Fagan, 1997).

On the other hand, Athenian society was ruled democratically. This means that it had a government where the people ruled the people. Over five thousand men were selected and sieved to a small group of 500 members by turns. This group was then subdivided into ten groups of 50 members each. Each subgroup ruled for a whole month. There were ten generals selected automatically to head the subgroups. Athenian assembly was democratic and discussed militaristic, social, and political matters inside the pnyx. Meetings were held near markets and other social centers, to ensure attendance of every citizen.

However, there were similarities between Sparta’s and Athens’s governments. In both systems, there were senior persons ruling the state. There was no autocracy in these governments, as they did not have an omnipotent ruler. Athens used the rule of people, aristocrats, generals, and nobles in their government. On the other hand, Sparta opposed autocracy as they selected two Kings who were under five Ephors (Carter, 1986).

Athens and Sparta developed military forces at different times in history. However, each society preferred particular troops in the armed forces. Sparta was located to south of Athens, at a place called Pelonnesus, therefore, the basic focus of the military was based on the land army. The troops consisted of reinforced hoplites. The hoplites went through rigorous training, which made them harsh and strong. On the other hand, Athens’ military force focused on the navy. It was a strong army, which sometimes conflicted with the Spartans. It comprised sailors, soldiers, and captains.

Military forces of Athens and Sparta stood firm and defeated classical Mediterranean enemies. Both states developed grandiose and impressive military power, which were commanded by their respective seniors. Athens’ military was successful, as it had advanced technology from the eastern Mediterranean. It also had financial support offered by poleis who were their allies. There were enough resources from timber, in which the land was plentiful. Similarly, Sparta’s policies and social structure has created strong force, which stands up to date (Scarre, and Fagan, 1997). Both states were superpowers of the present world, especially due to the enormous population of their nations.

Women’s views were regarded differently at some points, and similarly at other points in ancient Athens and Sparta. In Sparta, women were not allowed to use cosmetics or makeup. Jewelry was eliminated; therefore, females were forbidden to use it. They were judged depending on their athletic, physical, and physique competence. There were designated fields where women competed in athletics. Men were out of this tournament and could not participate. The main reason for this competition was the belief that, physically fit women produced the best offspring, who would continue the military tradition of Sparta. On the other hand, women in Athens were judged depending on their natural beauty. Cosmetics, makeup, and jewelry were common and allowed. Females used to wear expensive jewelry and succulent cloths to seduce men. There were special trainings for women, but they were not compulsory.

There existed similarities in views and roles of women, in the ancient Greece. Both societies encouraged women to be in fit through exercising in sports. Women in both societies did their best to look attractive to men in their society. It was their role to seduce men and produce a health and promising generation. They shaped their social status, as well as their lives.

Social gatherings in Sparta and Athens had different proceedings, but both admitted only men. Full citizens in Sparta were allowed to attend common messes. In this process, they would go through tests, to be allowed in. The main reason for attending these messes was to enjoy, but not eat and drink. In fact, there was food rationing, to ensure they did not overeat. This represented discipline, responsibility, and order of men in Sparta. Every man was expected to remain loyal to Sparta, and to the common people (Scarre, and Fagan, 1997).

On the other hand, men in Athens attended social gatherings to drink together. They attended these parties with the main aim of gorging with drinks and food. It was not strict, and there were no rations. Men were not expected to remain loyal to the symposium, and there were no tests. Every man was allowed to get in freely.

There were similarities in social gatherings of Athens and Sparta. Primarily, only men of the highest classes were allowed into such meetings or common messes. Every evening was a leisure enjoyment time, where men sat together to tell stories, socialize, and arrange a settlement. They attended post dinner parties and selected a specific theme or topic, which they would discuss the whole night (Carter, 1986).

Education existed in both Athens and Sparta. In Sparta, it was compulsory for parents to give out their sons to be trained as militants. Training started at the age of seven years, where the boys were given a cloak only. They were not given food, other clothes, or shoes, which made them steal from people in the neighborhoods. This was done to make them tough and be able to survive in every situation. They were released at the age of twenty and given higher ranks in the military. These men were allowed to marry at the age of thirty, but they remained in barracks. Reading, writing, athletics, and military knowhow were emphasized during the training.

Boys in Athens were taken to schools by their parents. Time of education differed and depended on parents’ status and child’s level of understanding. They started schooling at the age of five and finished when they were fourteen years old. Wealthier parents were more advantaged, as they could take their children for further education to study rhetoric, ethics, and philosophy. Mathematics, music sports, reading, writing, and gymnastics were the basic subjects taught in schools. After schooling, boys had engaged in military training for two years (Fisher, 1992).

Boys’ education had many similarities in Athens and Sparta. Both states had schools, in which reading, writing, sports, and mathematics were introduced. Similarly, boys were taken to military training and served as soldiers for the rest of their lives. Education was emphasized, and every boy child was supposed to join the others in the learning field.  

Girls in Sparta started their education at the age of seven. They were taken to schools where reading, writing, athletics, survival, tactics, and gymnastics were introduced. On the other hand, girls in Athens did not receive formal education. They stayed at home as they had no chance to fight for power and education. They were taught weaving, spinning, cooking, and baby care by their mothers. In both societies, girls were taught survival skills, which made them fit in the society. These were means, which they would use later when they would get into their homes (Carter, 1986).

Foods and drinks eaten in Athens and Sparta had similarities and differences. In food, Spartans preferred pork, blood, vinegar, and salt. They did not like fancy and luxurious food. Most of their men lived in barracks and ate the same type of food throughout their lives. On the other hand, Athenians preferred fancy and luxurious food. They acquired these food preferences over the empire times. While the wealthy had nice homes, which had inner courtyards, common people stayed in barracks and had to eat ordinary food. In both states, the only similar trait in food and drinks was that military men lived in barracks and shared similar food.

Values and lifestyle occupied a special place in ancient Athens and Sparta. Spartan children were raised as true Spartan soldiers and got along with nothing. It was illegal for citizens to own luxuries, silver or gold. Children were taught to be warriors and respect the elderly in the entire state. Mothers encouraged their sons to come back as victors from wars or accept death in the fight, as defeat was not acceptable. On the other hand, in Athens, citizens valued democracy. They believed the government had civic responsibility. They believed they were culturally superior and could benefit from trade. They valued their state and worked hard to maintain its economic status. Their children were taught to remain loyal to the state. Respect was among the valued features in Athens (Fisher, 1992).

Ancient Athens and Sparta shared similar lifestyles. They both valued their state and worked tirelessly to maintain their pride. They sacrificed their sons as soldiers, in order to protect their state from outside attack. Children had great respect to their parents, warriors, and the elders in their respective societies. Religion and language were similar in these Greek states. Both societies were polytheistic; religion was taken as a civil duty, which was essential for the welfare of the states. The supreme principle of the divine pantheon was Zeus.

Social structures in Athens and Sparta had several differences and similarities. In Athens, free men included all males, and they were subdivided into various classes. Aristocrats were the highest class. The second class consisted of small farmers. Artisans made the third level class (Fisher, 1992). Those who lived outside Athens either because they could not manage to buy land or start business in a states were referred to as Metics. Slaves were the lowest segment of the people and had no human rights. Women in Athens stayed at homes as they had no rights for education and democracy. On the other hand, social structure in Sparta was broken into three classes. Spartans consisted of the military leaders who staffed the barracks; they had reserved rights and they could vote. Perioeci referred to all the free men in Sparta; this class included craftsmen, merchants, and artisans. Members in this group had no right to vote whenever they were serving in the army. Helots were abducts from the war, which were captured during war conflicts by Spartan militants (Carter, 1986). They worked for Spartan citizens and presented half of their earnings to the landowners.

Similarities in social structures of Athens and Sparta are clear. Both societies were subdivided into social classes. The highest class benefited more, and it was respected by the whole state. On the other hand, the lowest class had no human rights and worked for the landowners.

Ancient Athens and Sparta progressed in legacy and cultural achievements. Athens concentrated on development, which is clearly seen in modern society. Drama, literature, architecture, arts, philosophy, medicine, science, and institutions of democracy were the most encouraging fields of activity. They influenced the development of the ancient Athens, and their fruit are clearly seen even today. On the other hand, Sparta concentrated on military craft and power. It appeared to have the greatest military supremacy, in the ancient world. Up to date, there still exists a prominent figure of their King Leonidas, who is glorified in songs, ancient legends, and even modern movies (Fisher, 1992).


In conclusion, Athens and Sparta had great divergent societies and was a success story in their spheres of interest. However, the two possessed various analogous relationships during ancient development times. Athenian and Spartan society had enormous similarities and differences in terms of education, governance, role of women, culture, social structure, military power, foods and drinks, social gatherings, and means of production.


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