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The Prominence of Athen's Democracy Versus Spartan Oligarchy

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In the 5th century BCE, two city states were prominent in the mainland of Greece, Sparta and Athens. The Spartan Oligarchy served the common people of Sparta significantly better than the Athenian Democracy served the Athenians. This is evident in the way they dealt with education, economics, careers, etc. Spartans believed heavily in discipline, straightforwardness, and self denial, meaning the main goal of boys education was to simply produce a strong, ruthless army. Athenians placed a higher value on education and culture, their main focus was building a strong democratic rule. In Sparta, when a boy turned 7 he was enrolled in a military school where he was taught fighting tactics under a strict regime. During this time, boys were taught to endure pain through trials such as; concealing any physical signs of pain while being whipped in front of their parents, having to fend for themselves by foraging food and stealing, etc. The strict rule of Spartan boys through their education led them into roles as merciless warriors who served their state through fighting. Athenian boys followed a softer education that was centred around culture.

Instead of being taught how to fight the good fight, Athenian boys were enrolled in schools at age 6/7. They attended schools that taught literature classes, their physical activities included dancing and gymnastics, they were also taught music. Overall, Athenian boys had a well rounded and enriching education, until the age of 18 when the boys would then attend military training. After graduating military training, the boys could study with tutors and enter a trade, if he so chose. In Sparta, women were also entitled to an education, albeit mostly centered around cleaning. Women were taught fighting to defend themselves and to also prepare for childbirth, as well as becoming head of the house while the men were away fighting. In Sparta, women’s rights were acknowledged and accepted by a majority of the population. Women were valued as citizens. However, in Athens, women were only taught by their mothers. They were taught housework, like the Spartan females, but they weren’t taught anything else. At the age of 15, Athenian girl from wealthy families were married off to whoever their parents thought fit. Girls in the lower class were able to choose their partners.

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The geographical location of Sparta aided them in becoming the great warriors they continue to be notorious for. Sparta was located on a plain on the peloponnesian peninsula. This location was a vital factor in the life of many Spartans. The soil was exceptionally fertile, the Spartans took advantage of this factor and farmed many crops. Spartans had no use for the sea, therefore they took to conquering surrounding civilizations such as the Messenians and forced them into slavery. Sparta’s isolated location allowed them to be less likely to be invaded, therefore the Spartans were able to focus on themselves and building their strong oligarchical rule. However Athens, being a civilization close to other city states had to rely more upon relationship and allies due to their general proximity to other groups and communities.


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