Both Spartan men and women exercised together in the nude, and both were "encouraged to improve their intellectual skills" ("Women in Ancient Greece"). Being a woman in Sparta certainly ensured a greater sense of gender equality -- but that does not necessarily mean Sparta was the preferred residence of women in Greece. After all, Sparta did without a lot of the creature comforts that other city-states like Athens took for granted as essential to civilization. There is a reason the phrase "Spartan living" has come to be synonymous with the bare necessities.
As for variance in the social structure of the various states, democracy prevailed in Athens for a time (but so did tyranny and corruption as well). Thebes also had its monarchy and later on its heroic warrior citizens. Sparta had two kings who ruled simultaneously. But its social structure was also more slave-based than anywhere else. In fact, when the slaves revolted in Sparta following the Persian War, the Spartan citizens needed help to retake their city. Athens offered at first -- but since relations between Sparta and Athens were always stressed, nothing came of it -- and, indeed, was one of the causes which led to the Peloponnesian Wars.
The Greeks influenced the Romans in a number of different ways. First, they influenced them through science and philosophy. The teachings of Plato and Aristotle as well as others were gradually assimilated into the Roman teachings (the educated language of Rome, after all, was not Latin -- that was the vulgar language -- but rather Greek). Hippocrates was considered the father of history of admiring nobility, strength, virtue and honor. It had given the world men like Cincinnatus, the Horatii, Mucius the Left-Handed, Coriolanus, Scipio, Cato, and Julius Caesar.
One of the greatest intellects in Rome was that which belonged to Cicero. He was the most admired of all the orators in his day and "he often spoke in the Forum before large audiences, and by his wonderful eloquence delighted all who heard him" (Haaren 203). Cicero boldly uncovered conspiracies and soundly gave political advice -- just as Cato did before him, when he urged Rome to raze Carthage to the ground.
The Greeks, of course, were most famous for their philosophers -- but the Romans had their own, men like Seneca, poets like Virgil, and emperors like Aurelius. Both cultures actually helped form the foundation of Western civilization, which continually looked backward on the ancient heritage for guidance.
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Johnston, Sarah. Religions of the Ancient World. Harvard University Press, 2004.
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