Athens and Spartaby Rit Nosotro
Compare Athens and Sparta
Ancient Greece was comprised of small city states, of which Sparta and Athens were two. Athens was renowned as a center of wisdom and learning. The people of Athens were interested in arts, music, and intellectual pursuits. Sparta, on the other hand, was recognized for its military strength. A Spartan's life was centered on the state, because he lived and died to serve the state. Although the competing city states of Sparta and Athens were individually different as well as governmentally diverse, they both managed to become dominating powers in Ancient Greece.
Seven years before the Babylonians destroyed Solomon's Temple and took Judah into captivity, Athens became a democracy under the rule of Solon in 594 B.C. In addition to eliminating serfdom, Solon altered the stringent laws of a previous ruler, Draco, making murder the only crime punishable by death. Under the democracy, Athens entered its golden age, becoming a center of wisdom and learning. The Spartans also entered their golden age with the forming of their military state. This military state was established to control the people they had conquered, the Messenians. Because the Messenians outnumbered their conquerors on a ratio of ten to one, the Spartans turned them into agricultural slaves, or helots. Thus, while Athens was liberating everyone by becoming a democracy, Sparta was enslaving a large amount of people for its own benefit.
The forming of Sparta's military state changed the Spartan way of life. At the tender age of seven, all Spartan males entered a military school. During thirteen years of harsh training, the young men learned toughness, discipline, endurance of pain, and survival skills. Finally, at age twenty, men entered the military. At this point, the young Spartan might became a hoi homoioi, or a "Similar", one of the "warrior elite", if he was accepted into a certain mess unit. If he did not become a "Similar", he and all his descendants were doomed to enter one of the lesser castes, either the "Inferiors" or the "Tremblers". Although living in the barracks, the soldiers were allowed to take a wife. At age thirty, although still in the military, a Spartan man was allowed to live at home, with his wife and family. He did not retire until age sixty.
On the contrary, in the Athenian military, a soldier's rank was decided by his social or economic status before he entered the army. Instituted by Solon in the sixth century B.C., four classes made up the Athenian social ladder. Defined by income, each class had a certain measure of political responsibility. The wealthiest class, called the pentakosiomedimnoi or "five-hundred-bushel men", supplied the army with leaders. Called the hippeis or "horsemen", the second class made up the Athenian cavalry. The third class, called the zeugitai, made up the foot soldier, or hoplite section of the army. Finally, the poorest class, called the thetes, served either as oarsmen for the Athenian fleet, or as archers on land. In addition, while Spartan soldiers trained for thirteen years, Athenian soldiers only trained for two years. Thus, while Spartan military rank was determined by a person's performance after entering the army, Athenian military status was predetermined by the soldier's social class.
Unlike their husbands, Athenian women were forced to stay indoors at all times. They were controlled by their fathers through childhood and by their husbands after marriage. Mostly uneducated, except for learning how to read, they spent their time managing the household and slaves. They were only allowed to leave the house to attend certain religious festivals.
In contrast with Athenian women, Spartan women led a free life and were allowed to leave their houses. They were required by state policy to have an academic and physical education. This grueling physical training helped prepare them for having healthy children. Like the men, they existed solely for what they could give the state. In this case, the state expected Spartan women to produce strong babies who would grow into robust soldiers. If a woman's husband did not accept her baby because of its weakness or deformity, the child was left to die outside the city.
Ruled by an oligarchy, the Spartan military state had a stable government, which led to political stagnation. A duel monarchy was at the top of the pecking order, followed by a council of two kings and twenty-eight noblemen. All these men were retired from the military, and thus were over sixty years of age.
In contrast, Athens was a democracy, ruled by the people. A Council had both executive and administrative control. Members of this Council were chosen by lot every year. Any male citizen over the age of thirty was eligible to be chosen. An Assembly, made up of all male citizens, had veto power over the Council. In addition, the Assembly was the only branch of the government which could declare war. Thus, while Sparta was ruled by only a few of its men, Athens was ruled by all of its male citizens.
Allies against Persia in the Persian Wars, Sparta and Athens fought side by side to defend Greece's independence in 490 B.C. Aided by the powerful Athenian fleet, the Greeks defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. The Battle of Marathon was later called the most important battle in Greek history, because if the Persians had succeeded in invading Greece, both Sparta and Athens' culture would have been permanently changed.
In 480 B.C., the Persians invaded Athens with a force of 150,000 men and 600 ships. While the Athenian fleet stayed safe in harbor, the mighty Persian fleet was crippled by the squalls of the Aegean Sea. Led by the Spartans, the Greeks finished the war by defeating the Persians in 479 B.C. during the Battle of Salamis. Although Athens had been smaller and weaker than Sparta at the beginning of the conflict, Athens emerged from the Persian Wars as the strongest of the Greek city states.
Because of her naval dominance, Athens became foremost in the Delian League, an alliance of Greek city states who wished to rid themselves of Persian control and piracy. After ten years of fighting, the Greeks finally freed themselves from the Persians. In the process, Athens had become more and more powerful. Thus, growing suspicious of Athens' wealth and authority, and because Athens made alliances with several of Sparta's enemies, Sparta began the First Peloponnesian War, which lasted from 460-445 B.C. Because Sparta won an indecisive victory, peace did not last long. However, after the First Peloponnesian War, Sparta agreed to officially recognize the members of the Delian League as the Athenian Empire. In return, Athens released political power over the city states of Greece.
As the fighting came to an end, Athens became stronger and wealthier as a direct result of moving the treasury to Athens for "protection". Also, as chief in the Athenian empire, Athens collected one sixtieth of all revenue. During this time, Pericles, a brilliant orator, had become ruler of Athens in 461 B.C. With the extra money from the Delian revenues, he built the Parthenon, a huge temple with a beautiful gold and ivory statue of Athena, patron of Athens. He also built several other architectural wonders. During the reign of Pericles, Athens attained the height of its glory on the stage, with the tragedies and comedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes. Pericles also made Athens ruler of the sea by building a huge navy. He ruled from 461 to 429 B.C.
In 431 B.C., the Great Peloponnesian War started when Corinth, a major ally of Sparta, broke away from the Delian League. When Athens tried to punish Corinth, Sparta declared war on Athens. Because both sides strategically decided to wear their opponents out, this Peloponnesian War lasted 27 years. Thus, after ten years of fighting, neither side had gained much advantage. However, Athens foolishly attacked Sicily in 413 B.C., wishing to add it to the Athenian empire. In a disastrous battle in the Sicilian harbor, almost the entire Athenian fleet was destroyed. Seeing their opportunity, Sparta attacked Athens, ending the stalemate. Athens was finally defeated in 405 B.C., when a surprise attack eliminated the remainder of the Athenian fleet. Athens surrendered to Sparta in 404 B.C. Stripped of its Athenian empire, and ravaged by Sparta, Athens never fully recovered from its defeat.
After conquering Athens, Sparta became a major city state. In fact, though not actually ruling, Sparta exercised hegemonic, or predominate control over other city states. Entering into an alliance with a Persian usurper, Sparta, leading a Greek army, invaded Persia. However, after their Persian leader was killed, the Greeks were forced to retreat. Still, Sparta continued to dip its fingers in the political pie of Greece, when it tried to capture Thebes. However, Spartan control over Greece ended in 371 B.C., when Thebes, together with its ally Athens, defeated Sparta in the Battle of Leuctra.
As we saw in their history, Sparta relied on their fabulous army to win many battles. In contrast, Athens' navy was their military backbone. Even though both Athens and Sparta had different types of military tactics, in the end neither city proved invincible. According to Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall." In my opinion, God humbled Athens and Sparta because they relied on their own military strength, instead of trusting in God.
In conclusion, the civil accomplishments and differing ideas of Athens and Sparta helped permanently influence Greek culture. Then, seventy years after the Great Peloponnesian War, Alexander the Great could spread the culture and ideas of Hellenistic Greece throughout his empire. Lastly, when his empire collapsed, the world was ready for the Roman Empire and the birth of Christ. Thus, God used the differences, wars, and competition of Athens and Sparta to prepare the way for the coming of his Messiah.BIBLIOGRAPHY
Hooker, Richard. "Sparta." World History. September 18, 2003.http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/GREECE/SPARTA.HTM
Hooker, Richard. "Athens." World History. September 18, 2003.http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/GREECE/ATHENS.HTM
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Warfare in Ancient Greece." World History. September 20, 2003.http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/gwar/hd_gwar.htm
Josiah Ober. "The
Evil Empire." World History. September 20, 2003.http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/prm/blevilempireb.htm
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