What was the difference between the soldiers of Athens and Sparta?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While some similarities existed between the warriors of Sparta and Athens, such as the hoplite foot soldier and the phalynx formation, there were great differences between the soldiers of the two societies.

The main differences were born out as an extension of the focus of each polis.  Athens was a cultural and creative haven while Sparta was a militaristic society.  In Sparta practically every man was a member of the Spartan military.  Taken from their parents at age seven to undergo the agoge (an intense military academy of sorts), they would continue to live in military barracks until age thirty.  While educated in matters other than war, their focus in life was on the military.

While Athens did have a strong military, its soldiers were more militia than regular army.  They had careers as craftsmen or artists and served in times of need, and did not perpetually live in military barracks like their Spartan counterparts.  In addition, there was a good chance a member of the Athenian military would be a sailor as the polis had an excellent navy.

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