Athens and Sparta - Netizen Me
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Athens and Sparta

Athens and Sparta: The two most prominent city-states in ancient Greece

Peter von Hess - The Entry of King Othon of Greece in Athens - WGA11387

Athens and Sparta were the two most prominent city-states in ancient Greece. Both made a permanent place in world history and even influenced the modern world. If one had the chance to live in ancient Greece and choose one of these two city-states, the decision would be tough to make. For a woman, one would expect this choice would be Sparta, where women had more freedom than Athens. However, there is more to consider than just one fact. These two great city-states had vast differences that made them stand out.

Athens was a trading state near the sea and exported products, including vine, silver, poetry. They had a firm naval power and good relationships with neighboring city-states. Sparta, in contrast, was a military state, and their lifestyle centered around the military. They used the slaves for farming the lands while male citizens joined the compulsory army service(Andrews,2013). While Athenians were enjoying arts and architecture, Spartans trained to become warriors.
Democratic government in Athens allowed their men who were 18 and born in Athens to take part in the assembly where they could voice their opinion and take part in the government process. The oligarchic government in Sparta had two kings supported by a council of elders of noble birth(Brand, n.d).


Athenian men received a formal education in academics, arts & music, literature as well as athletics since the age of 6 but not women. However, the mothers taught their daughters to cook, dance, sing, and other crafts involved in maintaining a household(Chrysopoulos, 2018).

The Roman Agora of Athens with the Gate of Athena Arhegetis

On the other hand, Sparta provided education to everyone. Spartan men had to leave their mother and home at the age of 6 to join the military training while girls also received education focused on physical fitness and fighting skills(Andrews,2013). Spartan women enjoyed some freedom compared to Athenian women. Apart from formal education, Spartan women could own property and remarry(Brand, n.d). Since most of the men spend most of their adult life with the army, women ran the household and managed properties, including slaves(Brand, n.d). Athenian slaves were skilled in different occupations, such as teachers, household helpers, and artisans(Chrysopoulos, 2018). There were treated relatively fairly compared to Sparta.

Ancient Sparta Ancient Sparta
Nuremberg chronicles - f 28v Medieval depiction of Sparta from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Spartan slaves who were known as helots worked as laborers, helpers, and farmers. They had the opportunity to buy back their freedom. However, the tension between spartan citizens and helots was high due to the potential helot uprising(Brand, n.d).

Both Athens and Sparta present reliable facts about why their lifestyle could be better than others. Spartan women’s education was focused only on physical strength. However, Athenian women taught life skills, including crafts, cooking suitable to their daughters. Moreover, they treated slaves in Athens as much more civilized and humane. Democratic government system, friendliness towards neighboring city-states as well as family-oriented setting in Athens are apparent differences between Athens and Sparta.

Ancient Sparta Ancient Sparta
References for further reading:

Brand, P. J. (n.d.). Athens & Sparta: Democracy vs. Dictatorship. (source)

Andrews, E. (2013). 8 Reasons It Was not Easy Being Spartan. (source)

Chrysopoulos, P. (2018). Everyday Life in Ancient Athens. (source)