What Were the Similarities Between Sparta and Athens?


Sparta and Athens were both Greek city states that dominated ancient Greece during the fifth century BCE. Each city state had at least a partially elected government and a strong military, and both relied on the labor of slaves.

Sparta and Athens had similar forms of government; both city states were in part governed by elected assemblies. However, the top rulers of Athens were elected, while Sparta’s were not. Athens was fundamentally a democracy; Sparta was an oligarchy.

Both Sparta and Athens were militarily strong, though in different ways. Sparta’s military strength rested in its army, composed of the best-trained and most powerful warriors of ancient times. In contrast, while the Athenian army was almost as large as the Spartan, the Athenian navy was far more advanced and dominated the Mediterranean Sea.

Both city states had extremely large slave populations, with each home to about 100,000 slaves. However, Sparta had only about 8,000 citizens, while Athens had between 40,000 and 100,000. Slaves were at the bottom of the social order in both cities, and military men were at the top. In Sparta the military professionals were the only ones who had the right to vote; in Athens, the aristocrats were wealthy landowners who were also military leaders.