The two rival city-states of ancient Greece which were the most controversial and gave us most of the traditions were the city-states of Ancient Greek Sparta and Athens. In spite of being close on the map, these two city-states were miles apart in what they valued and how they lived their lives.

Ancient Greece Sparta and Athens

Sparta or Lacedaemon was a well-known city-state in ancient Greece which was situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians conquered the local, non-Dorian population. From 650 BC it rose to become the dominant military land-power in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greek Sparta and Athens

Sparta was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, from which it emerged victorious, though at great cost. Sparta’s defeat by Thebes in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC, however, ended Sparta’s prominent role in Greece. However, it maintained its political independence until the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC.

Ancient Greece Sparta and Athens

Ancient Greek Sparta and Athens had a distinctive social system as well as a distinct constitution, which completely focused on Greece military training and excellence. Its inhabitants were categorized as Spartiates

who were Spartan citizens and who enjoyed full rights Mothakes who were non-Spartan free men raised as Spartans, the Perioikoi who were freedmen and lastly, the Helots who were state-owned serfs, enslaved the non-Spartan local population. Spartan women enjoyed considerably more rights and equality to men than elsewhere in the classical world.

Ancient Greece Sparta and Athens

Primarily Militarist State

Sparta was primarily a militarist state and hence great importance was laid on military fitness which practically commenced immediately after the birth of a child. As a matter of fact, male Spartans began military training at the tender age of seven.

The Agoge system was designed to encourage discipline and physical toughness and to emphasize the importance of the Spartan Greek state. Besides physical and weapons training, boys studied reading, writing, music, and dancing. Special punishments were imposed if boys failed to answer questions sufficiently wittily.

At the age of twelve, the Agoge obliged Spartan boys to take an older male mentor, usually an unmarried young man. The older man was expected to function as a kind of substitute father and role model to his junior partner.

At the age of eighteen, Spartan boys became reserve members of the Spartan army. Not much information is available as to the education of Spartan girls, but they seem to have gone through a fairly extensive formal educational cycle, broadly similar to that of the boys but with less emphasis on military training.

In this respect, classical Sparta was unique in ancient Greece. In no other city-state did women receive any kind of formal Greek Education. Spartan men were required to marry at age 30.