For 2500 years, the Ancient Greeks have fascinated the West, who look to Greece as the creators of Western culture. Indeed, the Greeks revolutionized warfare, art, architecture, government, philosophy, and more. Of all the Greeks' accomplishments, many can be credited to the two most famous city-states of all: Athens and Sparta.
The most unique city-state in Ancient Greece was Sparta, which continues to fascinate contemporaneous society. It is not entirely clear why Sparta placed such a great emphasis on having a militaristic society, but the result was that military fitness was a preoccupation from birth. If a Spartan baby did not appear physically fit at birth, it was left to die. Spartan children underwent military training around the age of 7 years old, and every male had to join the army around the age of 18.
The Spartans, whose carefully constructed approach to warfare and - there is no other word for it - Spartan way of life, earned the grudging admiration of all of Greece and succeeded in establishing themselves in the years following the reforms of the semi-legendary ruler Lycurgus as the greatest military force in all of Hellas. Athens might have the mightiest fleet and the greatest cadre of philosophers and dramatists, Thessaly might have had the most vaunted cavalry, and the great city-states of Argos, Thebes and Corinth all had their own claims to fame, but on the battlefield the Spartan phalanx stood without peer.
Athens was a military force in its own right, but it's chiefly remembered for its political system, which would in time form the nucleus of all Western democratic systems of government, and the remarkable number of outstanding individuals who lived and flourished in the enlightened city-state. The Ancient Athenians formed the backbone of the West's entire culture, from the arts to philosophy and everything in between.