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Ancient Greece is a land of many city-states, called poleis. Two of the most famous and influential city-states were Sparta and Athens. These two city-states led the country of Greece to greatness in 400-500 B.C. Although there were obvious similarities in these two city-states, Athens and Sparta had distinct differences in every aspect of society. Some of these differences included government, military, and values. Athens and Sparta felt very strongly that their city-state was superior and a level of distrust was always present between them. Because of this clash of cultures, war eventually broke out in 431B.C. between Athens and Sparta in what was known as the Peloponnesian War. After this conflict, the city-states of Athens and Sparta were never the same, and shortly after, the Greeks were taken over by the Macedonians.
Education in Athens and Sparta differed as education was based on the values most highly-regarded by each society. The purpose of education in Sparta was to produce and maintain a powerful army. Spartan boys entered military school when they were about six years old. They learned how to read and write, but those skills were not considered very important. Military school was made very tough and the boys were often starving and were beaten if they complained (). They were sent to barracks with the men in which they lived in during military school. They walked barefoot, slept on hard beds, and worked at physical activities such as running, jumping, javelin and discus throwing, swimming, and hunting. Between the age of 18 and 20, Spartan men had to pass a fitness test that consisted of strength, military ability, and leadership skills. If he did not pass, he lost all political rights and was not even considered a citizen. If he did pass, he would continue to serve in the military and train as a soldier until he was 60. At age 60, he could retire and go live with his family. They were taught that stealing was okay as long as they did not caught. Spartan women also learned to be warriors. Their school was not as brutal, but all girls in ancient Sparta could wrestle, box, fist fight, and knew how handle use a weapon. (). In Sparta, women had a lot of free will and were almost as good fighters as the men. Spartans believed that healthy women would produce healthy babies. Even though Spartan women never had to join the military or the navy, they grew up to be very strong and very good with combat skills.
In contrast, children were trained in music, art, literature, science, math, and politics. Until age six, boys were taught at home by their mother or a male slave. Age six to 14 was primary school. Once the youths were 16, their basic education was complete. The boys who did not have to work could now study the sciences and philosophy. From the ages of 18 to 20, able bodied young men had to take military training for the army or the navy. Athenians wanted their men to first have a well rounded education so that they would know a variety of things and appreciate lots of things. Girls were taught at home by their mothers or a private tutor. The objective was to prepare girls for being a stay-at-home mother, to look after, and educate their children just as they had been educated.
There were two existent forms of government in Ancient Greece, democracy and oligarchy. In Athenian democracy citizens, who qualified to vote, voted directly on laws and issues subject to a vote. This differs from modern day democracies becauese in modern day democracies, citizens vote for a person to represent them, such as the United States president, and then that person votes on the law or issue. Most people living in the ancient democracy of Athens did not have the right to vote. Voting was limited to men who had been trained in the military. Excluded from voting were women, slaves, slaves who had been freed, children, and foreigners living in Athens. There were three governmental bodies in Athens democracy; assembly, council and the courts. The main political body of the Athenian democratic government was the assembly, which consisted of thousands of citizens. The assembly made important decisions; including whether or not to go to war and granting citizenship for individuals. This democracy system did not always work. During times of war the 10 generals and the Head of State held almost all power and did not always let go of that power easily once the fighting was over.
Sparta, on the other hand, was ruled by five men with help from a council of elders. Sparta in time developed a system of dual kingship, two kings ruling at once. Their power was balanced by the elected board of ephors, who may only serve a single one-year term. There was also a Council of Elders, the Geriousia, with each member over the age of 60 and could serve for life. The Geriousia themselves served an important role in the Spartan society. They would additionally serve as a court in the state, with the power to punish, fine, and ban citizens. The general assembly, which consisted of each citizen, also had the chance to vote on legislation.
The cultural aspects and beliefs of the two cities were also highly contrasting. Athens became known for their architecture and infrastructure. They taught their children about art and sciences encouraged their citizens to engage in trading which made them wealthier. Athenians encouraged their people to study music, art, and literature and engaged in physical activities like sports. This resulted in more productive citizens. Athenians were notable intellectuals, and so they spent a lot of time developing and improving techniques on farming and food production.
Sparta focused their resources on military training. Boys were made to train for combat at a very early age. Spartan rulers used brute strength to fight for land and riches which went directly to the government. Military life awaits every child born in the city of Sparta. Right from birth, boys were trained to become soldiers who comprise the strength of the city. And no group of warriors were said to be better and fiercer than the mighty Spartans at the time. Sparta relied on agriculture and used their military might to conquer other cities.
Women in ancient Athens had very little choices open to them. If they were lucky, they could read a little, play an instrument, and owned slaves to do the daily household tasks. Women could not vote nor own property. They could not choose whom to marry nor own or sell anything of great value. Her life centered on the house and the children. Most citizen wives had slaves to do the cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. The daily life of a house wife would involve supervising the household and slaves for the day, the care and raising of any children, making clothing and any other items needed in the home.
Spartan women were independent and enjoyed freedom to the fullest which was not common elsewhere in Greece. Young Spartan girls were expected to be fit and healthy, they were given a public education and took part in many sporting events alongside boys, such as horse racing, gymnastics and wrestling. Childbirth was viewed in Spartan society as crucial as the role of a warrior, so women were encouraged to be physically strong in order to bear many children. Women in Ancient Sparta could also own land and property. Spartan women had many legal rights. They could not only control, but own property as well as inherit the land. If a woman had one brother, according to Spartan law, she would inherit half of the heritage. If their husband was away for too long, they could take another man to be their husband. As the Spartan women were well trained, they overtook and guarded the property from intruders until their husbands returned from war.

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