Edward Wrigley Malvern College Entrance Examination History Subject: In Ancient Greece, what were the differences between Athens and Sparta, in terms of their social structure, economy, culture, military capacity and their foreign relations? Athens and Sparta were both Greek city-states, but they had many differences, in terms of their social structure, economy, culture, military capacity, and their foreign relations.
In Ancient Greece, Athens was the richest and most powerful city-state, and was regarded as a model by most of the other city-states. It was where big concerns for the Greek population were treated. It was a cultural centre with many buildings to the benefit of the population, some with magnificent architectural style. Athens was mainly a democratic state, although it went through all the different political systems, from monarchy to anarchy. This can be explained by the fact that it contained many different types of life styles and casts with a particular contrast between upper classes and lower classes.
The Athenian aristocrats, who called themselves Archons (“old nobles”), were the monarchs from around 600 BCE until 594 BCE. Nine of them would be elected every year by other nobles to rule the country, but this system and the successive ones would never
They could not go to court or make a contract – they were not part of society. They were only there for reproduction and household chores. Marriages were arranged and families were relatively small except for farmers. The infant mortality was high because of infanticide, but there was a great dedication to children. It was also quite common for men (and women) to have companions outside marriage. There were lots of slaves especially around 430 BCE (60000). Every land owner had about 1 or 2 slaves, but they were well treated.
Athens’ economy was based upon trade and its boat harbour activities which were very important, as well as Athens’ influence, made it a worthy ally. In order to protect this activity and merchant ships from Persians and other city-states, Athens built a powerful navy and a city wall going around the city and its port so that it could maintain its economy and resist sieges. Military service in Athens lasted for two years. Athens’ success transformed its inhabitants into arrogant people. This behaviour was known as “hubris”.
This was the cause of its unpopularity and is why Athens was not well perceived by other city-states. Unlike Athens, Sparta was an oligarchic state ruled by “Ephors” who were elected every five years by aristocrats for a five year term of office. Sparta remained an oligarchic state throughout the fifth century BCE. This can be explained by the fact that there was no distinctive casts, except for Ephors, and that this political system seemed to satisfy everyone. Sparta was not a very cultivated state and was fighting most of the time.
It was a society where life was tough. Unhealthy babies were killed and only strong individuals were kept. However, Spartan women had more rights than Athenian women. They could own property, work whilst their husbands were away and participate in social events. The city was rapidly overpopulated and instead of having colonies, it created an army. Military service in Sparta started very early and ended at sixty. The boys were taken away from their mothers at the age of six to be trained in the army.
They would live in barracks with other boys and run, wrestle and train every day. When the boys were twenty years old, they were given a piece of land by the state, which owned all the land and divided it between the citizens. They were allowed to marry at thirty, but still had to live in berricks with other soldiers. Finally, they were allowed to leave barracks at the age of sixty and live with their family. Spartans were forbidden to travel or leave Sparta except for soldiers during wars, because Ephors were afraid that they would prefer foreign customs.
This style of life resulted in a high homosexuality between men, but also in a very big, powerful and experienced army, which made Sparta a useful ally, which it conquered its neighbouring states and turned them into slaves called “helots”. This emanated in many enemies and slave revolts (once every new generation) of which Spartans were fearful. Although Athens and Sparta are both Greek city-states, they differ from each other in terms of social structure, economy culture and military capacity, but what they had in common was that the two of them did not have good relations with their neighbours. 800 words