Athens and Sparta: Comparative Analysis

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Athens and Sparta were one of the most important city-states of Ancient Greece. Although, they were close on the map, they had different values and different lifestyle (York, Smart and Richards, n.d.). However, they also had few similarities and one can be seen in their form of government. In fact, both Athens and Sparta had an assembly which was elected by the people (York, Smart and Richards, n.d.). Another similarity is that both these city-states had slaves, and even if Athens was a democracy, it also practiced slavery (Brand, n.d.). Moreover, in both Athens and Sparta, women, slaves and non-citizens could not participate in the political life and could have no influence on their community.

The differences between Athens and Sparta were present particularly in the structure of government. The main difference was based on the fact that Athens was a democracy where it was the rule of the ‘demos’ which means of the people. Sparta, instead, was an oligarchy which means rule of the few (Brand, n.d.).

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In Athens the government was made up of the Boyle or legislative council which was responsible for the legislative agenda. The population assembly which was made-up of all free male Athenian citizens passed or rejected laws the Boule-council proposed (Brand, n.d.). Male citizens could participate in the public life and influence the community by serving on juries and by serving as public officers and jurors. The main rules that governed the selection of public office-holder, such as jurors and minor officials, were based on the lottery system which means they were chosen randomly (Brand, n.d.). The selections were also based on wealth and age, for instance a citizen who wants to serve as a public officer had to have a certain wealth and had to be at least 30 years old. Athens was a class-based society where the few wealthy who were often the aristocrats, known as the ‘500-bushel men’ had the privilege of becoming one of the 10 annually elected generals, who were the primary military and civilian officers. The Athenian system shows was held by male citizens but mostly by the wealthy (Brand, n.d.).

On the other hand, Sparta was an imperial state with a warrior society as it had aligned its entire culture and political system along military lines (Brand, n.d.). In Sparta public office was held by the two kings who came from two separate royal tribes. However, the true power and the ability of making decisions that affect the community rested with the Ephors, who were five magistrates elected every year, and the Gerousia composed of 30 members who were at least 60 years of age and they remain in power until death (Brand, n.d.). Finally, all free male citizens of Sparta were part of the popular assembly but their rights were very limited and whether they became part of the assembly was based on their social class (Brand, n.d.). The Gerousia was selected by the acclamation of the citizens (Britannica, n.d.) and the Ephors were selected by the popular assembly.


In conclusion, Athens and Sparta were two powerful city-states since Sparta’s military strength and Athens’s political strength allowed them to be influential in ancient Greece.


  1. Brand, P. J. (n.d.). Athens & Sparta: Democracy Vs Dictatorship.
  2. York, Swart and Richards. N.d. The Same yet Different.
  3. Britannica. N.d. Gerousia. Retrieved from:
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