Athens Vs. Sparta Essay

1620 words - 6 pages

Athens vs. Sparta


During the times of Ancient Greece, two major forms of government existed, democracy and oligarchy. The city-states of Athens and Sparta are the best representatives of democracy and oligarchy, respectively. The focus of the times was directed towards military capabilities, while the Athenians were more interested in comfort and culture. It was the oligarchy in Sparta that put a war-like attitude as its first priority and best met the needs of Ancient Greece. These factors empowered Sparta and led to the development of an authoritative and potent state. Other contrasting issues included women’s rights, social classes, and value of human life.
Four rulers, Draco, Solon, Pisistratus, and Cleithenes, greatly influenced the political development of Athens. However, Athenian democracy cannot really be called a true democracy since there were several flaws in the government and the way in which it functioned. Upper class male citizens over the age of thirty were the only Athenians who held any right to vote. The democracy in Athens consisted of an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. Together, nine anchors, a Council of five hundred, an Assembly, and a court chosen by lot governed the city-state with limited power. The Assembly was made up of five hundred men who were chosen from a list of those who were eligible to serve on the council. All branches of the government were capable of vetoing one another. It was also customary to expel from the country any speaker who became too powerful. This rule could easily be abused and often infringed on the freedom of speech that most democracies have. However, as stated in the Athenian Constitution, male citizens were equal and the government’s focus was on the individual rather than the state as a whole. This form of government could have run smoothly if it had not existed in a time led my military empires.
The government in Sparta followed a very different coarse than that of the Athenians. It was controlled by an oligarchy in which the power was held by a group of five men called ephors. Working below the ephors was the Council of Elders and an Assembly. Male citizens over age sixty could serve on the Council while anyone, male or female, over the age of twenty could be a member of the Assembly. Though the citizens had little say in the decisions made by the government, the system worked effectively. Over the years, the Spartan's brutal reputation in war grew so great that other nations and city-states were too frightened to attack Sparta even though the Spartan army was no larger then eight thousand men. The Spartan Constitution called for all men to begin their military education at the age of seven, where they were trained to be tough and self-sufficient. Every man in the army fought with a great deal of passion for his country. Life in Sparta may have been rough, but the rest of the Greeks envied the Spartans for their simplicity, straight...

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