The Powerful Sparta

Contributor: Ryann Maginn. Lesson ID: 12588

Do you know anyone in the military? How about your baby brother or grandfather? If you'd lived in ancient Sparta, that would've been the case! Learn about this unique city-state and its rival, Athens!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Did you know that boys living in Sparta during the classical period were required to begin military training as early as infancy?
  • What else about Sparta is strange?

Sparta was said to be one of the most powerful city-states of ancient Greece.

In ancient Greece, instead of being comprised of many cities, there were hundreds of city-states that had their own government and power.

During the Peloponnesian [pel-uh-puh-nee-shun] War (431-404 B.C.), Sparta beat another notorious city-state, Athens. While the Athenians were really into studying, thinking, and debating, the Spartans were all about war!

Their government was a monarchy, a form of government with a king or queen ruling the country. But they also had an oligarchy, which was a council of men that made decisions for the state.

spartan helmet

There were three population classes within Sparta:

  1. Spartans were full citizens.
  2. Helots were slaves who were required to perform daily tasks. They were farmers, domestic servants, nurses, and military attendants.
  3. Perioeci were neither slaves or citizens but worked as craftsmen building weapons for the Spartans

Growing up as a Sparta boy was no easy feat. Stories have been told that as a way to determine an infant’s strength and possible military capabilities, parents would place their baby on a mountain overnight to determine if he was capable of surviving the night alone.

By the time a child reached seven years old, the boys were placed in training sponsored by the state. This program was called the Agoge.

The purpose of the Agoge was to prepare the boys to become soldiers. They focused on duty, discipline, and endurance while involved in the program. By the time Sparta men reached age 20, they were active-duty soldiers until age 60.

statue of a Spartan

Women of Sparta also played a major role within the society. Women were well-educated and independent, which was unusual compared to other women throughout Greece.

In addition to their education, women also remained physically fit and competed in numerous athletic competitions. They were allowed to own property and were not required to handle domestic tasks because that was the servant’s responsibility.

Spartan woman

It is clear that Sparta was unlike any other city-state of the time. Their loyalty for their state was strong, as was their dedication to a powerful army.

In the Got It? section, challenge yourself with questions about ancient Sparta and see how much you know!

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