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Gina Tangelo

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11/22/15

The Most Powerful City-States of Greece


Ancient Greece was a powerful and memorable civilization. It was a united civilization
because it shared the same culture and language. The history of Greece was written in epic
poems by a poet called Homer though the early history of Greece was shaped by the Minoans
and the Mycenaeans because they were the first early Greeks. They also developed the fighting
system called Phalanx where there were several lines that were switched out to cause as a
distraction for the other fighting force. The two most powerful and well known city-states in
Greece were Athens and Sparta. These two city-states were similar because they both had to fight
against the Persians; both city-states succeeded when the challenge presented itself. Athens
focused more on the education of the people rather than the military of the city-state unlike
Sparta who did the complete opposite. They also had their own leagues of alliances that could
help them in times of need. Parts of their societies that were different were their social, political,
and intellectual lives.
Athens was a beautiful city-state located north of Peloponnesus that was said to get its
name from the Greek goddess Athena. They had a mixture of a strict and traditional social
system. Women were expected to manage the entire household and were rarely seen in public.
Additionally, they were supposed to be guided by men and had no say in political decisions. The
citizenship of Athenians was limited and restricted only to land owning men. The political
structure of the Athenians changed over time and was a great thing for male citizens. The
government system started out as a monarchy when Pericles was ruling before it changed to an
aristocracy. The aristocracy weakened because of the different rulers and the government

changed to a democracy along with the changing of rulers. A direct democracy was created when
a new person came into power. After the direct democracy a legislature was added by another
tyrant in rule. In all of these different types governments, all male citizens were expected to
participate in the government decisions. Another part of these governments was that there were
tyrants who ruled over the city-state. There was also a jury and a council of 500 who were ages
30 and above. These positions in the government were only available to the wealthy and emerged
as the government changed. Athens was mostly known for their knowledge, so it is no surprise
that the people believed that education were more important than the military and other fighting
forces. Sadly, schooling was only for those who could afford it and women had little to no formal
education. In school, people were encouraged to explore different areas of knowledge, for
example literature, music, public speaking and politics. There were also famous philosophers
who had their own ideas on many things. Some of the most famous ones were Socrates, Plato,
and Aristotle. Plato, a student of Socrates, and Aristotle, a student of Plato, had their own ideas
on government. Plato wanted social harmony over liberty and equality. He also created a new
government called the Republic. Aristotle on the other hand believed in 100% participation from
the male citizens as well as a system of checks and balances to rid the society of corruption. The
city-state of Athens had many conflicts and yet it still managed to be very successful.
Sparta was a strict and powerful city-state located South of Peloponnesus founded and
created by the Dorians. The social structure was similar to Athens yet it mostly differed. For
example, women were expected to produce healthy babies and were also supposed to obey the
men like Athens. They were treated like men and had to do large amounts of exercise as well as
compete in games against other women. They were also supposed to run the family estate
similarly to Athens. Citizenship was also different from Athens because Sparta had different

kinds of people living there including non-citizens and descendants of the original inhabitants.
To be considered a citizen you had to be of Spartan birth. The male citizens were expected to
serve in the army and had voting rights. Descendants of the original inhabitants outnumbered the
Spartan citizens and were kept oppressed to prevent rebellions. Unlike Athens, Sparta had a strict
political system with no privileges for women nor non-citizens. They had a duarchy type
government with two royal families. The two kings were to lead the army in war while the 5
ephors, who were elected annually and had more actual power laid on them, looked after the dayto-day running of the state. There was also the council of the two kings and 20 councillors (over
6o and elected for life) who decided which policies Sparta should adopt. All of their proposals
had to be passed by the Assembly (all citizens over 30) who could only vote for or against the
proposals. Sparta established a belief that the military was more important than education.
Children started to be trained at the age of 7 and had harsh physical fitness tasks. They were
educated by the state until they were 20 years old before they had to enlist into the military in
contrast to Athens who men explore all kinds of knowledge for as long as needed. Sparta was a
very strict city-state yet it managed to trade and have a good economic life even while being
enclosed within itself. It also became the most powerful city-state because of its strong military.
Athens and Sparta had some similar views of women because both of them thought that
women were inferior to men in some ways and deserved fewer privileges. They also shared a
monarchy like government at the same time before Athenss government changed. The two being
so different in many ways may have caused Sparta to conquer Athens since Sparta wanted power.
It was easier for Sparta to win because Sparta focused more on its military for wars and battles
instead of how smart the citizens were. The two city-states were never united together and

though they were so different they both brought changes in architecture and arts into the ancient
world. They left a legacy and other cultural aspects for historians to explore.