Classical Sparta was a Greek city-state that comprised of complex and multifaceted institutions. Labelled by Xenophon as “most powerful and most celebrated”, contemporary historians have been drawn to question and assess whether these ‘powerful’ institutions were unique to Sparta (Xen. Con. 1.1). Upon evaluating ancient sources in relation to these historical considerations, it became apparent that the focuses and construct of Sparta’s institutions widely differed to institutions demonstrated in other Greek city-states. It was evident however, that among these differences were also institutional similarities. In analysing the distinctive nature of Sparta’s institutions, this paper will specifically compare the establishments of Sparta to those exemplified by Athens and Corinth in order to determine the specific differences in Sparta’s establishments to those found in other Greek city-states. The areas examined and compared include the political, educational, socio-legalistic and religious institutions.
The political institutions of Sparta in the classical era comprehensively contrasted the governmental establishments in Athens. In particular, the constitutional councils in Sparta and Athens widely differed in their hierarchical prioritisation of age. Described by Xenophon as the pinnacle of political life, the gerousia was the Spartan council which consisted of the kings and Spartiates over the age of sixty (Xen. Con. 10.1). From this it can be deduced that gerontocracy