Sparta vs. Athens

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Compare and contrast a prominent political and cultural element of the Athenian and Spartan poleis and how this was reflected by the Athenian Army at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC and the 300 Spartan hoplites at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. The cultures of two of the most prominent Greek poleis, Athens and Sparta, were demonstrated first in the Athenian battle at Marathon against the Persian Empire in 490 BC, in which the Athenians commanded the battle through a democratic command, separated from the enemy by the freedom of the people, and then by the Spartans in 480 BC at the battle at Thermopylae (in the second Persian invasion), in which the Spartans showed their will to never retreat from the enemy in their fight to their deaths. In Sparta, while all citizens were socially equal, no man having more than another, the amount of political power ranged greatly from man to man. In Athens, while all men had equal political power and opportunities, the wealth ranged greatly from the rich plantation owners to the poor farmers. This contrast of political power in comparison to social equality had a presence in both battles, greatly dictating how each polis fought in the battle. In the Ancient Greek polis of Sparta, the entire culture was built around war. The Character of a Man was based on how his performance and bravery in battle, and many Spartan laws were put in place to better educate, toughen, and train the Spartans for war. Young Spartans were only fed enough to survive with terrible food that was only eaten out of necessity, not out of desire to have the enjoyment of eating. “Those who underwent this training would be better able to continue working on an empty stomach” (Xen. Lac. Pol. 2.5) This reform helped create... ... middle of paper ... ...an Empire were a direct result of the governments and laws put in place in these two poleis. From the sacrifice of 300 Spartans to the democratic command at Marathon, the differences between Athens and Sparta were shown even in battle. The united Greek forces finally defeated the Persians after the battle of Thermopylae, greatly thanks to the Athenian battle at Salamis, and the Spartan battle at ____. In a way, Sparta and Athens were opposites, sharing only the slightest of similarities. The Athenians focused on freedom and democracy, and the Spartans focused on war, training, and equality in every aspect in life aside form politics. These principals were hammered into the citizens of each polis, with the citizens from each polis believing his was the superior. Through these principals, the two distinct cultures of Athens and Sparta were created.

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