What similar achievements did Athens and Sparta have?
Athens and Sparta were the greatest and most powerful states in ancient Greece during the classical period (500 B.C.E.–338 B.C.E.). In the 5th century B.C.E., each of these states led its own alliance: Athens ruled the Delian league, and Sparta was the predominant power in the Peloponnesian league. Both states played a key role in the defense of Greece from the Persian invasion. Spartans led the Greek army in the key battle of Plataea in 479 B.C.E. and Athens won the decisive naval battle at Salamis in 480 B.C.E. After Sparta withdrew from the war, Athens became the leader of the Greek alliance against Persia. Both Athens and Sparta claimed dominance in Greek politics and considered each other more or less equals. According to Thucydides, one of the reasons for the beginning of the Peloponnesian war was Sparta’s attempt to impose its demands on Athens. Pericles noted that such a behavior was inconsistent with the principle of equality and accordingly recommended that Athens refuse; this refusal precipitated the outbreak of hostilities.
Both sides had strong although different ideological and political commitments: during the Peloponnesian war, Sparta supported the oligarchical governments in Greek cities beset by civil conflicts between oligarchs and democrats. Athens, on the other hand, supported democratic governments and sided with the impoverished masses of allied states against their own ruling elites, who resented Athenian domination.
Both states had relatively well-defined and functional systems, which unfortunately restricted citizenship and denied political participation to resident aliens and to women (although in Sparta women had more freedom than in Athens and they enjoyed some level of political influence).
Both states played a large role in the Greek culture of the classical period. While Athens became a center of literary, artistic, and philosophical life, the Spartans, who cultivated simplicity, brevity, and common sense, were influential in the field of education and had numerous admirers among Greek aristocrats and philosophers (for example Plato).
Both sides exercised a strong influence on the development of European culture and political ideas. While Athens appealed to the proponents of individual rights, freedom, and democracy, Spartan militarism and self-discipline, and the Spartan ethos of self-sacrifice for the greater good of the community became a model for many nationalists, patriots, and defenders of authoritarian and even totalitarian systems.