The primary difference between Sparta and Athens is their differing systems of government. Sparta is considered an oligarchy, meaning ruled by the few, while Athens is believed by historians to have been a democracy. The ancient Greek word "oligos" translates as "few," and "archia" translates as "rule." Thus, the "rule by the few" is what distinguishes Sparta from Athens.
Government rule in Sparta by kings and politicians--known as "Ephors--differs from Athens' rule by the people, who gathered in the general assembly to express an opinion or to vote.
The ancient Greeks are of two different lineages. Spartans evolved from the Dorian invaders, and the Athenian people are of the Ionian bloodlines. Spartans are remembered for their strong army and brave soldiers. Athenian citizens are known for being architects, art patrons and great lovers of poetry and beauty.
Discipline, order and responsibility distinguish Spartan men and women. For Athenian citizens, excess is the key word. Drinking, gorging and feasting--for men and women--were primary and frequent. Additionally, many historians consider Athens to be the birthplace of democracy and the origin of the modern political assembly.
Spartan, moreover, is still used today to describe someone or some environment, that is minimal or meager.