Sparta And Athens Essay, Research Paper
Sparta and Athens
Sparta and Athens are like apples and oranges; the same but different. Both are fruit grown on trees in the case of the apples and oranges, and both are city-states in Greece in the case of Athens and Sparta. Apples and oranges have distinctly different tastes, textures and flavors. Athens and Sparta had markedly different types of origins, social class, government and military history. In this paper both similarities and differences between Athens and Sparta will be explored, so as to learn the real truth about these two ancient city-state giants.
The origins of these two city-states have some similarities and some differences. What started as two uninhabited small parcels of land ended up as Athens and Sparta. Around 3000 B.C. the Mycenaeans inhabited Athens. Mycenaean rule lasted for 2900 years. From 1100 B.C. to 950 B.C., the Dorians invaded Athens along with other Mycenaean city-states. Mycenaean rule and civilization were destroyed. Athens survived the Dorian invasions and developed into an advanced city-state. The city-state Sparta was formed as a result of the Dorian invasions. In 900 B.C., fifty years after Athens was invaded, the Dorians invaded Laconia in southeastern Greece, destroying almost all of the small villages. In 800 B.C. many Dorian villages banded together to form Sparta (Encyclopedia Vol. 4). Sparta was the ideal place for the evolution of a military because it had natural protective barriers; mountains in the north, east, and west.
The development of social class and government in Sparta and Athens had a long road that had many bumps before the two city-states reached their final goal or destination. How each city-state took the bumps separated one city-state from the other. Sparta s social class was first made of two kings who were descendants of the Dorian king. In 735 B.C. the Spartans invaded Messenia, making its people the lowest class of citizens, helots. Sparta used Messenia s fertile land for farming. The income generated from farming was used increase the aristocracies wealth, making Sparta more powerful. In 600 B.C. one hundred thirty-five years after Sparta conquered Messenia, Sparta developed a constitution which gave power to the elders of the aristocracy. Sparta s constitution called for town meetings which gave male non-aristocratic citizens thirty-five years of age and older the opportunity to veto legislation proposed by the male elders of the aristocracy. (Encyclopedia Vol. 4) The elders of the aristocracy reported to the two kings who controlled the Spartan army.
In 669 B.C. Sparta suffered its first defeat, causing the helots to revolt. The helots outnumbered the aristocracy seven to one. After years of fighting, the revolt was put down; the helots were defeated. After the revolt, Sparta made a drastic change and shifted to a military state, in which rights of the individuals were secondary to the good of Sparta. Land was divided equally among adult men, who in turn served as infantry. This was done to prevent any more helot uprisings. Following the revolt, there were still two kings, but aristocracy was dismantled because land was divided equally among all the adult males. The only difference between the aristocracy, middle class and the helots was that the aristocracy had a slightly higher place in the military than the middle class and helots.
In 700 B.C. a Greek hero, Theseus, united Athens with several other city-states and established a monarchy. In 600 B.C. the monarchy was replaced by a group of aristocratic individuals who called themselves Archons. The aristocracy, in a meeting called the Ecclesia elected three Archons. The number of Archons was later changed to nine. The Aristocracy also controlled a council called the Areopagus. As the aristocratic power increased the little freedom the lower class had diminished, which led to several social crises. In 621 B.C. Athenian ruler Draco, established a series of laws that gave severe punishments for minor crimes. Most of the crimes were punishable by death. Twenty-one years after Draco s rule ended in 594 B.C., Athenian leader Solon abolished the Draconian laws, and established new ones that eliminated the Archons in the Ecclesia. (Encyclopedia Vol. 1) Solon also established a council of four hundred members of separate tribes to rule, which distributed power more evenly. Solon also established the foundation for democratic government. In 560 B.C. popular leader Pisistratus seized Athens. During Pisistratus rule Athens became the political, economical, and religious center of the region. (Encyclopedia Vol. 1) Athens also extended its power beyond the territory it had originally ruled. In 510 B.C. a power struggle erupted between Democratic leaders and Archons. After years of fighting the democratic leader won. A newly elected democratic leader Cleisthenes decreased power of the upper class so as to eliminate power struggles.
During the Persian war Athens played a great role in the defeat of Persia by strengthening its navy so as to defeat the Persian navy. Athens also formed the Delian League, a mutual alliance with other city-states in order to gain power and defeat Persia. After the Persian War Athens became the strongest city-state in Greece. Athens transformed its control over the Delian League to an empire of over 200 city-states (Encyclopedia Vol. 1.) As Athens new leader, Pericles, focused on revitalizing the cultural, economic, and military heritage it had known in prior years. Pericles appealed to the people s strive for excellence, by encouraging them with quotes such as the admiration of the present and succeeding ages will be ours.
By 500 B.C. Sparta had become a military superpower. In 480 B.C. Sparta led other city-states in defeating Persia in the Persian Wars. Sparta s power was short lived. In 464 B.C., soon after the Persian Wars, a horrible earthquake hit Sparta, which caused many deaths and sparked another revolt. Sparta was in turmoil, and Athens became the most powerful city-state. Afraid of Athenian domination Sparta started a revolt against Athens in 431 B.C. This revolt was known as the Peloponnesian War.
The Peloponnesian War was a long and tumultuous war between Sparta and Athens. When Sparta invaded Athens it split Greece into two different sides. Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes, which made up the Peloponnesian League on one side, and Athens and its other allies, which made up the Delian League were on the other side. The war raged on for many years. In 415 B.C., Athens suffered a crushing defeat at Syracuse. Following the loss at Syracuse, Athens future was grim. In 404 B.C. Athens surrendered to Sparta, and lost its empire.
The victory over Athens was Sparta s last major victory. In 371 B.C. Sparta was crushed by rival city-states. Sparta was forced to give up its Messenian land and its helots. After the devastating defeat, Sparta s system of child rearing and military training fell apart, and its two kings were replaced by a single monarchy. (Encyclopedia Vol. 4) Sparta tried to reestablish itself as a military power, but never achieved the greatness it had before.
During the times of Athens and Sparta, their respective militaries played a large part in the power-struggle between the two city-states. Although Sparta is known for its military achievements, Athens also had a strong military. In the long run, the power-struggle led to both city-states demise.
Democracy, which had its roots in Athens is still around today but has been altered, improved upon, and implemented in many successful governments around the world. Sparta s military code, which requires service from every male citizen, has also been incorporated and altered in many other countries, such as Israel. Greece has evolved from a country that was split into two separate parts to a unified country in which no one is fighting over the others land. Although Athens and Sparta still exist, their once great empire has been diminished to the status of two cities, with no rule of its own, but as part of a larger country. Today apples and oranges come in many new and different varieties. Athens and Sparta still exist but as cultural and diverse cities. As Sparta and Athens provided the foundation for government and rule, apples and oranges provide a building block for good nutrition and health.