Athens vs. Sparta
Debate Rounds (3)
This debate will be on the preferable society, ancient Athens or ancient Sparta. First round is acceptance. I will be arguing for Athens and Con will be arguing for Sparta. BOP is shared. This is not a war or battle debate. While there were different eras of both societies, the one I am talking about is the Post-Persian, Pre-Peloponesian War period.
I have a bachelor's in history. So sure, I accept.
Athens was a much better society. They had a level of democracy unprecedented at that time in all of the world. Their contributions in science, medicine, architecture, philosophy, and politics still leave a visible mark on western society today. In Athenian society, there were slaves, they were not even comparable in their quantity or in the level of brutality shown to them as that of the Spartans. Basically, the difference between Athens and Sparta is like the difference between the Pre-Civil War USA and North Korea.
The Spartan society was one of brutality. Spartans had horribly mistreated slaves called Helots. Helots were abused, humiliated and even slaughtered.
According to the historian Myron-
They assign to the Helots every shameful task leading to disgrace. For they ordained that each one of them must wear a dogskin cap and wrap himself in skins and receive a stipulated number of beatings every year regardless of any wrongdoing, so that they would never forget they were slaves. Moreover, if any exceeded the vigour proper to a slave's condition, they made death the penalty; and they allotted a punishment to those controlling them if they failed.
Ancient Athens, more than any other society (except for arguably Rome, which was itself influenced heavily by Athens) has shaped western society. From Athens, we derive democracy, the cornerstone of our society and what gives our governments their legitimacy.
Fact is, Athens wasn't perfect, but it was infinitely better than Sparta. Spartan society was so highly militaristic that is all they are known for today. However, Athens was the world's center for progress, philosophy, art, and learning.
"They had a level of democracy unprecedented at that time in all of the world."
Completely false. Voting and elected office were very common place in the Greek world, as too were popular assemblies which met at an agora to vote on or discuss matters of the state. There were literally hundreds of Greek democracies by 480BCE where even Sparta had a regular voting assembly called the Apella, which of course consisted of all male citizens over the age of 30 (https://en.wikipedia.org...).
"Their contributions in science, medicine, architecture, philosophy, and politics still leave a visible mark on western society today."
Also mostly false. The only reason why Athens is seen as such a great contributor to Western culture today is because the vast majority of discovered classical age writings and artifacts are in fact from Athens(http://www.ancient.eu...). This of course has led to outcome bias among untrained historians who dismiss the historic contributions of Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, Delos, Olympia, Syracuse, and Byzantium in favor of the one Greek city-state we know most about.
"In Athenian society, there were slaves, they were not even comparable in their quantity or in the level of brutality shown to them as that of the Spartans."
Indeed. Partly because in Sparta there were no slaves (ouch!). Unlike in Athens, Spartan citizens were forbidden from owning private property (including slaves) and were legally bound to regard one another in public places as "peers" (men of equal status) (http://www.debate.org...). The helot slave myth is simply the construction of overly sympathetic historians who confuse the legal and non-legal inequalities between Spartan citizens and non-Spartan citizens for slavery when in fact it was just the product of a carefully enforced caste system.
"Spartans had horribly mistreated slaves called Helots. Helots were abused, humiliated and even slaughtered."
The correct oxford term for Helots is serfs (not slaves) (http://www.oxfordreference.com...). Unlike slaves in Athens, Helots could have families, worship their own gods, run their own communities, and keep their own ethnic customs and cultural identities (http://www.livius.org...). They were a repressed group of peasant farm workers, but they were not owned by any individual and could on occasion become full citizen members of Spartan society by serving in the military.
"Ancient Athens, more than any other society (except for arguably Rome, which was itself influenced heavily by Athens) has shaped western society. From Athens, we derive democracy, the cornerstone of our society and what gives our governments their legitimacy."
If you were had the option of being a Greek citizen for either Athens or Sparta in 480BCE, you would want to be a Spartan. In Spartan society, all citizens generally enjoyed access to equal rights, equal welfare, public works, public education, and equal levels of representation in government. Unlike in Athens, women were free to participate in athletic events, could go to schools, and were given key roles in raising families, religion, and politics. Sparta also generally enjoyed the most prestige in diplomatic affairs among the Greeks; having led successful military coalitions at Thermopylae and Plataea against the Persians, and were always a favorite to win at the Olympic Games. Having the strongest military –and only standing army- in Greece too was also a plus, and its elite system of laws that promoted professional soldiers and equal privilliges among men should not be dismissed for “lack of culture” as it was in itself a cultural achievement.
WillRiley forfeited this round.
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