Monday, January 5, 2015

Sparta and Athens: Polar Opposites

Conner Lewis, World History 4                                                                                      1/5/15
Thoughts and Reflections On: The Human Story: Our History, from the Stone Age to Today
Book by James C. Davis
Published by: Perfect Bound
Published: 2004
Sparta and Athens: Polar Opposites
         The fundamental differences between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta lie in their governments and both city’s social structure. The autocratic government of Sparta, in which the warriors and landlords, who were also almost exclusively Spartans, held a tight grip on its people using military might. The fact that a very small minority ruled over large amounts of different cultures meant that in order to maintain order and maintain Spartan’s position in their society, they
had to force the other cultures to become part of a social cast, the surfs, which were not the same as but similar to slaves. The fact that a majority of people were surfs meant civil unrest in the Spartan nation was common, leading to the need to develop a culture which bred natural born leaders and fighters. This is also expressed in the government of Sparta, because this need is the reason that the two kings of Sparta would also act as military commanders, and would generally be great warriors or tactical military leaders, as that would be the most useful skill to have whilst leading a nation such as Sparta. This need is what lead to the creation of the harsh regime of the Spartan males and females, as this allowed the Spartan nation to have a steady supply of able bodied and well trained soldiers that allowed the Spartans to maintain a large nation. This warrior nation is fundamentally different to the culturally rich city-state of Athens. Athens’ government, at least the government which both lasted the longest and had the largest impact, was an early form of a democratic-republic. After Cleisthenes took power and enacted many of the reforms he promised, the city of Athens became extremely egalitarian, at least compared to Sparta. In Athens, all males were citizens who could vote, be on jury, and be elected for office. This equality lead to a more stable society, allowing Athens to focus on cultural advances instead of maintaining order. The fundamental difference is equality, as Sparta, with its low equality for most of the population, lead to Sparta having to abandon its culture almost
entirely and focus solely on its military. Athens however, did not have to worry about order on the home front, so those who would have been soldiers could focus upon other areas of study. It can also be said that the Athenian style was better because it remained true to its original ideals until the end, even after being sacked. The warrior culture of Sparta, which revered honor and courage, fell apart after Sparta grew, as the nation became more and more corrupt. The greatest accomplishment of the Greeks was the development of one of the most egalitarian governments seen throughout history since humans settled down for more agrarian ways. This development has led to changes overtime in the ideals of the common man, who have decided to see the world as a place where he could be equal to the leader of a country in opportunity and social caste. This government type only came around due to advances in philosophy in how fellow humans should be treated, which has led to the modern concept of equality which most nations strive towards today. Another great accomplishment of the Greeks were the development of the basis of philosophy that Western Civilization would follow for the rest of time. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle's ideas and beliefs were the basis of how western philosophers thought, because Plato and Aristotle, and to some extent Socrates, were some of the earliest known philosophers, and by far the most influential, with written records from the Ancient Era. Aristotle also contributed greatly to science, being the first known person to study in the science of formal logic and metaphysics, as well as more natural sciences such as taxonomy, anatomy, reproduction, and biology. Many of his theories and beliefs would continue to be considered correct and factual science even into the Renaissance  until the arrival of scientists such as Isaac Newton. The most important part of Ancient Greek legacy comes from the Athenians, which says a lot about how effective peace is over tyranny and suppression. This legacy is that of the modern ideals of equality, that all men and women should have equal rights, privileges, and opportunity. This is a key concept in many nations, such as the United States of America. The other part of the Greek legacy is that of democracy as a valid form of government, or more specifically a democratic-republic. The French revolution was based off of people whose belief was that the Athenian’s idea of government and equality was right, and since that time and the Era of Enlightenment, many nations have adopted this government and philosophy. Modern philosophy is also based off of the ground-work laid by the Classical Greek philosophers, while much of science has been influenced by Aristotle's theories.

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