Democracy or Oligarchy? a Comparative Essay

Topics: Government, Athenian democracy, Ancient Greece Pages: 3 (1182 words) Published: October 8, 1999
During the Classical Age of Greece, two powerful city-states emerged, each governed by a different system. Athens was run by democracy, whereas, Sparta, a military state, was governed by oligarchy. Athens' democracy served its people better. Since all had a say in the government and everyone was included in a state was ruled by many. In Sparta, the state was controlled by a select few, kings and ephors, who had absolute power. In Athens plenty of time was spent on architecture, to ensure that Athens would forever leave behind a cultural legacy, whereas in Sparta it was believed that there was no need to build extravagant buildings, therefore leaving very little of a cultural legacy. Finally, Athenian slaves were treated very well, often paid, and had a chance to buy their freedom, unlike Sparta, where slaves were treated as though they were not people, and could be killed for any reason at all.

In Sparta slaves lead cruel lives. The number of slaves in Sparta outnumbered the amount of citizens, making Spartans constantly paranoid of a helot revolt. In order to prevent this fear, "the ephors declared war on them every year. In spite of these precautions, the Spartans frequently had to suppress helot revolts"(Davis 90). The Spartans felt this was an efficient way to keep the numbers of slaves down, and to further subdue the slaves hopes of one day being free. Since slaves were treated horribly by the Spartans they were constantly trying to escape. In Sparta a slave could be killed simply because of being suspicion of that slave being a rebel or planning to escape. In Athens most slaves were loved, respected, and often paid for their labours. They were given the opportunity to pay for their freedom. Unlike Sparta, slaves in Athens were "protected from bodliy harm by legislation"(Davis 94). Slaves were much more happy in Athens since they were not constantly in fear for their lives. In Athens slaves also had several opportunities for...
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