What similar achievements did Athens and Sparta have?

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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.

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The main achievement shared by Sparta and Athens was their exceptional military prowess. Sparta was a heavily militaristic society in which boys, from a very early age, were trained to be ferocious warriors, ready for battle at any moment. Every aspect of Spartan government, economy, and society was geared towards the overriding purpose of conducting war.

The primary focus of Sparta was on its land-based army. Boys were trained from the age of seven in the arts of soldiering, becoming hardened warriors by the time they achieved manhood. The Spartan army gained a fearsome reputation, their strength matched only by their immense bravery. As well as conducting war with other states, Spartan troops, or hoplites, were used to keep order at home. The vast majority of Sparta's population consisted of helots, or slaves. The threat of an uprising was ever-present, and so the army kept the helots in line by regular "cleansing" operations.

The Athenians also achieved great military success, albeit with a radically different society and political system to that of Sparta. The main component of Athens' war machine was its formidable navy, which allowed it to dominate the Hellenic world. The Athenians' famed supremacy at sea also allowed them to impose a crushing defeat on the mighty Persian fleet at the battle of Salamis in 480 BCE, despite being heavily outnumbered.

A large part of the Athenian navy's success was due to its vastly superior maritime technology. The Athenians built an impressive fleet of triremes, devastating warships which were incredibly fast and easy to maneuver, and with massive bronze ramming beaks able to reduce enemy ships to splinters in a relatively short space of time.

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