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Athenian Democracy vs. Spartan Military

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07/01/2009 Period 4 Western Civ Athenian Democracy vs. Spartan Military Ancient Greece was comprised of many city-states known as poleis (Perry, p45). Among them, Athens and Sparta were two of ancient Greece's most successful and dominant poleis. Both poleis were filled with ambition, determination, passion and the will to be the best. Amidst all these similarities, however, were numerous differences (Perry, p47). Athens and Sparta possessed the same qualities to strive to be the best, but they both went about achieving this in completely different manners. While Athens and Sparta both valued a powerful military, they differentiated in their form of government and emphasis on the way to lead one's life (Perry, p47). Athens and Sparta were similar in that they both put a lot of importance and focus in their militaristic development. Athens was located on the peninsula of Attica, by the coast and was in control of a grand navy (Perry, p 47). Sparta on the other hand was located in the middle of the Peloponnesus (Perry, p51) ...read more.


Similarly, the Athenians did not settle with ruling softly. Pericles proclaimed that even though the Spartans undertook laborious training in courage, the Athenians "are just as ready to face the same dangers as they are" (Thucydides, p66). Athens expanded their empire by using force, power and aggression to rule conquered land (Mckay, pg 82). Athens had plenty of brilliant, charming and popular aristocratic politicians who pioneered the Athenian democracy (Mckay, pg 83). Athens and Sparta were politically different in that Athens led a democratic state in which the citizens themselves made the laws whereas Sparta was a militaristic state that had an oligarchy (Perry, p47). Athens put power in the hands of the people and not into the hands of a minority. They believed that everyone was equal and that the ability of a man is more important than the membership of his class (Thucydides, p66). The Spartans, however, believed that the elders would set any crooked decisions, made by the people, right. ...read more.


In Athens, grand architectural projects, sculptures, paintings and public recitals of the Homeric epics were just a few of the cultural developments practiced and marvelled upon. In Sparta however, Lykurgus changed Sparta so that the people lived on equal terms with one another and on equal incomes, striving only to surpass each other in courage and virtue (Weber, p44). While the Athenians taught art, the Spartans pressed upon the teachings of survival and training, to build courage. Other Greeks gapped at their obedience to law, courage, and achievement in moulding themselves according to an ideal. This, however, led to their criticism in lack of aret´┐Ż (Perry, p47). Athens revolved around fully developing personality, whereas Sparta focused on developing a physical epitome. All through history, there have been civilizations that valued art, wisdom and knowledge and others that valued soldiering, power and the military. Each of these societies looked upon their respective values as superior. At a time of war, civilizations that valued soldiering will be successful. However in all other periods, the promotion of art, wisdom and knowledge will prove more useful. It is because of this that Athens was a superior poli in relation to Sparta. ...read more.

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