The country of Greece, in 400-500 BCE was led to greatness by two city-states. These city-states, diverse in ideas and actions, were Sparta and Athens. Sparta and Athens were as different as night and day. Sparta glorified military tactics while Athens took relish in art and learning. These city-states served not only as rivals but also allies. Sparta and Athens, two city-states with nothing in common but the desire to make Greece a powerful, omnipotent nation, accomplished their goal through their unity, diverseness, and controversy.
To better understand the interaction between Sparta and Athens and their desire for Greece to be a strong nation, it is imperative to know the situation of these two city-states in the early 400's BCE. At this point in time, another city-state of Greece, Ionia was under the control of Persia. The Ionian Greeks were dissatisfied by Persian rule. A Persian tyranny dominated Ionia at this time and Ionians begged Sparta and Athens to relieve them from the burden of Persia. Sparta declined to help but Athens decided their assistance would prevent the Persian tyranny from spreading in the direction of Athens, their home. Athens easily defeated Persia and freed the Ionians in the battle of Marat
Margaret Killingray supports this in writing, "Athens, a tiny city, gloried in her victory over one of the world's largest empires" (Killingray 18). Athens increased influence of Greece was credited to the Athenians control of the League of Cities, democracy, and the reputation they received by turning Athens into the most beautiful of all Greek cities. Unlike the Spartans, Athenian children were educated and brought up to appreciate beauty and intellect. An article out of Encarta 97 Encyclopedia stated: "Spartans were taught to endure cold and hunger, were not allowed to wear fine clothes or eat good food, were trained in all military arts and were taught to endure weariness and pain without complaint. The fifth and sixth centuries BCE found both Sparta and Athens in seats of power in Greece. The outcome of the war was the downfall of Athens and the supremacy of Sparta. At birth, Spartan babies were inspected for deformities and if any child was found to be other than physically sound, they were abandoned on mountaintops to die. The Persian's efforts were crushed by the Greek force; Sparta having led them to a complete victory. In addition, Athens, according to The Book of Ancient Greeks, by laws of Pericles (the leader of Athens at this time) made it possible for every Athenian citizen to take an active part in the government. Thus the government became a democracy, a state ruled by the many (Mills 299). The diverseness of Sparta and Athens allowed Greece to become powerful in two areas; one being military supremacy, the other being intellectual supremacy.