Sparta en Athene: ’n studie in altérité
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The main purpose of this study is to investigate and describe the differences between the fifth-century city states of Athens and Sparta. The approach I use is that of altérité (“otherness”). I look in particular at four of the most important social phenomena: women, slaves, the army and the political structures. In these respects there are extensive differences between the two city states: Athens acquired its slaves through buying them or as spoils of war over time and on an individual basis; Sparta conquered and enslaved a whole nation, the Messenians, early on to serve permanently as their slaves. Athenian women enjoyed no social or legal freedom or rights; Spartan women enjoyed all these rights and could own and inherit property and goods. In Athens, since the time of Themistocles the fleet was regarded as much more important than the infantry; Sparta had very early on developed a professional infantry which was regarded as the best right through the Greek-speaking world. Athens started changing its constitution at a relatively late stage, but once started, continued to work on it until they attained an early form of democracy; Sparta never developed beyond the monarchical stage, but did adapt it to suit their needs. The second purpose of this study is to discover and attempt to explain why the above-mentioned differences are so great. The point here is not so much that Athens was the model city state which everybody tried to emulate, but rather that Sparta was the city state which was significantly different from any of the others.
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