Comparison Ancient Athens and Sparta: Politically and Militarily

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The Athenian and Spartan society shared several aspects in common and the same time had distinct outstanding differences. The issues that they shared in common is what that brought them together. However, the differences are the elements that set them apart. The areas in which the differences were noted included the areas of the systems of government as well as in militaristic focuses. In the social gatherings of both the Spartans and the Athenians.

The government structure

 The structure of the government is one main aspect that differentiates the Athenian and the Spartan powers. To begin with, Sparta was regarded as an oligarchy which directly implies the rule by a few leaders (Brock 89).  As such, five ephors were elected annually accompanying two kings. The Kings would then pass on the crowns to their sons.  Also in Sparta, there was the equivalent of Senate that was recognized as the gerousia.  Regarding functionality the kings and the elected ephors had the responsibility of attending a general assembly which was known as an Apella. In the general assembly, they played the roles of developing and passing motions and decrees that were referred to as the rhetrai. More so the general assembly would vote and pass various legislation so as enact various civil decisions. Additionally, the five ephors had the capability of overruling the kings. However, their main role wee to maintain the religious and militaristic responsibilities. In general, the system of the government could be regarded as exclusive and could only engage individuals who had high social standards.

The system of government in the Athenian society, on the other hand, could be regarded as a democracy.  Unlike in Sparta, the government in Athens was all inclusive. As such 5000 -6000 people would be selected after which they were narrowed down to groups of approximately 500 people then progressively to a group of 50 (Brock 78). Each group was then expected to take charge for a selected period particular one month. During such an experience, ten generals would be elected using a method that was known as lot voting. Just like the Spartan society the Athenian society has a senate assembly known as ekklesia which played the role of discussing the various militaristic as well as political and social matters. However, it was different on the fact that the place where meetings were held was close to the markets as well as the Agora which was the social centre of Athens. It is with this regard that Athens was regarded as the mother of democracy as the majority of the population had a say in the matters of governance (Hansen 246).

One major similarity in the both forms of government is the fact that the law applied to each and every citizen. As such no one was exempted from the functionalities of law irrespective of social class gender or the role that they played in the government. Mores it is evident that neither the governments applied the idea of autocratic leadership (Hansen 246). As observed Athens was a democracy and Sparta, on the other hand, Sparta objected the idea by having two kings in leadership accompanied by an overseeing body that comprised of five ephors. As such in both governments, there was no chance of an individual gaining the absolute power (Hansen 246).


There is a difference in the arms of the military that both Athens ad Sparta dominated. On the one hand, Sparta belonged to the Peloponnesus which was located south of Athens. Sparta was recognized as a militaristic state and therefore laid major focus on the land based army. The army comprised of armoured hoplites. The motivation for the militaristic based society was the need to exert control over the slaves from Messenia known as the helots who were more than the Spartan soldiers. The role of the army was to keep the helots in check and avoid the occurrences of any uprising. On the other hand, Athens laid focus on the navy and well known for it. Although in some instances the Athenian army outgrew the Spartan army in the monumental growth it remained mostly inferior (Atac 642). However, the Navy allowed the domination of the Greek poleis city as well as the neighbouring seas.  For instance, it is Athens that ensured the countering of the Persian threat at the time of Xerxes invasion in Greece. All in all, Sparta was identified as the hegemon of the land while Athens remained to exert control of the sea (Atac 642).

In conclusion, during the golden age of Greece, it is evident that both Athens and Sparta has a great deal of divergence from each other. However, they also had their parallel relationships in the society that ensured their union. For instance, although they were different regarding the structure of the government, they were somehow similar in the fact that they opposed an autocratic form of government.  However, in terms of military Sparta dominated the army while the Athenian counterparts dominated the sea.


Works Cited

Atac. “Imperial Lessons from Athens and Sparta: Eighteenth-Century British Histories of Ancient Greece.” History of political thought. 27.4 (2006): 642. Print.

Brock, Roger. “Athens, Sparta and the Wider World.” A Companion to the Classical Greek World. N.p., 2008. 84–98. Web.

Hansen, Mogens Herman. “Polis : An Introduction to the Ancient Greek City-State.” Polis (2006): 246. Web.

June 09, 2022


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