Ancient Greek History

Rivalry of Sparta and Athens in Ancient Greece

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One of the main things that characterized Ancient Greece is the fact that it wasn’t a cohesive nation or empire. Each part of Ancient Greece was made up of a series of independently run city-states, all of whom had slightly different ideologies from one another. Nowhere are these differences more felt, however, than when comparing Athens and Sparta. Over time, these differences developed between them to the point where they clashed on several occasions, such as during the Peloponnesian War. However, it is interesting to note that they were able to put aside their differences long enough to fight off the Persians. Here’s a look at the rivalry between these two prominent and powerful city-states:

About the Athenian City-State

When we think about Athens, certain things come to mind. First of all, this appeared to be a hub of knowledge and education in Ancient Greece. It was here that an innovative system of government, democracy, was developed, as well. There are those who consider Athens to be the greatest city that ever existed, and its citizens were proud to call themselves Athenians. This is a place that birthed famous philosophers like Socrates, as well, and the impact that these intellectuals made on Western Civilization can still be felt today. We are able to view the evidence of Athens’ greatness when visiting the city today since many of the old structures, such as the Parthenon, are still standing. They also had a formidable and innovative navy, which played a big part in sending the Persians away for good.

Differences Between Athens and Sparta

Sparta was well known, but for different things than Sparta. In fact, many look at Sparta as the complete opposite of Athens. While the Athenian city-state enjoyed a period of democracy, Sparta was a military culture. Although Athenian citizens enjoyed certain freedoms during the time of their democracy, the idea of who made up of a citizen was very strict. Only a small portion of the Athenian city-state enjoyed freedoms such as land ownership. The role of women between Sparta and Athens stands in contrast between them, as well. Spartan women were afforded more freedoms than the women of Athens. In Sparta, women were able to fully run their households since the men were often away, which meant that the women needed to be out in public quite often. In Athens, women were expected to rarely leave their homes. Basically, the two city-states didn’t understand each other.

War Breaks Out Between the Two City-States

Eventually, the differences between the two city-states led to the Peloponnesian War, which was fought between Athens and its empire and the Peloponnesian league, which was fronted by Sparta. The conflict took place between 431 and 404 B.C. For some time before war broke out, the two powerful city-states engaged in a power struggle that eventually left Sparta as the victor and the new superpower in Ancient Greece.

What began as a simple difference in economy in lifestyle between Sparta and Athens eventually transformed into a full blown war.


Wikipedia – Peloponnesian War

Wikipedia – Athens

Wikipedia – Sparta

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This post was written by Greek Boston