Difference Between Athens and Sparta

One of the two significant rivals of ancient Greece is Athens and Sparta. Most of the present-day western current traditions are attributed to these two regions.

Though Athens and Sparta were quite similar in certain aspects such as close territorial proximity and defense goals; however, both of them also had their own distinct set of values and customs.

Athens vs Sparta

The main difference between Athens and Sparta is that Athens had a formal democratic arrangement and rooted in the philosophy of arts and learning, whereas Sparta had an organisation where a small group of people had control of the region with a military mindset.

Athens vs Sparta

However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on certain parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:


Comparison Table Between Athens and Sparta (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonAthensSparta
MeaningAthens is the capital city of GreeceOne of the cities in Greece
Is it the capital city?YesNo
Is it the largest city in Greece?YesNo
Is it the most populous city in Greece?YesNo
What is the population?3,153,355 (in 2020)Around 17000 (in 2011)
What is the region in which the city is located?AtticaLaconia
What is the type of climate?Hot summer Mediterranean climateSunny warm Mediterranean climate
How was the government based in ancient times?DemocraticMilitary
Ruled by whom in ancient times?Nine chief magistrates who had to undergo annual electionsKings who either died or were thrown out from kingship
What was the type of ancient culture?ProgressiveRelaxed and easy-going
Whether the military was mandatory in ancient times?NoYes
Whether girl education was the norm in ancient times?NoYes
What was the status of women in ancient times?Less freedom and status with more focus on household workMore freedom and status even receiving physical training similar to that of men
What was the most important aspect from a defence perspective?Powerful navyMilitary soldiers
What was the economy dependent on in ancient times?Commerce and farmingAgriculture, wars
Why did they become famous?Civilization, Commercial development and intelligenceMilitary prowess
What was the most important focal point in ancient times?Education and developmentBuilding military


What is Athens?

Athens is an ancient city in Greece. It can be considered as one of the prominent olden and traditional cities of the world with inhabitation dating back to more than 3000 years.

Athens is considered to have laid the structure and beginning of western civilization’s progress.

Athens is considered to be an originator of literature, intellect, arts, architecture, and modern culture. Athens has given birth to prominent creative and imaginative people in diverse fields such as mathematics, sciences, history etc

Athens has been a house to exceptionally talented writers, thinkers, philosophers such as Socrates, Democritus, Hippocrates, Pindar, Phidias, Plato, Aristotle to name a few.

Athens is also considered a pioneer in modern infrastructural development as a large number of temples and buildings signifying beauty and sophisticated architecture was built over some time.

Athens displayed such a wonderful architecture that even Spartans who once defeated Athens were amazed by the beauty of the region that though they captured the city they did not destroy the artifacts.

Athens had a form of democratic government. Athens’s economy ran on commerce and trading in the sea as agriculture was not prominent due to the non-availability and/or suitability of the soil.

Athens though did not have a significant military power but had a commendable naval warship which led to defeating the Persians in multiple wars emerging as a primary naval power in the region of Greece.


What is Sparta?

Sparta is also known by the name “Lacedaemon”. Sparta is located in the southern region in Greece known as Laconia. The word Sparta means simple and economical.

The spartan tradition was based on military prowess. At a very young age, the boys were compulsorily being made to take military education and become paid soldiers.

Discipline and battles were at the forefront of the philosophy professed by Sparta.

Right from the time the child had birth till the person turned old, the endurance exercises were made compulsory such as leaving the child on a mountain overnight to test its strength and punishing small children very severely for unruly behaviour. Men even serviced the army after the age of 60 years.

Spartans used to capture fellow Greeks and turn them into slaves. These slaves used to help the Spartans complete their daily activities such as farming, labour etc.

The slaves were treated badly by the Spartans even killing them on occasions. However, women from Sparta had more freedom compared to their counterparts in other cities.

Sparta had an oligarchy form and had a classic military or autocratic rule. The main occupation was agriculture and people did not possess a forward-looking outlook nor devoted significant time to the intellect, ideas and philosophy.

Sparta at one stage defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.).

Sparta was defeated by Thebes at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 B.C. which ultimately led to their decline.

Further battles led to the freedom of slaves. Somewhere in the early 1820s, the Greece King founded the modern city of Sparta.


Main Differences Between Athens and Sparta

  1. Athens is considered to be the home of western civilization. Sparta is not considered as home to any modern civilization.
  2. Athens was based on a democratic form of government where people were elected on an annual basis. Sparta was based on oligarchy and had two rulers.
  3. Athens core ideals were based on development, trade, intellect, and wisdom, and did not force people to join the military. Sparta philosophy was based on creating military power and made military joining compulsory.
  4. Athens believed in having strong family relationships. Sparta did not believe in such a mindset though women possessed multiple rights.
  5. Athens economy was based on trade. Sparta‘s economy was based on agriculture.
  6. Athens is considered as a centre of arts and learning. Sparta is not considered as such a centre.
Difference Between Athens and Sparta



Athens and Sparta are one of the highly distinguished cities in Greece. Each had their strengths and weaknesses and even shared some common patterns such as stable economies and defence architecture.

Though during ancient times, Athens and Sparta were fighting battles against each other, the situation changed slowly. In the Greek-Persian battles, Athens partnered with Sparta to defeat the Persians driving them out.

In the modern times, apart from many other things signifying strong friendly ties between these two cities, there is a sports event titled “Spartathlon” which takes place every year commencing in Athens and ending in Sparta with athletes from the global community participating in the event.

Key Differences Between Athens and Sparta (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Athens and Sparta



  1. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED179128
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=kdBvCwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT6&dq=Athens+and+Sparta&ots=OQscbD4Fjw&sig=KWO5FmPrjGT7irRoobP_QuPXmSI
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