Ancient Greek Politics: The Comparison Of Athens And Sparta

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The ancient Greek polis of Athens was a economic, military, and cultural superpower during the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods. With a domain that controlled the cities of Naxos, Carystus in Euboea, and Miletus in Ionia at it’s peak. Their rival, Sparta, a military juggernaut supposedly built on strict military conduct and no comforts. The aim of this essay is to determine just how different and how similar these two poleis are, and to establish how atypical Athens is when compared to Sparta.This shall be done by examining the nations histories, how they grew, and the political systems and ideologies they use.

At the beginning of the 7th century BC, Athens faced a crisis. It had a growing population, and it didn’t have a way to
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In the eighth and seventh century BC, population growth at the end of the Dark Ages put severe strain on resources, similar to the situation that hit Athens. However, due to the military history of Sparta, they decided on a different route to that pursued by the Athenians. They invaded Messenia between 740 - 720 BC, and secured the annexation in C. 600 BCE (“Messenian Wars, 2016). They enslaved the Messenians, making them Helots, slaves, doubling the land and labour that the Spartans controlled (Morris & Powell, 2006). Sparta controlled the Peloponnese through a system called the Peloponnesian League, which was a military alliance that ensured their collective security and defence. This league formed the core of the coalition that fought against the Persians in the Persian wars of 480-479 BC, and also against Athens in the Peloponnesian League in 431-404 BC (“Peloponnesian League”, 2016). Following the decline of Sparta 's power after a battle at Leuctra in 371 BC, the league disbanded in 366-355 BC, leaving Sparta as one of the lone city-states to oppose the Macedonians (“Peloponnesian League”, …show more content…
These reforms split the population into 10 tribes, three regions, and 139 villages. This meant that nearly every citizen would have to serve in it at some point. Also, Cleisthenes made it possible to ostracise, meaning to exile for 10 years, anyone if it looked like they might be trying to seize power or become a tyrant (Morris & Powell). Cleisthenes also gave more power to the assembly by allowing the Thete class to attend, and created the council of the 500 consisting of 50 people selected at random from each tribe who served for one year, and could only be a member once, and had to belong to the top three census classes. (“Athenian Democracy”, 2016). This new ideology was called ‘Democracy’, and it was radically different to anything before.
To summarize and conclude this section, you can easily see that Athens is not a typical polis when compared to Sparta. While Sparta did allow it’s citizens a say in proceedings, in the form of the Assembly and voting people into various offices. Athens went further with this idea. In Athens, every citizen would be able to create agendas for the Assembly after the reforms of Cleisthenes, and their was a high chance you’d be selected for service on the council. This clearly shows that the political systems and political ideologies of Athens are not typical when compared to

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