Slavery reached its highest level of development in Ancient Greece and Rome. Many historians name the period of the “slave society” as an antique one. Ancient Greece was formed from the city states which represented the special form of a state. They were the associations of private landowners and citizens, engaged in different trades as well as crafts. In Ancient Greece, Sparta and Athens played an important role. They were the two distinctive types of Greek city states. On the one hand, they were totally different from each other. But, however, they had much in common. Thus, the history of Ancient Greece was mainly focused on the history of Sparta and Athens. That is why, when studying the Hellenic world, much attention is paid to those two city states.
Athens was the city in Attica which played along with Sparta a leading role in the life of the ancient Greece. Some forms of philosophy, democracy and theatre were formed in Ancient Athens. Archeological studying of the city began in the 9th century. But the systematic excavations started only when French, German and English archeological schools were formed in Athens.
Today, the “Constitution of the Athenians”, by Aristotle (4th century B.C.), is the main literary source that helps historians with this city state’s studying. Athena was the patron goddess of Ancient Athens. Furthermore, the name of the city is associated with Athena. In the second half of the 5th century B.C., began the period of the cultural of the city state. It is also called the golden age of Pericles. In Athens lived and created their works a lot of well-known artists, poets, in particular: the historian Herodotus, the philosopher Anaxagoras, the sculptor Phidias, poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and satirist Aristophanes. Furthermore, almost all Greek cities tried to imitate the political and judicial Athenian orators. The Attic dialect soon widespread and became a literary language of all Greeks. Acropolis, the statue of Phidias and Pantheon temple are the most prominent architectural constructions of that period.
The temple of all gods, Pantheon, still remains the symbol of glory and strength of the Roman Empire. A View on Cities state:
With its thick brick walls and large marble columns, the Pantheon makes an immediate impression on visitors. But the most remarkable part of the building is the more than 43 meter high dome. It was the largest dome in the world until 1436 when the Florence Cathedral was constructed…. Originally a temple for all pagan gods, the temple was converted into a church in 609. The Pantheon now contains the tombs of the famous artist Raphael and of several Italian kings. Its ecclesiastical interior design contrast with the temple's structural design, but the marble floor - which features a design consisting of a series of geometric patterns - is still the ancient Roman original.
In Athens’ main roads and especially the one that passed through Ceramics were decorated by soldiers’ tombstones that were killed in various battles. The eastern side of Athens was a very quiet and remote part of the city. There were the gates that led to the Temple of Apollo. It was one of the most sacred places of the city. (n.d.).
Witcombe claims, “The complex of buildings, which includes the Temple of Apollo where sat the famous oracle, the sacred Corycian Cave, and the Castalian Spring, is nestled in the forested slopes and rocky crags on the south side of the sacred mountain (cf. Mountains and the Sacred) called Parnassus. The site had been sacred since at least the Bronze Age.”(1998).
Near the temple, the gymnasium constructed by Pericles was placed. Another similar gymnasium was further north, in the area devoted to Hercules. These gymnasiums with their sculptures, fountains and groups of trees were main decorations of Ancient Athens. These were places where not only youngsters but also wised, elder and honored people gathered together.
After the Greek-Persian wars, much have been done to beautify the city in tastes and needs of the ancient Athenians. All over the city state, a lot of colonnades were constructed, where citizens could meet and communicate with comfort and pleasure. Agora was another important place in Athens. It played a major role in the Athenians’ social life. The Ancient City of Athens asserts:
The Agora, the marketplace and civic center, was one of the most important parts of an ancient city of Athens. In addition to being a place where people gathered to buy and sell all kinds of commodities, it was also a place where people assembled to discuss all kinds of topics: business, politics, current events, or the nature of the universe and the divine. The Agora of Athens, where ancient Greek democracy first came to life, provides a wonderful opportunity to examine the commercial, political, religious, and cultural life of one of the great cities of the ancient world. (2004).
The main decoration of the south-eastern part of ancient Athens was a theatre of Dionysus, located on the southern slope of the Acropolis. It was one of the most majestic buildings in the city.
But still, the main place of creative activity was the ancient Acropolis. Since the days of the Greco-Persian wars, Athenians spent the amount of their war loots on the improvement and decoration of Acropolis. An archeologist, Ioanna Venieri (2007) states that in varies times Acropolis suffered greatly and mostly from natural causes and human intervention. When Christianity widely spread, the monument became a Christian church. In the eleventh century, after its rename into Panagia Athiniotissa, it was used as a city’s cathedral. Only at the beginning of the 20th century the real restoration of Acropolis started.
The first steps in the formation of Athens as a city state were made by Theseus. He simply united some tribal villages of Attica and Greece into a single nation with a center in Athens. In ancient times, Attica consisted of several independent states that were in war with each other. The legend says that after the unification of all these states Theseus got a great power over the country. The further reforms of Solon and Cleisthenes also made a large impact on the formation of the city.
Solon reforms were, probably, the most fundamental and useful at that time. First of all, he reconciled all warring parties in the city. That gave him an unlimited power. Secondly, the taxes were levied only when needed. However, some permanent duties on goods import paid both rich and poor. According to the Solon’s Constitution, there were four political institutions that controlled the country, including: Archons, the Senate, National Assembly and the Areopagus.
People also could go to different courts operating all over the city. Solon paid much attention to the marriage. It was considered as a sacred relation between a man and a woman. Family was very respectful at that time. Nobody could interfere with its secrets.
After Solon’s death, the era of Drakonta came. According to the legend he was very cruel and brutal. Athenians were terrified with his laws: for instance, such crimes as laziness or stealing of vegetables could lead to execution.
Sparta was located in the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula. Ancient Sparta became a state very early. It was formed mainly by conquest.
Throughout its history, Sparta remained an agricultural and agrarian city state. The driving force of its policy was conquering of adjacent lands. In Sparta, the population was divided into three groups: the Spartans, perks and helots. Spartans were the dominant layer of the state. Cartwright stresses that the analyzed state formation has always been an additional very strong local power in all Greece. Furthermore, for a very long time nobody could resist its army (Cartwright 176).
At the head of the state were two hereditary kings. They were from Agiad and Eurypontid families. The kings were elected every eight years. They controlled the army and got the most of treasures from the wars.
In Sparta, a group of people called Gerousia, rendered decisions in all criminal and civil cases. This group formed 28 elder people over the age of 60.
Men could marriage only being of 30 years old. Plutarch (2005) describes the first wedding night in the following way:
The custom was to capture women for marriage . . . the so-called “bridesmaid” took charge of the captured girl. She first shaved her head to the scalp, then dressed her in a man's cloak and sandals, and laid her down alone on a mattress in the dark. The bridegroom – who was not drunk and thus not impotent, but was sober as always – first had dinner in the messes, then would slip in, undo her belt, lift her and carry her to the bed (18-19)
In peace time, Spartans’ life did not change greatly from life in the wartime. Most of the time warriors spent together in baptized camps. They made some conquests even in the periods free from wars. Spartan’s soldiers did exercises, gymnastics, fencing, wrestling and running.
Historians claim that life of Spartans did not belong to them, from birth and till the entire death. The father of a newborn baby had no rights to grow his son without helot’s permission. After birth, all boys were taken to the edge of the abyss. If the child looked sick or weak, he was simply dropped into that abyss.
These who survived were subjected to different tests from infancy. Cradles, which the children were sleeping in, were very rough and tough. In seven years boys were sent to the special military camps. There, they were taught how to survive. Those who could not cope – died. Only the strongest and mightiest boys survived.
Spartan armament consisted of a spear, a short sword and protective arms, including a round shield, helmet, armor chest and leggings. The total weight of protective arms reached 30 kg. The Spartan army was divided into separate detachments, on 500 soldiers in each.
In Sparta much attention was paid to women education as their main task was to give the birth to new healthy children, the future defenders of the motherland. Spartan females also did some sports to strengthen their bodies, including running, fighting, throwing disks and spears. By doing that, they wanted their sons’ bodies to be strong already starting from the mother’s womb. After the marriage women spent all their time doing their main family responsibilities: giving birth and upbringing children. The main form of marriage was a monogamous family. However, there are some facts that group marriages were also possible there.
The Spartan hegemony lasted until the Salamis battle. Since that time, an internal crisis came in the city state and, in consequence, it led to Sparta’s downfall.
Thus, Ancient Athens and Sparta played an important role in the world history. Each of these two city states has made its own contributions in the development of the Ancient Greece. The Athenian democracy was a rather progressive, for those times, phenomenon because it made possible the high growth and the flowering of the Greek culture, including philosophy, art, literature etc. On the contrary, Sparta did not create anything worth saying in culture. It manifested itself as a reactionary and backward state. Sparta was a conservative slave-owning stronghold. First of all, it was famous for its strong, fearless army and violent terror against slaves and helots.