1) Athens and Sparta were the main city-states of Ancient Greece. Between the VI and V centuries B.C., they contended about the political and military domination over the entire Greek territory. The only feature they had in common was the fact that they were both “polis”, Greek city-states. However, Athens and Sparta were completely different in terms of their political, social and cultural systems. According to Laveck (2010), Sparta, also known as “Lacedemonia”, was founded in the XIII century B.C. The city-state Sparta was born through the merge of four Doric tribes. During the VII century B.C., Sparta started to conquer new territories, in particular focusing on those close to the coast and in the East. Spartans founded the “Peloponnesian League”; a political institution, which coordinated the major alliances made with the most important cities of the Peloponnesus. Through this league Sparta managed to obtain the hegemony all over the Peloponnesus between the VI and the V centuries B.C.
Athens, instead, was controlling the area of the Attics. The state was founded during the Neolithic period and, like Sparta, it became a city-state through the merge of several tribes. Athens was governed by few aristocrats, but its aim was to extend its power all over Greece. Athens started to conquer several nearby territories especially on the coast; it formed the so called Delius-Attic League that was including several cities around the Aegean Sea.
Both Athens and Sparta refused to submit to the Persian Empire, when the Emperor Cyrus started to conquer Greek cities. During the first Persian War, Athens managed to defeat the Persian Empire during the Marathon Battle and to extend its territory. During the second Persian War, Athens and Sparta joined their efforts to form an alliance and to defeat the Persian Empire (especially during the Thermopiles battle and the ship battle nearby Salamina). However, this coalition did not last; Athens and Sparta engaged in the 30 years long Peloponnesus Battle, where Sparta wanted to extend its oligarchic system all over the Peloponnesus, while Athens wanted to bring democracy all over Greece.
2) The so called Pax Romana or Pax Augusti, which means “Roman peace”, is a period in the Roma history after the nomination of Augustus as Roman Emperor, when no wars were fought among the states within the Roman Empire. The name “Pax” derives from the fact that the Roman Emperor managed to pacify the fighting regions of the Roman Empire. Although during this period Rome fought against other populations (especially against German tribes or the Parties); it did not have to face either civil wars or invasions.
The Pax Romana started officially during the 29 B.C., when the Emperor August declared the end of the so called “Great Civil Roman War”, and it ended in the 180 A.D., with the death of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The tools to obtain the Pax Romana were first of all the reforms in the legal and economic areas. Augustus managed to create the “Plebes Tribunatus”, which was a legal institution that represented the lower class and strengthened the Senates in order to guarantee better connection between the center of the Empire and the periphery. Moreover, Augustus introduced several controls in order to fight corruption and to secure public order. He also managed to develop more efficient system to provide the cities of the Roman Empire with supplies, which were coming especially from North Africa. Furthermore, Augustus divided the provinces in order to create a more efficient taxation system. Augustus adopted a liberalistic approach to managing economic relationships in the Empire. Thus, he did not intervene directly in trade and business issues, but instead he favored activities that benefitted the whole country, such as infrastructure improvement, construction of new roads and the development of an efficient postal system.
However, several economic crises brought the Pax Romana to an end. In particular, several famines hit the Roman Empire severely. Moreover, after the death of Marcus Aurelius, the military system became less efficient due to the absence of strong leadership in the Empire.
3) People in the Roman Empire were polytheistic. Their beliefs were influenced by religious tradition of several Italic groups (Etruscans, Sanities, Latinos etc.) and especially by the Greek religion, which proliferated in the Roman Empire after the conquest of Greece. During the Empire the official religion consisted of two worships: the one towards the Emperor and the one towards the three divinities of the Capitol; Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
One of the main characteristics of the Roman religion was its openness to the religions of other populations. Generally, Romans were assimilating Gods, rituals and beliefs from the conquered populations. The Pax Romana was characterized by the respect for the religious traditions of the conquered people and stipulated the integration of the new subjects through the law and the jurisdiction of Rome.
The religion in Rome had social as well as political functions, and all people living in the Empire had to honor the divine power of the Empire and the Emperor. Thus, it was not based on the spiritual beliefs of people and it was not helping them during difficult moments; the aim of this religion was not to give hope of redemption in the afterlife and or to answer the fundamental questions of the humanity. It was merely a tool to exert political power and to maintain control over the imperial subjects. Moreover, the Emperor was honored and venerated like a God and he named himself “Pontifex Maximum”, thus legitimizing his supremacy over all the priests.
The worship of the Emperor and the fact that Roman religion was not a spiritual guide but a political power, which managed to guarantee the unity of the Pax Romana, and to unify all the conquered people in the adoration for the Emperor, were the main reasons why Polytheist religion was more successful in the Roman Empire than Monotheist ones, such as Christianity.
Levack, Brian, The West: Encounters & Transformations, (New Jersey: Pearson College Div, 2010).