Greece Essay, Research Paper
The country of Greece, in 400-500 BCE was led to greatness by two city-states. These city-states, diverse in ideas and actions, were Sparta and Athens. Sparta and Athens were as different as night and day. Sparta glorified military tactics while Athens took relish in art and learning. These city-states served not only as rivals but also allies. Sparta and Athens, two city-states with nothing in common but the desire to make Greece a powerful, omnipotent nation, accomplished their goal through their unity, diverseness, and controversy. To better understand the interaction between Sparta and Athens and their desire for Greece to be a strong nation, it is imperative to know the situation of these two city-states in the early 400’s BCE. At this point in time, another city-state of Greece, Ionia was under the control of Persia. The Ionian Greeks were dissatisfied by Persian rule. A Persian tyranny dominated Ionia at this time and Ionians begged Sparta and Athens to relieve them from the burden of Persia. Sparta declined to help but Athens decided their assistance would prevent the Persian tyranny from spreading in the direction of Athens, their home. Athens easily defeated Persia and freed the Ionians in the battle of Marathon in what is known as the Ionian Revolt. Margaret Killingray supports this in writing, “Athens, a tiny city, gloried in her victory over one of the world’s largest empires” (Killingray 18). This defeat however, angered the Persian tyranny and thus war was declared on Greece, Persia’s intentions being to conquer all of Greece and make it part of the Persian empire. Thus, in 490 BCE the Persian War began. Now that the threat of the Persians had intensified, Sparta was ready to fight Persia. Greek armies everywhere, including that of Athens who had an incredible naval fleet, united under the supreme military command of Sparta. The Persian’s efforts were crushed by the Greek force; Sparta having led them to a complete victory. This victory signified the strength that Sparta and Greece had developed and that they were accomplishing their goal of becoming a powerful nation. Now that Persia was no longer such an imposing threat, Spartans and Athenians were free to return to their lives as they had been before the Persian War. Sparta reconvened their military way of life just as Athens revived their lifestyle that focused on art and learning. It was through Sparta’s military conduct that Sparta became a powerful city-state. Military training had roots deep in Spartan society, hence the half century they had spent fighting the Persians. It was for that reason, according to Isaac Asimov, that the Spartans ” dedicated their lives to warfare.” (Asimov 52). Spartans were raised in the most unadulterated manner possible so that they might center their lives around combat in order to make Greece a more forceful nation. Spartan children were brought up under military expectations. At birth, Spartan babies were inspected for deformities and if any child was found to be other than physically sound, they were abandoned on mountaintops to die. Asimov wrote that the Spartans’ logic behind this was to ensure that their population was free of defects and more capable of fighting when the need arose (Asimov 52). An article out of Encarta 97 Encyclopedia stated: “Spartans were taught to endure cold and hunger, were not allowed to wear fine clothes or eat good food, were trained in all military arts and were taught to endure weariness and pain without complaint.” (Encarta 97 Encyclopedia). Although the lifestyle of Spartans was harsh, it was attributable to making Sparta the ” greatest military power in Greece.” (Encarta 97 Encyclopedia)
After the Persian War, Athens, like Sparta, returned to ordinary life a more powerful city-state. The primary reason for Athens’ increased influence on Greece was the formation of the League of Cities. Designed by Athens, the League of Cities was, according to Dorothy Mills, ” an establishment whereby members [other Greek city-states] paid to enlarge and strengthen the superior Athenian fleet to protect Greece from the threat of Persia.” (Mills 289). While Athens did perform its duties by offering protection to all of Greece, it used its position in the League to force other city-states into agreeing with Athens. In addition, Athens, according to The Book of Ancient Greeks, by laws of Pericles (the leader of Athens at this time) made it possible for every Athenian citizen to take an active part in the government. Thus the government became a democracy, a state ruled by the many (Mills 299). Furthermore, Athens acquired wealth by collecting payment from members of the League of Cities. With this wealth Athens was able to beautify their city and focus their attentions on the cultivation of learning and the arts. Consequently, Greece was led to a “golden age”, a time of intellectual, philosophical, and artistic growth that produced many scholars, artists, writers and philosophers. Unlike the Spartans, Athenian children were educated and brought up to appreciate beauty and intellect. Athens increased influence of Greece was credited to the Athenians control of the League of Cities, democracy, and the reputation they received by turning Athens into the most beautiful of all Greek cities. Encarta 97 Encyclopedia states that “Athens became famous as an artistic and cultural center.” (Encarta 97 Encyclopedia). Because both Sparta and Athens were powerful countries with strong ideals, controversy was bound to result. One example of their rivalry was the Peloponnesian War. This war was spurred by Athens’ abuse of its control of the League of Cities. Athens used its influence to insist that all other city-states be governed by democracy. Athens forcefully stopped the cities that wanted to leave the League and that preferred an oligarchic form of government like that of Sparta. Killingray described the Peloponnesian War as ” a war about politics and the power of different groups within the city as well as a war between empires.” (Killigray 19). Mills writes in reference to the Peloponnesian War that, ” this war was between Greek and Greek, and it rapidly spread over almost the whole Greek world. The real cause was the rivalry between Athens and Sparta, and it was fought to determine which should be supreme in Greece.” (Mills 296). The outcome of the war was the downfall of Athens and the supremacy of Sparta. The fifth and sixth centuries BCE found both Sparta and Athens in seats of power in Greece. Unified, they defeated Persia and eliminated the threat of becoming part of the Persian Empire. The diverseness of Sparta and Athens allowed Greece to become powerful in two areas; one being military supremacy, the other being intellectual supremacy. Finally, the controversy between Sparta and Athens determined which city-state would have supreme control of Greece, settling the dispute for the last time. The city-states of Sparta and Athens accomplished their goal of making Greece an omnipotent nation through their unity, diverseness and controversy.