Government & Political organizations



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The two rivals of ancient Greece that made the most noise and gave us the most traditions were Athens and Sparta. They were close together on a map, yet far apart in what they valued and how they lived their lives.

Spartan life was simple. The focus was on obedience and war. Young boys were trained to be warriors; young girls were trained to be mothers of warriors.

Athenian life was a creative wonderland. As an Athenian, you could get a good education and could pursue any of several kinds of arts or sciences. You could serve in the army or navy, but you didn't have to. (This applied only to boys, however: Girls were restricted to other pursuits, not war or business or education.)

One way that Athens and Sparta really differed was in their idea of getting along with the rest of the Greeks. Sparta seemed content to keep to itself and provide army and assistance when necessary. Athens, on the other hand, wanted to control more and more of the land around them. This eventually led to war between all the Greeks. This was the Peloponnesian War. After many years of hard fighting, Sparta won the war. In true Greek spirit, Sparta refused to burn the city of Athens. Rather, the culture and spirit of Athens was allowed to live on, as long as the Athenians no longer desired to rule their fellow Greeks. In this way, the influence of Athens remained and grew stronger. Other city-states had the same kinds of temples, buildings, and meeting-places, but it was Athens that became most famous.



Government & Political organizations

Athenian Government

Usually classified as a "direct democracy" (because everyone, not just politicians attended the Assembly), Athens claims to be the "birthplace of democracy".

The Assembly open to all citizens (all citizens were eligible to attend such meetings and speak up). They passed laws and made policy decisions.

During time of Pericles citizens were paid for jury service so not only the wealthy could participate.

Women did not participate in the political life of Athens.

Spartan Government: Usually classified as an "oligarchy" (rule by a few). Two kings who were generals in command of the armies and with some religious duties.

Five overseers (ephors) elected annually ran the day-to-day operations of Sparta. They could veto rulings made by the council or assembly.

Women did not participate in the political life of Sparta.


Social Structure

Athens: Freemen were all male citizens: divided into numerous classes: at the top were aristocrats who had large estates and made up the cavalry or captained triremes; middle ranks were small farmers; lowest class was the thetes (urban craftsmen and trireme rowers). Metics - those who came from outside the city; they were not allowed to own land, but could run industries and businesses. Slaves were lowest class, but less harshly treated than in most other Greek cities. Slaves had no rights, and an owner could kill a slave. Slaves varied in status: some were given important roles in Athens, like policemen. Women were rarely seen outside the home and had no rights in the Athenian democracy.

Sparta:

Three classes: Spartiates (military professionals who lived mostly in barracks and whose land was farmed by serfs; they served in the army and could vote).

Perioeci or "neighbors/outsiders" who were freemen; they included artisans, craftsmen, merchants; they could not vote or serve in the army; foreigners could be in this class.

Helots (serfs descended from those peoples who had resisted subjugation by Sparta and who were constantly rebelling. They were treated like slaves and gave 1/2 of their produce to the Spartiate citizens who owned the land.

Women had few rights, but were more independent in Sparta than elsewhere in Greece.

Military strength: Athens- Strong navy. Sparta- Strong army, best and most feared fighters on land.

Education

Athens Boys: Schools taught reading, writing and mathematics, music, poetry, sport and gymnastics. Based upon their birth and the wealth of their parents, the length of education was from the age of 5 to 14, for the wealthier 5 - 18 and sometimes into a student's mid-twenties in an academy where they would also study philosophy, ethics, and rhetoric (the skill of persuasive public speaking). Finally, the citizen boys entered a military training camp for two years, until the age of twenty

Girls: Girls received little formal education (except perhaps in the aristocrats' homes through tutors); they were generally kept at home and had no political power in Athens. The education of a girl involved spinning, weaving, and other domestic art.



Sparta:

Boys: Boys were taken from parents at age seven and trained in the art of warfare. They were only give a cloak - no shoes or other clothes, and not enough food so they had to steal (to learn survival skills). At age 20 they were placed into higher ranks of the military. To age 30 they were dedicated to the state; then they could marry but still lived in barracks with other soldiers. They were educated in choral dance, reading and writing, but athletics and military training were emphasized.

Girls: Girls were educated at age 7 in reading and writing, gymnastics, athletics and survival skills. Could participate in sports; treated more as equals.

Role of women

Athenian women:

Athenian women and girls were kept at home with no participation in sports or politics. Wives were considered property of their husbands. They were responsible for spinning, weaving and other domestic arts.

Some women held high posts in the ritual events and religious life of Athens (where the goddess Athena was the patron).

Spartan women:

Girls were educated in reading and writing and could participate in sports; they were treated more as equals to men. The goal was to produce women who would produce strong healthy babies. At age 18 she would be assigned a husband and return home. Citizen women were free to move around and enjoyed a great deal of freedom. Domestic arts (weaving, spinning, etc.) were usually left to the other classes. Spartan women could own and control their own property. In times of war the wife was expected to oversee her husband's property and to guard it against invaders and revolts until her husband returned



Food:

Athenians enjoyed luxuries and foods from all over their empire. Wealthy Athenian homes were quite nice with an inner courtyard.

Spartans: Broth consisted of pork, blood, salt and vinegar. Spartans were trained to dislike luxuries and fancy foods. The men lived most of their lives in military barracks

FAMOUS QUOTES ABOUT SPARTA:

Herodotus reports that just before the Battle of Thermoplyae, a Spartan warrior named Dienekes was told that the Persian archers could blank out the sun with their arrows. He replied "Good, then we shall have our battle in the shade."

A Sybarite, who ate at a Spartan military barrack, once remarked: "Now I know why the Spartans do not fear death."

"Come back with your shield - or on it" was supposed to be the parting cry of mothers to their sons. Mothers whose sons died in battle openly rejoiced, mothers whose sons survived hung their heads in shame.

Asked why it was dishonorable to return without a shield and not without a helmet, the Spartan king, Demaratos (510 - 491) is said to have replied: "Because the latter they put on for their own protection, but the shield for the common good of all."

An old man wandering around the Olympic Games looking for a seat was jeered at by the crowd until he reached the seats of the Spartans, whereupon every Spartan younger than him, and some that were older, stood up and offered him their seat. The crowd applauded and the old man turned to them with a sigh, saying "All Greeks know what is right, but only the Spartans do it."

FAMOUS QUOTES ABOUT ATHENS:

The idea that the Athenians are able to put aside their petty wants and strive for the greater good of the city is a central theme of the speech. Bound together by bonds of mutual trust and a shared desire for freedom, the people of Athens submit to the laws and obey the public officials not because they have to, as in other cities, but because they want to. Athenians had thus achieved something quite unique - being both ruled and rulers at one and the same time. This had forged a unique type of citizen. Clever, tolerant, and open minded, Athenians were able to adapt to any situation and rise to any challenge. They had become the new ideal of the Greek world.






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