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The Greek City-States of Athens & Sparta

Greek city-states were loosely aligned but fairly distinct in terms of cultural makeup. This was true in terms of military, political, economic and social structures. In ancient civilization, ôAthens...was the most important Greek city-stateö (Athens, 2003, 1). Unlike Sparta, Athens would survive military defeat and create a thriving city-state whose political structures would influence all of Europe. As one historian notes, ôSparta was in many regards the opposite pole of Athens from a cultural perspectiveö (Culture, 2003, 1). If we make a comparison and contrast of Athens and Sparta, despite their distinctions we see many facets of Greek civilization that were typical of city-states, from a focus on military pursuits to experimentation with different political forms.

Sparta and Athens were rivals for supremacy in the region that would eventually be known as Greece. Unlike the island and sea city-states of Greece (including Athens), Sparta was essentially landlocked and, more significantly, ôkept the military and agricultural ideal dominantö when Athens was moving away from this ideal (Trever, 1936, 179). Sparta pursued dominance among the city-states constituting the Peloponnesian League, largely because of her ideological and social emphasis upon militarism; Athens focused on establishment of a more urban, cosmopolitan, and essentially sophisticated democratic system of governance and expanded her own activities to include extensive trade. Athens was an Ionian city-state, with citizens that were probably more imaginative and temperamental than the more stoic and practical Dorians of Sparta. The Ionians and Dorians were the predominant tribes of the region, but their characteristic differences led to intense competition and even war.

Sparta probably never had a total of more than 10,000 male citizens, all of whom were reared in the military tradition and who constituted an exclusive m


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The Greek City-States of Athens & Sparta. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:29, January 21, 2017, from