4 October 2018
The Greeks are arguably one of the most impressive and advanced civilizations to date. They had an exceptional understanding of philosophy and art within most of their poleis, like the Athenians, as well as admirable military tactics from Sparta.
Of all of the poleis, Sparta is often considered to be the most powerful. As a military society, they valued soldiers and order more than most other essentials. At the age of seven, boys were taken from their family homes and into military barracks, where they will remain until they reach thirty years of age (although they are allowed to marry at twenty). Men ate in the mess halls until they aged to sixty. Spartan women were given incredible strength training exercises in the hopes of creating a strong child. Unfortunately, weak and disabled babies were left to die while the parents tried again for a stronger child. Women had more free will in Spartan society than most other poleis because the men were always away and women were needed to complete the daily tasks males usually did. In a way, Sparta’s militaristic society controlled every aspect of the lives of Spartans. Men and women were raised from birth to understand that total and utter loyalty to Sparta was their sole reason for existence, and because of that, they were taught to live their lives accordingly. Their love for their strength and military went so far as to have any art other than the art of war be frowned upon and discouraged. Athenians spent little to no time training for battle in comparison to the Spartans, and spent most of their time encouraging the practice of art and philosophy.
For the Athenians, art was more important than war. At the center of Athenian life was the worship of their goddess Athena. Most of their early art pieces were tributes for their protector. From the sixth century forward, the production of korai, or “maidens,” grew in Athens. In early Athens, early philosophy (in the pre-Socratics tradition) was centered primarily around the nature of the universe. Earlier philosophers included Pythagoras Leucippus. Later on, Athens birthed more advanced art and literature, as well as the second tradition of philosophy. In one such piece of literature, Plato’s Republic, there is a section entitled the “Allegory of the Cave,” tying into both advancing literature and advancing philosophy. In his Republic, Plato “bans” sex for reasons outside procreation, but contradicts himself by discussing it openly and freely in his Symposium. As for the arts, the Greeks quickly grew their sculpting skills. Their pieces grew larger and more realistic as time went on, as evident when comparing Peplos Kore to the Apoxyomenos. These are only a few of the great pieces the Athenians have created.
This compares two coexisting city-states with two very different ideologies of how time, effort, and money should be spent. Sparta is and has always been known for their aggressive, war-like behavior. Athens, conversely, is known more so for their amazing philosophers and artists than anything else.