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date: 01 February 2023



  • David Whitehead


As the Greek *polis evolved it sought to differentiate, amongst its inhabitants, between insiders and outsiders. Insiders par excellence were its own members, the citizens; palpable outsiders were its slaves, indigenous or imported (see slavery); but this simple dichotomy would have sufficed only for communities like *Sparta which discouraged immigration. Elsewhere it was necessary to recognize free persons who lived, temporarily or permanently, in the polis without becoming its citizens. Several-oikos words are attested of such persons, with metoikos (‘metic’) most common. The precise nature and complexity of metic-status doubtless varied from place to place; evidence approaches adequacy only for Athens, atypical in its allure and, consequently, the numbers of those who succumbed thereto (half the size of the (reduced) citizen body of c.313 bce (Ath. 272c); perhaps proportionately larger in the 5th cent. bce (R. Duncan-Jones, Chiron 1980, 101 ff.)). With *Solon having created only indirect incentives to immigration, Athenian metic-status probably owes its formal origins to *Cleisthenes (2), after whom the presence of metics was recognized in law and could develop in its details at both city and local (*deme) level.


  • Ancient Economy
  • Greek Law

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