Mountains, valleys, and water isolate Greece. Hundreds of islands are scattered along its coast. As a result of this type of geography, Greece could never become a large unified empire, so instead, small city-states were created. A city-state was known as a “polis”. A polis was made up of a two different parts; the lower ground was the main city, which was housed within a large wall. The upper ground was the hilltop acropolis.
These acropolis’ were used as military posts, and for religious practices, for each acropolis was for a different Greek god. The two most powerful city-states were Athens and Sparta. Both of these cities differed greatly from each other.
Athens had a direct democracy, in which a large number of male citizens took part in the daily running of the government. Athenian democracy is not like the one we have today, it was very limited and biased towards women. Women could not participate in the Athenian democracy, as they were believed to be inferior to men.
Slaves became another group that was completely restricted from taking part in the government. They could not participate in the democracy, nor did they have any personal freedom. Even through the unusually cruel democracy, the Athenian democracy gave a greater number of people a voice in government than did any other civilization at the time.
The assembly, a high group of select members in the government, made laws. Athenian economy was based solely on trade with other city-states. Athenian’s shipped whines, olives, oil, and marble to other countries as well. This trading led to more ideas that were influenced by other cultures. The Greeks took what the others knew about and always made it better, some say.
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Education in Athens was only available to boys. It was morally correct education, though. Boys were taught to learn whenever possible, to become more intelligent people, philosophers. Athens was a very open place. There were no restrictions on who wanted to come in and observe Greek life, because new ideas were always welcome.
Spartans were warlike and somewhat intelligent. They were ruled under a monarchy, ruling by two kings or queens. The quality that was mandatory for Spartans was self-control. They believed that self-control as honorable, and important. Spartans believed that they were intelligent, they knew too little about laws to despise them, and had too much self-control to disobey them.
Spartan life was vicious and military like. At the age of seven, boys were taken from their mothers to military camps where they were trained to become soldiers all of their life. Men were thought as far superior to women as well, although to a higher extent that the Athenians. Woman had to obey men in all instances.
Spartans believed the turn out of wars was determined by which armies soldiers were trained in the severest camps. They never underestimated their opposition, either. The Spartans cared for women, but only to get them into the best shape possible, so that only the best boys were born.
Spartans were not allowed to travel or trade out of Sparta, and life was very restricted. Laws were harsh, and sometimes unfair. Sparta’s rigid ways and inability to change led to their downfall.
Despite all of these glaring flaws, the Athenians and Spartans shared some similarities. Both people spoke the same language, obviously Greek. They also shared the same hero’s, from wars or poems. They both held the Olympic games, in which unusual tests were given to athletes to perform. The Athenians and Spartans also believed in the same gods and religious beliefs.
These two cities were definitely two of the greatest and diverse cities in history, in my opinion.