Sparta, Ancient Greek City-State for Kids and Teachers Illustration


Sparta was a powerful city-state in ancient Greece.

Sparta was ruled by a small group of retired warriors. This type of government is called an oligarchy. The Spartans spoke Greek. They thought of themselves as Greeks. But Sparta was very different from the other Greek city-states.

All citizens in ancient Greece were warriors. But the Spartans were the best warriors in all of Greece. There was no argument about that. The city-state of Sparta was basically a well-trained army. In other city-states, children entered military school at age 18. In Sparta, they entered at age 6. The girls were taught how to fight as well. Their school was separate from the boys' school. It was not as brutal, perhaps. But still, the girls learned how to fight and steal and lie and kill - skills that could save their lives in times of war.

The Spartans were tough.

Men and male children, from the age of 6, lived in the soldiers' barracks until they retired from military service. The men were often off fighting. The women were left behind to guard their homes. Perhaps because of this, women in ancient Sparta had a great deal of freedom. They ran businesses. They were free to move around and visit neighbors without asking their husbands permission.

But not everyone who lived in Sparta was a citizen of Sparta. To be a citizen with full rights of fair trial, the men had to pay to prove they were the ancestors of the original people who lived in Sparta. If they couldn't prove it, or couldn't afford to pay for the search, they were not citizens. Citizens had many rights like the right to a fair trial and the right to be educated to be a good warrior and to live in the barracks. Non-citizens could be killed for no reason at all.

The other Greek city-states had no desire to be Spartans. Many thought they were military fanatics, but they admired their strength. Most wanted Sparta on their side. No incredible works of art were created in Sparta as they were in other Greek city-states. But Spartans were good friends to have in times of war.

Sparta (British Museum)

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QUIZ: Ancient Greek City-States, government (Interactive with answers)