Greek holds a significant place in the world history. Athens and Sparta are one of the most contributing societies in ancient civilization as well as our modern society. Their perspectives on life, values, and beliefs have shaped our modern life. However, even though both were city-states located in ancient Greece, their culture, view of politics, and social life quite differed from each other. This paper will focus on the differences of social life of the Athens and Sparta in terms of lifestyle and values, education, and the role of women.
To begin with, the lifestyle and values of Athens and Sparta completely distinguished from each other. Athenian society put a big emphasis on democratic values. As they were the founder of direct democracy, it was citizen’s duty to participate in the governmental processes. The fact that they lived in a democratic society shows that they supported individual’s right to speech. It can be related to the fact that they were taught literature, art, philosophy and etc. which expanded their outlook, so they had skills of decision-making, critical thinking, and expressing their thoughts and views on social and political issues. As a result, this led to development and prosperity of Athens and their success in politics is still reflected in 21st century. Different from Athenians, Spartans put military at the center of their lifestyle. Every male had to participate in the military. Even females had to contribute in terms of raising a strong and healthy male in order to send to military. Participating in a military made an individual physically stronger and also it made them more disciplined. This can be interpreted as one of the reasons of Spartans’ success in military life. Furthermore, one of the biggest difference between Spartan and Athenians was the idea of materialism. Spartans rejected the idea of living a luxurious life owning of gold and silver made objects, they didn’t even have currencies. It can be related to their intention to keep the society united, equal and focused on building a military power. Otherwise, the society could be divided into parts; the poor and the rich and there would be a lot of conflicts based on wealth and power as in Athens. Because Athenians chose luxurious life it is inevitable to not to have conflicts among the citizens. The society divided into the poor and the rich. They were all hungry for more and more power. Eventually, the self-interest of individuals could not create a peaceful society. On the contrary, Spartans did not act on their individual interests but the mutual power. They gave importance more to having morality. That is why it was crucial to respect the elderly, watch out the manners in Sparta. This made them a strong and harmonious community. Therefore, both societies had contrasting goals in their life. Spartans’ goal was to get power through mutual contribution, Athenians on the other hand valued mental and emotional growth through knowledge. This is a fact that Athens contributed not only to their own period but also their contribution is still present to our modern society. World’s most known philosophers, architecture, culture comes from this society. This shows that even though materialistic values should not matter in present moment, yet it can be passed through the history. That is why the Greek culture is remembered and appreciated owing to Athenians.
Athenian and Spartan approach to education implemented different techniques as well. Athens as mentioned above, gave importance to mental and emotional growth. That is why boys at school were taught subjects as mathematics, literature, philosophy, reading, writing, music, poetry etc. which are all contributors of to one’s self-growth. These subjects not only advance one’s cognitive abilities, but emotional intelligence as well. Learning especially literature, philosophy, music, poetry would form a kind, emphatic, and confident characteristics. They could form their own perspective on political and social issues. Therefore, Athenian education system raised noble individuals which contributed to the well-being of their society. On the other hand, Spartans education system was based on gaining survival skills and physical strength to perform in military. Males were trained intensively, they were not allowed to get in touch with their family and were not given enough food to force them to steal food. Spartans believed that this method would raise powerful soldiers for their country. However, the conditions such as not being provided with food could have formed individuals with violent behaviors. Additionally, the fact that males aged around 7 to 30 were isolated from their family and community, could demolish their humane feelings, as a result generate cruel characters. Thus, Spartans education system was very far from morality. This might also be due to the fact that they were not taught the subjects as art, literature, philosophy, math etc. As a result, they were not adequately educated. These factors prevented Spartans to develop their own unique culture. In this case, Athenian education was prior to the Spartans’. This is an undeniable fact that Athens gifted the history with geniuses such as Hippocrates, Thucydides, Homer, Pythagoras and many more. This is all due to their strong foundation of education. That is why Athenian teaching system is still applied in current educational institutions. After all, education system without morality cannot lead to growth.
When it comes to the women, Spartans were more concerned about them than Athenians. In Athens, almost everyone had a right to speech, voting, education except women. Regardless of their status and wealth, women were treated as a property. Women had no rights to make decisions concerning their life, they could not own a property too. They were not allowed to get out of the house, be in the presence of men other than their husband. Only duty of women was to do the housework and take care of their kids. It’s utterly surprising that in a society like Athens full of aristocrats, women were degraded this way. How come people who funded ideologies, politic systems, philosophy which shaped our modern world did not undermined the role of women in society? One possible answer is that this was done to prevent women owning a property so that they did not hold a powerful position in a society which could raise the competition between males and females. Because, in that case women would also be willing to divorce and dominate others. Likewise, Athenian males made a rational choice in limiting women’s rights, yet in a wrong way. In comparison, Spartan women were treated more equally than Athenian women. They had a right to own property, leave their house. Spartan girls had a right to education as well. They were taught reading and writing, but most importantly athletics and survival skills. Contrast to Athenian women, Spartan women’s duty was to raise strong and healthy males, so they succeed in a military. Spartan attitude towards women is one of the reason that they established united and invincible society. Even though these facts indicate the freedom of women in Sparta in a particular way, it does not mean that they were valued because they were women. Their respect towards women was in the self-interest of Spartan men. The only reason Spartan women were given such freedom is for the fact that majority of Spartan men were in military who could not look for their household and property. Otherwise, there would be a low chance they gave rights and freedom to females. All in all, there was a dominance of men in both society even though Spartan women were more equal than Athenian women.
All things considered, Athens and Sparta’s outlook and moral codes did not overlap with each other. All shared different opinions on their social life. On one hand, Athenians highly valued prosperity through education and freedom. People’s opinion mattered and they all improved themselves with the help of their education system. On the other hand, limited women’s rights which was a barrier for women to prove their potential. Spartan social life was mostly military power oriented. Their society which lasted for centuries developed through military power rather than the education. Both societies showed that it is possible to grow through education and military. Therefore, Athens and Sparta were known for their unique and special features which kept them alive throughout the centuries.
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