Ancient Greece was a land of contradictions and conflict. Located amist rugged
mountains, the Greek mainland was both protected from its enemies, and isolated from its allies,
making communication between the many Greek city-states extremely difficult. Each city-state
and the lands around it were referred to as a polis, and each polis functioned as an independent
country, with its own laws and government. Despite the unwillingness and inability of the Greek
city-states to unite, the Greeks were able to leave a long-lasting mark on western civilization.
The two principle city states in Greece were Athens and Sparta. The two cities had little
in common. Sparta, located on the Peloponnesus was a militaristic society, which prided itself
above all and foremost in its army, while Athens, which lay northeast of the Peloponnesus, was a
center of art, philosophy, architecture, and theater.
The importance of the military was clearly evident in the Spartan society, which believed
that strong men could protect the city just as well if not better than a wall.
The government was
founded on the principle that the life of an individual belonged to the state. There were three
distinct classes that inhabited Sparta. Spartan citizens lived in the city itself, and they alone had
a voice in government. The peroikoi or "dwellers round" lived on the outskirts of the city, and
were mostly merchants and tradesmen. Although free, they had no government rights because
they were not involved in military affairs. The last group of inhabitants were the Helots, who
made up the majority of the population of Sparta, and cultivated the farms of wealthy land
Although two kings ruling jointly were said to be the official government of Sparta, they
had little power except for leading the army and conducting religious services. The main