What are the cultural achievements of Athens and Sparta?

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jvx0 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The cultural achievements of the classical Greeks during the “Golden Age” are so numerous that they set many of the basic standards for Western civilization. Greece was divided into several city-states, of which Athens and Sparta are the most well-known.

Sparta is famous for its military culture and the rigid control of the state over the citizens. Children were considered property of the state, and because military service was compulsory, boys were taken from their families at a young age to be raised in the barracks as soldiers-in-training. Spartan battle tactics were so efficient and effective that modern military strategists still study the ancient texts of Herodotus and Thucydides and other Greek historians.

As a rule, the Spartans lived a minimalist lifestyle: they didn’t own much more than they needed, they didn’t eat a lot, and their manner of speaking was blunt and to-the-point. To this day, we use the term spartan to describe someone who lives simply, and the word laconic (“concise or terse”) comes from Laconia, the region where Sparta was located.

Athens was Sparta’s biggest rival among the city-states. Athens is often called “the birthplace of democracy” because their rulers were chosen by an annual election. While their electoral process was very different from ours in the U.S. (some of their leaders were elected by vote, others by random lottery), it served as a model for later civilizations to build upon.

Athenians valued academia and the arts. The city was home to Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates—some of the most important names in philosophy. Modern actors and directors still study ancient Greek drama, much of which was produced and performed in Athens. 

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Athens was well known for its advanced educational system in which boys were trained in drama, literature, philosophy, and other subjects (girls did not receive this type of education). In addition, Athens boasted fine art and architecture and gave birth to what is known as the "classical" style. Athens was a center of advanced medicine and science and was the birthplace of political democracy.

Sparta, on the other hand, was a militaristic society that encouraged total devotion to the state. After Sparta underwent a slave revolt, its leaders reorganized its society to make its citizens completely loyal to the government. For example, boys had to leave home at age 7 to attend military schools that trained them to be mentally and physically tough. They stayed away from home until age 30, and women were also expected to devote themselves to the city-state. The ideal society described by Plato in his Republic bears many similarities to Sparta, and Plato considered Sparta adept at fostering public order. Therefore, the creation of loyalty to the state was one of Sparta's achievements.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and was a center of cultural achievement long before the birth of Christ. It has earned the nicknames "Cradle of Western Civilization" and the "Birthplace of Democracy." It was the site of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum. One of the most renowned architectural structures of the ancient world, the Parthenon, still can be visited today; surviving examples of monuments and art can also be seen in modern Athens. The culture of ancient Athens had a great effect upon the later Roman Empire. Ancient Athenian philosophy was based on reason and exploration, and it still influences both modern philosophy and modern science. Homer, Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Aristophanes were some of the greatest early writers, and Sappho was an influential poet. Mathematicians such as Euclid, Pythagoras and Archimedes were among the earliest analysts of their art. Athens also proved to be a hotbed of architecture, astronomy and art.   


chelseaosborne314 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Describing Sparta's cultural achievements can be tricky, as their culture was not like that of other places. It is also hard to figure out because they didn't write about their own culture - we have to rely on outsiders' perspectives. Their militaristic lifestyle was unique, and it gained them a reputation of being fierce, unbeatable warriors. They valued strength, restraint, austerity, and their religion. Unlike Athens, who had things such as democracy and philosophies which are still used today, Sparta's only real lasting effect was their image or "mirage". Basically, how people perceive Sparta. Sadly, because they didn't write about themselves, we can't know how accurate the information we have on them is, so this question is a bit hard to answer (at least on the Spartan side of things).

mnyancey | Student

The Spartans did not have many cultural or artistic achievements because they focused solely on having a superior military. 

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