The political systems of Athens and Sparta were very different. In Athens, citizens elected officials annually through limited democracy. Athens is still referred to as the ‘birthplace of democracy.’ Sparta, on the other hand, subscribed to a tradition of oligarchy. Oligarchy essentially means ‘ruled by the few’ and these few were often similar to traditional monarchies ruled by kings. Sparta did have a limited amount of democracy, as seen in their annual election of five council members (referred to as the Ephors). The values of the two city-states differed widely; I think this is one of the largest factors contributing to the extreme difference between Sparta and Athens. Spartan residents led a simple lifestyle focused on military strength. They also had little interest in other city-states or areas beyond their borders, with the exception of occasionally providing military assistance to other city-states. Athenians led a much different lifestyle with more varied values. They sought advancements in education over military dominance, and they wanted more control over the surrounding area.
Lastly, the treatment of their citizens also demonstrated remarkable differences between Athens and Sparta. This difference was largely due to the economies of both city-states. Athens had a very trade-centered economy, and sought political superiority to other city-states. Athens also revolutionized infrastructural development at the time. Sparta sought to be an independent city-state, relying primarily on agriculture and maintaining its strong military. Its citizens honored warriors, and those who were not warriors were often slaves. Women’s rights were drastically different between the two city-states. In Athens, women were legally and socially viewed as dependents of their fathers, and later, of their husbands. Athenian women could not own property and were limited to domestic responsibilities. In Sparta, women could own property and had rights and responsibilities similar to men. Ultimately, I would consider the citizens of Sparta to have had more rights than those of Athens, considering the treatment and accessible rights of women from both city-states.
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