After Pericles' death, however, a renewal of conflict diminished his achievements.
Sparta and Athens were the two dominant city-states of the Mediterranean world in the first centuries before the birth of Christ. The two city-states were regular, if not constant, rivals for hegemonic control of the region and its smaller (and weaker) rivals. Early in their mutual history, Athens achieved primacy through the use of military power and the creation of an imperial empire. Later, when the Peloponnesian Wars erupted in 432 BC, Sparta ultimately prevailed over Athens and achieved hegemonic control over the region.
If Athens was a state in which philosophy and the arts were valued, Sparta was its opposite. Run as an essentially militaristic entity, Sparta had a mixed rather than a largely democratic constitution 9as did Athens). The Spartans also had a governing assembly in which participation was limited to males over age 30. Unlike Athens, Sparta had a unique governing institution û a board of governors ("ephors") elected annually by the assembly. These leaders set foreign and domestic policy, though public participation by citizens was extensive in Sparta as well as in Athens.
The critical differences between the two city-states appear to have been focused on lifestyle and values. Luxury was enjoyed and valued in Athens, and despised in Sparta. Sparta emphasized commitment to the "polis" rather than to the family or the tribe. In Sparta, privacy, luxury, and even comfort were all sacrificed to the mission of training soldiers who would become members of the best army in the world.
Athens, in contrast, was highly aristocratic despite the creation of a democratic assembly. Military prowess was well-regarded, but so were artistic and philosophical creativity. Both city-states w