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The Concept of the Polis Essay

The concept of the polis is to identify the Greek city-state and show the Greeks citizenship to their city-state. Polis is where our word “politics” came from. The polis would be across between our word “government” and “culture” since the Greeks held that which we call culture is formed, shaped or controlled by the activities of the citizens of the polis. The polis was a type of force as well as alliance, thanks to it’s strength in numbers. Sparta and Athens both thought very highly of the polis, however they did different things to fulfill it. Their education varied, as well as their political rights and their economic standings.

Athens was a democracy, in which all adult male citizens could participate in government and vote. There was no president, any man who was sufficient enough could lead the assembly. Women, people who weren’t Athenian, and slaves (who made up 50% of the population) had no say in politics at all.Athens first had a direct democracy where everybody voted on everything. Then, they came up with the limited democracy where the people were limited to what they could vote on.

Sparta had a mixed government, with democratic features. There were two kings, each hereditary. This arrangement had the convenience of allowing one king to lead the army while the other stayed behind to mind things at home. This way they would always have back up. Five ephors, elected by the citizen assembly, were chosen to run the government. There was a Council of Elders made up of the two kings and 28 elders which made most decisions. At age 30, male Spartans were eligible to vote.

In Athens, the education was based on class. The elites got all the benefits of Athenian education. The male Athenians started school at age seven. The males got educated for the public sphere. Pedagogues were assigned to the boys when they turned seven. They were adults who job it was to teach the boys proper manners. Pedagogues taught writing, mathematics and reading for the academic development. They taught physical education to the boys, as well as music.The females were part of the private sphere. Females got educated at home. They were taught skills like weaving and spinning.

In Sparta, education was all revolved around their militaristic needs. However, males and females got education almost equally. Boys were majorly taught in physical education. This was all wrapped around the concept of training them to be warriors. After they finished all of their test and exams, they were sent right off to the barracks to get ready for war. Females were taught similarly. For example, they were taught how throw javelins. However, they Spartans focused women on preparing to have children so that they could make more warriors for continuous military.

Athenians had a distinct agricultural economy.Athens’s economy was based on foreign trade. The city was near the ocean, which meant good harbor. By trading, the Athenians were exposed to the ancient world. It had become primarily a trading center. Athens had also become a center of art and literature. There was a larger gap between the classes. In Athens, your wealth was based on your land ownership. People would take debt or they would become indentured slaves and the aristocrats took the land.

Unlike Athenians, Spartans were not big on trade. The captured slaves, Helots, did a lot of dirty work. They cleaned houses, tutored children, and did town duties. Sparta couldn’t run smoothly without its slaves. While the slaves were working, everyone else was out at war. They didn’t have a great discrimination between the rich and the poor. It was all about a Spartan way of living.

Despite the large number of differences, there were similarities between Sparta and Athens. They both had laws and also were both the two main cities of Greece. Sparta began as a monarchy and Athens began as an Aristocratic city-state, but both changed their governing bodies around the same time. Each trained their boys for battle, though Spartans did so much earlier in life. Athenians were more part time soldiers. They treated slaves equally, and they were both city-states.Spartan and Athenian society had differences and similarities in terms of various aspects. To Athens, you had to be well-rounded. To Sparta, you have to be a warrior. Being a member of the Polis was being part of your city-state.


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