Athens And Sparta During The Classical Era Essay

1148 Words May 26th, 2016 null Page
The ancient Greek polis, or city states, of Athens and Sparta were prominent powers during the Classical Era from c. 750 BCE – 400 BCE. The two emerged around the same time, but grew into vastly different cities. One became a powerful military state, while the other became the birthplace of democracy. Both Athens and Sparta helped to shape civilization in the ancient western world, but they were often rivals, and polar opposites in the aspects of government, militarism, and culture. Originally four small villages, Sparta unified and emerged as a strong community in the southeastern Peloponnesus. They conquered their neighbors, the Laconians, but the land was unable to support the growing Spartan population. Around 730 BCE, the Spartans “undertook the conquest of neighboring Messenia, [which] possessed a spacious, fertile plain ideal for growing grain; the Messenians were made helots and forced to work for the Spartans” (Spielvogel 53).
Meanwhile, on the peninsula of Attica, in central southeast Greece, Athens had “established a unified polis” (Spielvogel 53). Athens was surrounded by mountains, as well as three separate rivers. The most prominent geographical feature of the land was a rocky hill, about three hundred feet tall – later known as the Acropolis. “This defensible position dominated the plain and, being four miles inland of the Saronic Gulf, gave access to the sea without inviting naval attack” (‘Athens’ 2).
From its start, Sparta’s government was primarily…

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