Athens and Sparta were the two most powerful city-states in ancient Greece;also known as polis, the ancient Greek city-states were individual, autonomous cities that were self-governing and independent from other governments in their local areas. Because these two powerful city-states were so autonomous, they had many cultural differences and Athenians and Spartans, while having many similarities as Greeks including religion and language, were culturally different as people. For instance, the Spartans were renowned for their fierce warriors and militaristic culture while the Athenians were known for their academic pursuits, creating much of the art and academic enlightenment that is still associated with ancient Greek people as a whole.
Because ancient Greece was made up of powerful autonomous city-states without a real federal government, the nation was, at that time, more like a consortium or political association of city-states that were part of the same region, spoke the same language and had similar religious practices.
The independent city-states would often rely on one another; Greek city-states would use Spartan soldiers, which were notoriously fierce. In some ways, Athens was seen as the capital of Greece, though this was an unofficial designation. Other, less powerful city-states of the time include Corinth and Argos.