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The modern civilization that every one is enjoying in the world has its roots to our fore fathers. Though they did not enjoy the advanced technology as we are having, they too had their own ways of dealing with day to day hiccups and managed to come up with solutions to problems that they faced that time. Greece is one of the countries that have been associated much with civilization that the modern world has tried to improve on what they had during their era. Civilization never comes overnight, it is a process that requires patience and determination not underscoring the importance of creativity and continuous improvement no matter how small it might appear to be.
Ancient Greece is considered one of the most civilized societies in ancient times. During this period, they were able to invent and come up with various ways and means that are considered to have contributed towards having a bearing in civilization. The main cities in the Ancient Greece, the main forces to reckon with, were Athens and Sparta (Buxton & Richard; 1999). The daily lives and practices of the Spartans and the Athenians were different in many ways. However, the most different practices were observed in education, art, music and philosophy. In these four areas, the lives of the Spartans differed to those of the Athenians. In my view, for a man living in ancient Greece, Athens would provide a more fulfilling life in these four areas.
This paper seeks to compare and contrast the ways of lives of Athenians and Spartans in Ancient Greece. This will be done by looking, critically, at these four areas. By analyzing these areas, the paper will give a conclusive reason to each area as to why for a young man it would be better to live in Athens compared to Sparta.
Education in Athens and Sparta
This was the most distinct difference between life in Athens and life Sparta. It is important to note that for the ancient Greeks, they thought that the kind of education the Spartans received was superior to all other education systems in other cities in Greece. The Athenians, however, thought of their system being superior. The only similarity in the two education systems is that, unlike today, the manner in which boys and girls were taught was different.
Getting knowledge has always been of paramount to any advancing country. Education in Athens emphasized on teaching the young on the arts, peace and war. Girls were not educated at school, but many learned to read and write at home, in the comfort of their courtyard; perhaps the purpose of this was to see to it that they were supervised by a guardian.
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Many institutions of learning were under private ownership, the cost of education was, however, low enough to allow the poor families to send their children to school for at least a few years. Until age 6 or 7, boys were taught at home by their mother or by a male slave. Later, in the fourth century B.C. in some cities public schools were open that were available to poor. It was the duty of the parents to educate their sons. This was done until the age of 18 where the state took over by insisting on a compulsory military training that would take two years.
Although boys learned the basics in any education system i.e. reading and writing, physical education, arithmetic and many other requirements, it was literature that many Athenians were interested in. they laid great emphasis on poems and other forms of literature.
The goal of education in Sparta, an authoritarian, military city-state, was to produce soldier-citizens (Adcock; 1957). In ancient Sparta, the purpose of education was to produce a well-drilled, well-disciplined marching army. Spartans believed in a life of discipline, self-denial, and simplicity. They were very loyal to the state of Sparta. In ancient Greece, this was quite admirable. The conditions and way of life in ancient Greece was one that involved war and conflict. It was therefore imperative that each city arm itself physically and in terms of ammunition in readiness for war.
By the age of 6-7, boy in Sparta were compulsorily sent to military school. At this level, they lived, trained and slept in their barracks; this was basically to encourage and foster teamwork and brotherhood. They were taught survival techniques and other skills necessary that would make them great soldiers. This course became increasingly tougher as one became older. By the age of 18, the Spartan boys were military cadets and had perfectly learned the arts of war. At 20, they joined the state militia--a standing reserve force available for duty in time of emergency--in which they served until they were 60 years old. Spartans did not focus much on the art of reading and writing. It was therefore very common to come across a Spartan soldier who could neither read nor write. In a few instances, however, reading and writing was encouraged.
Compared to the Athenians, the Spartans were not all rounded. They had only acquired knowledge in war. The Athenians, on the other hand, had acquired knowledge in reading and writing, peace and war.
It is said that Athens is the cradle of arts and culture in the world. At the height of its influence, Athens was the glittering cultural capital of the classical age, celebrated for its art, its theater, its writers and philosophers, its architecture, its love of luxury, its democracy. Sparta mainly focused on war and battles and therefore had little to do with arts and culture. Today, however, it has been discovered that Sparta also contained and practiced some form of art (Grace; 2006).
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In 508 BC, Athens became one of the first societies in ancient times to establish democracy. In fact, Democracy is derived from the Greek words, demos, meaning people, and kratein, meaning to rule (Adcock; 1957). This form of government was used at a meeting place which the Greeks called the Assembly. Here the citizens of Athens met monthly and discussed the affairs of state. There were no decisions made by government without first asking the Assembly. Sparta, on the other hand, was a military oligarchy, monarchy, democracy, and timocracy all rolled into one. Originally founded with aristocratic interest, Sparta managed to keep its lineage of kings throughout its existence. Democracy in Sparta was therefore minimal.
The architectural designs in ancient Athens are also recognized to date. One of the best and most recognized designs of Athens is the Acropolis. This was the religious shrine and high fortress for the Athenian people. Its walls were built on a layer of limestone rock overlooking the city. Within these walls, the people of Athens built temples and buildings.
Athenians were also great followers and showed an intense penchant for art. Their artistic talents can be viewed through many different forms which have survived for centuries, such as architectural designs, sculptures, pottery, and fine jewelry.
Sparta does not (did not) posses this kind of artistic penchant. They mainly focused on war and battles. They therefore were mainly involved in works of metal and little bit of pottery.
Music played a significant role in the lives of ancient Greeks. Just like today, it was mainly associated with events and the mood prevailing in the event. From marriages and funerals to religious ceremonies, staged dramas, folk music and the ballad-like reciting of epic poetry all relied and determined the kind of music that would be played on that event. Although documented evidence is yet to be collected (or if it exists, it is limited for the general public knowledge), it is thought that the Athenians were more involved in music than the Spartans. Unlike the boys of Athens, Spartan boys spent little time learning music and literature Henderson & Isobel; 1957). Instead they were drilled each day in gymnastics and military exercises. They were taught that retreat or surrender in battle was disgraceful. They learned to endure pain and hardship without complaint and to obey orders absolutely and without question. This, in my view, was tyrannical. People should be allowed to exhibit and develop their different levels of interests. In the Spartan case, the people who might have been interested in the arts and in music were thought of as being weak and were therefore cast out and left to die.
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In as far as philosophy and philosophical teachings are concerned, Athens focused more and emphasized on the acquisition of philosophical knowledge. While the Athenians believed in philosophy and expansion of the mind thought, their Spartan counterparts believed and advocated for militarianism. It no wonder that many philosophers quoted in present day originated from Athens. The education of mind, body, and aesthetic sense was, according to Plato, so that the boys could develop their intellectual traits of open mindedness, fairness, understanding and others that might have been useful in the development of the Greek minds. The Athenians advocated for peace and amicable ways of conflict resolution. This was mainly due to the philosophical knowledge acquired. Their Spartan counterparts, on the other hand, due to their limited philosophical knowledge, advocated for war and resolved disagreements through battles.
For a young man, it would be better to live in Athens since one acquires a wide range of knowledge compared to an individual raised in Sparta.
Athens provided a more enriching life for the young people compared to Sparta. The society and the world in general in ancient times was one that required force and a strong army to survive. All over the world, the norm was that of violence and conflict in order to gain resources or to exist in the society. It was a question of survival for the fittest. Sparta fitted perfectly in this world. However, which environment provided an enriching life and a complete ray of opportunities for its persons. Athens was all rounded (Powell & Anton; 2001). Although it was not as strong as Sparta in terms of military strength, it still had a military and boys were taught the art of war at one point in their lives. Their Spartan counterparts had a strong military base. Their illiteracy levels were higher than those of the Athenians and this affected them in many ways. It is no wonder that Sparta eventually collapsed. Athens can be compared to many present day societies where by the only difference in their lives is the period of existence. Its organization, tactics, invention to mention but just a few have helped many modern countries to learn a lot from them and as well as understand that they too have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to this world in terms of development and civilization.