Sparta VS Athens
The two best-known societies in ancient Greece were the Spartans, and the Athenians. The two cultures were very different from each other but both contributed ideals that modern man still uses today.
The most obvious difference between the Athens and Sparta is its ancestry. The Spartans were descendents of the Dorian invaders, while the Athenians were of Ionian descent. Both city-states faced a turning point in their history, and each on was regarding slavery. The turning point for Athens were the laws given by Solon. The Athenians were faced with two paths, either continue the practice of enslaving its own citizens, or free them. Solon chose to abolish the practice of debt slavery, and introduced land reforms. When faced with problems regarding slavery, the Spartans did the exact opposite; they based their whole society upon repression of its “Helots” (slaves). Lycurgus was the person behind the laws that made Sparta into a society that was basically one large armed camp. The two philosophies that were followed in the two city-states were quite different also. Athenians believed that the individual was important, while Spartans followed the belief that the state should be all encompassing. Militarily, the Spartans were supreme on land, while the Athenians had the best navy. Each government was unique also. Athens was a democracy, while the Spartans had a strange mix of a monarchy/aristocracy/oligarchy. Economically the Athenians were supreme, Athenians had the best navy in the world, and so they had the most commerce. A Spartan citizen was not even aloud to be anything but a soldier, so they were economically challenged.
The similarities between the two cultures are few, but are important. Even though the Spartan’s whole society was based upon the military, the Athenians could be just as brave and tenacious. This is evident in the Battle of Marathon, where the Athens won a battle against great odds. Both cultures used hoplites and the phalanx in battles, and they were very effective. A common thread was also religion; even though they were so unalike, the same gods were worshipped.
Greece contributed so many things to modern civilization; some of our society is directly borrowed from these people. The Athenian culture produced some great art from this time period, and the Classical and Hellenistic period of Greek art is still studied and admired today. Some of the greatest and long lasting monuments were made by the Athenians (The Acropolis, The Parthenon etc.). The architecture from this time also is copied today, many of our governmental of today use the Greek style. The philosophers and scientists of Athens gave humanity so much. Sophocles, Herodotus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Hippocrates, Demosthenes, Thales, Thucydides, and Archimedes were just some famous Greeks. Because of the ancient Greeks we have many different philosophies including: Stoicism, Eupicurism, Skepticism, and Sophism. Plays, history, geometry, medicine, pi, and the basics of physics are attributed to the Athenians. The Spartans contributed gave us many immaterial contributions. The biggest contribution is how their whole lives were devoted to the state. This just had not been done before. The Spartans influenced many totalitarian regimes in the past century.
The Athenians and Spartans had no idea of how much they would influence modern man. The society that gave more was most certainly the Athenians. While the Spartans did have an interesting system, they really did not leave too much to be studied. Great Athenian buildings are still standing today, while there is just not too much left of Sparta. Also, since the military was first and foremost in the Spartans mind, there was not too much time for culture. Laws against becoming anything but a solider also contributed to Sparta’s lack of contributions. Athenian society was much more advanced culturally, due to a more open society and government. Athens also had more diverse ideas because of its huge amount of trade that put it in contact with other civilizations. Many of today’s countries also borrow ideas from the Athenian style of government; Democracy was invented in Greece, and is constantly being improved upon.
The two city-states of Athens and Sparta were two very unique cultures, and they both played a large role in history. Many of the reasons why society is how it is today can be traced back to the Greeks. The bigger of the two players was Athens though, but Sparta still gave us a lot.
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