Comparing Athens and Sparta

Athens and Sparta are two of the most notorious Ancient Greek city-states. Throughout history, their reputation has been built on their many achievements and incredible development for people of an ancient era. Although they were both a part of Ancient Greece, they had stark cultural differences.

Athens was considered to be cultured and intellectual. It had a very strong navy, but it was so much more than military might. Athenian society was built on democratic values. They valued education greatly, so children learned reading, writing, and math. This childhood education was very advanced for its time. Athens was the leader of the Delian League. The Delian League was created in order to save Greek independence from Persian rule. Another important part of Athenian life was its economy and trade culture. Merchants and citizens traded goods at the “agora.” The agora was what we might imagine as a public square. It was the hub of the city, where goods as well as ideas were exchanged. It was here that Athenian culture grew and flourished.

Sparta was less interested in aesthetics than Athens, and more interested in military success. Sparta was the leader of the Peloponnesian League. This is important to know, because the Peloponnesian League was at war with the Delian League during the 4th century BC. The Spartan army was very strong, and is considered legendary to this day. It was very advanced in terms of tactical movement and organization. The Spartan government was an oligarchy. The culture was dominated by the value of militaristic success. Of course, there was other work to be done besides going to war. People still needed to eat. Agricultural work was done by helots. Helots were essentially serfs, owned by the Spartan government for agricultural labor.

Although Athens and Sparta had very big differences in culture and values, there were some basic similarities. First, they were both Greek city states. Even though they seem to be opposites, they both show different sides of Greek culture: beauty, intellectualism, militarism and order. Finally, they were actually both on the same side in their unity against the Persians.