Lesson 1: What was it like to live as a Spartan?


Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will be able to describe the ways that Greeks developed the ideas of citizenship and democracy
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast the city-states of Athens and Sparta
  • Students will be able to describe the role of Greek men and women

Key Terms to Know

Directions: Look up each term in the textbook (pages 126-130) and define each term in your social studies notebook.

  • oligarchy
  • democracy
  • helot
  • tyrant
  • Sparta
  • Athens


Nobles, rich land owners, had ruled Greece. They were soon overthrown by small farm owners, merchants, and artisans who wanted to be part of the ruling government. Tyrants had been in power for a time, but the desire for democratic rule won out and the tyrants were pushed out. The result was city-states that governed by oligarchy and democracy.

Spartan Values

Spartans valued their military strength above all else. They invaded neighboring lands and controlled them by force. The fear of their helots rebelling against them also drove their desire for military strength. Spartansoldier.jpeg

  • Spartan boys were taken at age 7 to begin training
  • Spartan men went into full military service at age 20 and served for 10 years
  • They lived away from home in barracks for their entire service
  • They were expected to win or die on the battlefield but never surrender

Click the link below to learn how Spartan boys were trained

Spartan Training

Spartan girls were trained in sports. Spartangirl.jpeg

  • They learned to wrestle, run, and throw the javelin (a long spear)
  • They were trained to be healthy and fit mothers to Spartan children

Spartan wives were freer that other Greek women. Their husbands were away from home in the military, living in barracks. As a result, women could own property and go where they wanted.

Spartan Government

The Spartan government was an oligarchy.

  • 2 kings led the council
  • 28 citizens over the age of 60 made up the council
  • The council presented laws to the assembly, made up of all Spartan men over 30 years
  • 5 men were elected each year to enforce the laws and manage tax collection

The Spartans kept control over the helots and their lands for 250 years. They discouraged foreign visitors to Sparta and travel outside of Sparta. Their intense focus on military training left them underdeveloped in science, literature, and art.

Ask Yourself

  • Was it a good idea to be so focused on military during ancient times?
  • Do you think Spartans had a well balanced life?
  • What qualities do you think Spartans valued most in people?


  • In your social studies notebook, create a chart like this: Media:Sparta-Athens.pdf
  • Begin completing the Sparta side of the chart.
  • After the next lesson, you will complete the chart with information about Athens.