What Characteristics Did Sparta and Athens Share?

Greek city states Sparta and Athens ruled over ancient Greece in the fifth century BCE. Each city state had a powerful military and at least a largely elected administration that both depended on slave labour.

Similar systems of government were in place in Sparta and Athens; both city states were led in part by elected assemblies. In contrast to Sparta, Athens’ top officials were elected. Sparta was an oligarchy, whereas Athens was primarily a democracy.

Athens and Sparta both had robust militaries, but in different ways. The army of Sparta, which was made up of the most skilled and powerful warriors of antiquity, was its greatest military asset. The Athenians’ fleet, on the other hand, was much more sophisticated and ruled the Mediterranean Sea, despite the fact that their army was only slightly smaller than the Spartans’.

With each city state housing around 100,000 slaves, both had enormous slave populations. However, Athens had between 40,000 and 100,000 inhabitants compared to Sparta’s 8,000 or so.

In both towns, the social hierarchy was topped by military men, with slaves at the bottom. In Sparta, only those in the military were eligible to vote; in Athens, the aristocracy were powerful landowners who also served as military commanders.

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.

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