Acient Greece: the Two Superpowers, Athens and Sparta

Topics: Sparta, Ancient Greece, Classical Athens Pages: 7 (2227 words) Published: February 18, 2013
2In ancient Greece there were two superpowers, Athens and Sparta. They coexisted in Greece with their own span of power in Greece along with many allies. These superpowers were both very well known for their power and also their utter differences. They, of course, had tensions between them due to differences in their ways of life, especially their governments, and the rivaling each other because they were both the best in their own ways among all other Greek poleis. Tensions continued to build up and Athens was expanding all over Greece and the paranoia of Sparta grew. Eventually the Spartans’ paranoia was too great and was a major reason for the Peloponnesian War along with the fact they had very different governments.

Athens was a “progressive, democratic city.”[1] The major steps toward democracy were introduced by the reforms of the Athenian ruler, Solon. Although Solon had major impact on Athens’ government, Athens was also influenced by tyrannical rule because, throughout Greek history, Athens was ruled by archons. A major part of Athenian government was the Council of the Areopagus. They, the Areopagus, were once the “central governing body of Athens,”[2] but by the time of the Peloponnesian war they were reduced to having control of trying criminal cases. One significant power that they held was that they were the only ones able to

present any matters to the Assembly, The council members of the Areopagus consisted of men that were elected by the Assembly. [3]
The assembly was the “sole legislative body and exercised control over administration and judicature.”[4] Any citizen was allowed to make suggestions as long as they were not crossing any lines. The Assembly consisted of men that had to be eighteen years of age. If the assembly did not give permission for a new law, it would not be able to become an official law until approved by the Assembly.

Sparta, unlike Athens, was a “conservative, even reactionary, oligarchy.”[5] Similar to the Council of the Areopagus, Sparta had the Council of the Elders, also known as the Gerousia. The Gerousia was made up of two kings that reigned over Sparta and twenty aristocrats who were required to be over the age of sixty years. The aristocrats were chosen by citizens, which showed some kind of democracy in the Spartan government.

A group in Sparta that may have been even more significant the Gerousia and the assembly, was the Ephorate. They consisted of five Spartan men who “practically guided all aspects of Spartan life.”[6] They had rule over the military and, like the President of the United States, they had the power of vetoing anything proposed by either the Gerousia or the Assembly.

Spartan children were, basically, the property of the state. The babies were observed by the Gerousia to see if they were fit to be Spartan citizens. If a baby was
not fit to be a Spartan citizen, he was to be left outside on a mountain to die. If a baby was found fit, he was left to be raised by the parents until the sixth or seventh year of his life. When the boy turned seven he would have to leave his home and start school with other Spartan boys until they were twenty years old. The schooling was extremely strict and taught the boys discipline.[7]

As Spartan men finished their training at the age of twenty, they were still required to eat at a communal mess. When the men reached the age of thirty they were allowed to start a family and have a home of their own. Even though the men were able to have their own homes and have a family, they were all required to eat at a communal mess.[8]

Similar to Spartan men, the women were also required to take part in physical training. The Spartans believed that if the woman was physically fit that she would be able to give birth to a child who is also strong and health.[9] Unlike anywhere else in Greece, Spartan women exercised much more freedom than those in other states. The women of Sparta...

Bibliography: Ancient Greek Civilizations: Sparta. (November 20, 2009) .
Ancient Greek Civilizations: Spartan Women. (November 20, 2009) .
Bagnall, Nigel. The Peloponnesian War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Greece. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006.
Blackwell, Christopher W. The Council of the Areopagus. The Stoa: A Consortium for Electronic Publication in the Humanities. (January 26, 2006) .
Hanson, Victor Davis. A War Like No Other. New York: Random House Inc., 2005.
Sansone, David. Ancient Greek Civilization. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Tsoukalidis, Edward. Sparta: Journal of Ancient Spartan and Greek History, Vol. 3, No. 1. (January 2007) .
[1] David Sansone, Ancient Greek Civilization (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), p
[2] Christopher W. Blackwell, “The Council of the Areopagus” (The Stoa: A Consortium for Electronic Publication in the Humanities, 2003), p. 1.
[3] Nigel Bagnall, The Peloponnesian War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Greece (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006) p. 62.
[6]Ancient Greek Civilizations: Sparta (November 20, 2009), p. 1.
[10]Ancient Greek Civilizations: Spartan Women (November 20, 2009), p. 1.
[13] Victor Davis Hanson, A War Like No Other (New York: Random House, Inc., 2005), p. 14.
[15] Edward Tsoukalidis, Sparta: Journal of Ancient Spartan and Greek History, Vol. 3, No. 1. (January 2007), p. 23.
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