Comparing the two great city-states of Ancient Greece
Sparta and Athens were two of the most prominent citystates in Ancient Greece.
Athens was renowned as a center of wisdom and learning.
The people of Athens were interested in arts, music, and
Sparta 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 different in many ways, they both managed to
become dominating powers in Ancient Greece.
The area around Athens has been inhabited since
By 1400 BC the settlement had become an important
center of the Mycenaean civilization.
Unlike other Mycenaean centers, Athens was not sacked
and abandoned at the time of the Doric invasion of about
1200 BC, and the Athenians always maintained that they
were "pure" Ionians with no Doric element.
However, Athens lost most of its power and probably
dwindled to a small hill fortress once again.
By the 9th century BC
Athens had re-emerged.
Athens’ central location
in the Greek world, its
secure stronghold on
the Acropolis and its
access to the sea, gave
it a natural advantage
over potential rivals such
as Thebes and Sparta.
From early in the 1st millennium, Athens was a sovereign
city-state, ruled at first by kings.
During this period Athens succeeded in bringing the other
towns around it.
This process created the largest and wealthiest state on
the Greek mainland, but it also created a larger class of
people excluded from political life by the nobility.
By the 7th century BC social unrest had become
widespread, and the Athenian court of justice appointed a
leader named Draco to draft a strict new lawcode (hence
When this failed, they appointed Solon, with a mandate to
create a new constitution.
In 594 B.C., seven years before the
Babylonians destroyed Solomon's
Temple and took the Israelites into
captivity, Athens became a democracy
under the rule of Solon
In addition to eliminating serfdom,
Solon altered the stringent laws of
Draco, making murder the only crime
punishable by death.
Under the democracy, Athens entered
its golden age, becoming a center of
wisdom and learning.
Athens is in Attica, built near the the sea`on the
southwest slope of Mount Lycabettus,
Surrounded by small rivers on the west, south and north
which flowed through the town.
The walled city measured about 1.5 km (1 mile) in
diameter, although at its peak the city had suburbs
extending well beyond these walls.
The city was burned down in 480 BC, but was rebuilt
under the administration of Themistocles, and was
adorned with public buildings
Its beauty was chiefly due to its public buildings, for the
private houses were mostly insignificant, and its streets
badly laid out.
Athens consisted of two distinct parts:
The City, properly so called, divided into The Upper
City or Acropolis, and
The Lower City, surrounded with walls by
Three harbour towns also surrounded with walls
by Themistocles, and connected with the city by
means of the long walls, built under the
administration of Pericles.
The Acropolis, also called Cecropia from its reputed
founder, was a steep rock in the middle of the city,
about 50 meters high, 350 meters long, and 150
meters wide; its sides were naturally scarped on all
sides except the west end.
The top of the Acropolis was covered in temples, the
largest of which was the Parthenon, a temple to the
By 431 BC, Athens had become the most populous city-state in
Hellas. Some historians estimate the population to be as high
as 300,000* at that time.
30,000 male citizens
46,000 non-citizen hired laborers
110,000 women and children
In 471 BC, scholars believe the approximate population within
the actual walls of Athens was 140,000;
Approximately 40,000 men were citizens;
Approximately 40,000 were slaves.
The rest were women, children and slaves
*The Population of Ancient Athens - A.W.Gomme - 1933 for the year 431 B.C.
Athens was a limited democracy, ruled by all of its male
citizens. Women did not participate in politics at all.
Athens had elected of ficials including 10 generals
(strategos), magistrates (archons), and others.
A Council of 500 had both executive and administrative
control. Members of this Council were chosen by lot every
year, 10 from each of the 50 tribes
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.
A soldier's rank was decided by his social or economic
status before he entered the army.
Instituted by Solon in the 6th century B.C., four classes
made up the Athenian social ladder. Defined by income,
each class had a certain measure of political
The wealthiest class, called the "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.
the poorest class, called the thetes, served either as oarsmen for
the Athenian fleet, or as archers on land.
In addition, while
trained for thirteen
soldiers only trained
for two years.
the soldier's social
Because of the city’s proximity to the sea, Athens was
known for its superior navy and navel strength
Freemen were all male citizens: divided into numerous
classes: at the top were aristocrats who had large estates
and made up the cavalry or captained triremes; middle ranks
were small farmers; lowest class was the thetes (urban
craftsmen and trireme rowers).
Metics - those who came from outside the city; they were not
allowed to own land, but could run industries and businesses.
Slaves were lowest class, but less harshly treated than in most
other Greek cities. Slaves had no rights, and an owner could kill
a slave. Slaves varied in status: some were given important
roles in Athens, like policemen.
Women were rarely seen outside the home and had no rights
in the Athenian democracy.
Democratic values for citizens.
They believed in participation in
government as a civic
Athenians believed in their
cultural superiority and in their
role in an empire and benefiting
Cultural legacy includes art,
architecture, drama and
literature, philosophy, science,
medicine, and government
(democracy, trial by jury)
Schools taught reading, writing and mathematics, music,
poetry, sport and gymnastics.
Based upon their birth and the wealth of their parents, the
length of education was from the age of 5 to 14, for the
wealthier 5 - 18 and sometimes into a student's midtwenties in an academy where they would also study
philosophy, ethics, and rhetoric (the skill of persuasive public
Finally, the citizen boys entered a military training camp for
two years, until the age of twenty.
Foreign metics and slaves were not expected to attain
anything but a basic education in Greece, but were not
excluded from it either.
Girls received little formal
education (except perhaps
in the aristocrats' homes
They were generally kept
at home and had no
political power in Athens
The education of a girl involved spinning, weaving, and
other domestic art.
Athenian women and girls were
kept at home with no
participation in sports or politics.
Wives were considered property
of their husbands. They were
were responsible for spinning,
weaving and other domestic arts.
Some women held high posts in
the ritual events and religious life
Prostitutes and courtesans were not confined to the
house. Some became influential