Ancient History

How did the development of Sparta and Athens differ?
Answered by Science Channel
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  1. In ancient Greece, the main city of Laconia in the Peloponnesus was Sparta, a powerful city-state. It extended its control over nearby city-states, and most Spartan men were soldiers. Sparta played almost no role in the celebrated scholarly and artistic achievements of other Greek city-states (particularly Athens).

    Lycurgus is considered Sparta's lawgiver. Historians are unsure whether Lycurgus was a real person who actually lived or if he was simply a figure of legend. These days, most experts tend to believe he wasn't real; the few who think he was an actual person date his life between 1100 and 600 B.C. Real or imagined, the legend of Lycurgus says that he traveled to many states to study their forms of government and provided Sparta with its own constitution and political model. Many of the features of the Spartan government that are attributed to him more likely evolved in later years. As Greece moved into its Classical period, Sparta maintained a rigid, militaristic culture that prized discipline, loyalty and athletic prowess. Sparta did not place much value on individualism, instead forging a communal and patriotic spirit among its citizens.

    Athens, the main city of Attica, developed at a different pace and in a different direction. The tyrant Solon took control of Athens in 594 B.C., and he introduced many social reforms for the benefit of the people. Succeeding tyrants, such as Pisistratus, continued Solon's liberal agenda. The ensuing prosperity and the influence of Ionian culture gave rise to flourishing times filled with art, drama and poetry. About 507 B.C., Cleisthenes introduced democracy, paving the way for Athens to become the center of Greek political, scholarly and creative achievement. It was this flourishing Athens that saw some of the greatest cultural achievements in the history of the world, such as the groundbreaking philosophical discourse of Socrates and Plato, as well as the literature of Sophocles and Aeschylus.

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