The Citizenship Debates, Lysias, and the Metics in ­Athens after the Restoration of Democracy

Issue 6 (Autumn 2018), pp. 23-64

DOI: 10.6667/interface.7.2018.74


The Citizenship Debates, Lysias, and the Metics in ­Athens after the Restoration of Democracy

Vassilis Vagios

National Taiwan University


After the restoration of democracy in Athens in 403 B.C. the question of who should be included in the citizen-body was fervently contested. Two of the speeches composed by Lysias for delivery at this period have been interpreted by Bakewell (1999) as constituting a covert proposal of adding an alternative to citizenship by birth: legal naturalization. This paper argues that Bakewell’s interpretation misunderstands the argument of the speech Against Philon which is concerned only with eligibility to serve in the Council, not with citizenship. Furthermore, the paper questions the validity of what Bakewell (1999) considers as Athenian stereotypes of metics (resident aliens), and concludes that these are stereotypes held by modern scholars, generated by misunderstandings of the actual composition of the metic community, rather than ancient Athenian views. The paper is addressed not only to Classicists, but also to scholars of other disciplines who might be interested in the opinions held by host communities towards diasporic communities among them.

Keywords: Democracy, Citizenship, Metics, Lysias, Athens

403 B.C. was a year of great upheaval in Athens. The conclusion of the civil war between the supporters of the oligarchic regime imposed by the Spartans at the end of the Peloponnesian war and the supporters of democracy presented the restored democracy with considerable challenges. Xenophon’s quotation of a shout towards the oligarchs from a herald fighting on the side of the democrats illustrates the central problem that the restored democracy had to face:

τί ἡμᾶς ἐξελαύνετε; τί ἀποκτεῖναι βούλεσθε; ἡμεῖς γὰρ ὑμᾶς κακὸν μὲν οὐδὲν πώποτε ἐποιήσαμεν, μετεσχήκαμεν δὲ ὑμῖν καὶ ἱερῶν τῶν σεμνοτάτων καὶ θυσιῶν καὶ ἑορτῶν τῶν καλλίστων, καὶ συγχορευταὶ καὶ συμφοιτηταὶ γεγενήμεθα καὶ συστρατιῶται, καὶ πολλὰ μεθʼ ὑμῶν κεκινδυνεύκαμεν καὶ κατὰ γῆν καὶ κατὰ θάλατταν ὑπὲρ τῆς κοινῆς ἀμφοτέρων ἡμῶν σωτηρίας τε καὶ ἐλευθερίας.

Why are you expelling us from the city? Why do you want to kill us? We have never done anything harmful to you, but we have shared with you the most holy of the rites, and the most splendid of the sacrifices and festivals, and we have been together fellow-dancers and fellow-students and fellow-soldiers, and together with you we have faced many risks both by land and by sea in defence of the common safety and freedom of us both. (Xenophon, Hellenika, 2.4.20)[1]

The civil war had divided a group of people who previously assumed that they had nothing to divide with each other. Indeed, from the establishment of democracy in early fifth century up to the end of the Peloponnesian war, the Athenians elaborated an ideological myth of their origin, according to which they were the children conceived by the soil of Attica (acting as a surrogate mother for Athena) from the sperm of Hephaistos. The civil war jeopardized this myth not only to the extent that it pitted one part of the extended “family” against the other, but also because it blurred the conventional dividing lines inside the city into citizens, metics,[2] and slaves, as metics and slaves fought together with the democrats against the oligarchs.[3]

The end of the civil war was marked by a Spartan-promoted reconciliation between the two warring sides. However, that was the beginning of a new stage of confrontations, peaceful this time, about the nature of the constitution from that time onwards.[4] The opening salvo was the speech of Thrasyboulos in the reconciliation ceremony in which, according to Xenophon (Hellenika, 2.4.40-42) he invited the oligarchs to “know themselves” and asserted that they were inferior to the democrats both morally and militarily, and they have been abandoned by the Spartans. The speech was concluded by reassuring them that they do not need to panic, as long as they abide by the oaths they have taken and they “follow the ancient laws” (τοῖς νόμοις τοῖς ἀρχαίοις χρῆσθαι). These “ancient laws” is a variant of another expression, πάτριος πολιτεία “ancestral constitution”, which was invoked every time that there was a political change in Athens. It was invoked in 411 when the oligarchs briefly overturned democracy, and again when democracy was restored in 410, and again by the Thirty Tyrants after they were installed on power by the Spartans. Everybody would commit to the slogan of the “ancestral constitution”, but not everybody agreed on the content of the phrase.[5] Thrasyboulos’ opening gambit was soon answered by a part of the people who came back to Athens together with him. As Dionysios of Halikarnassos reports:

τοῦ γὰρ δήμου κατελθόντος ἐκ Πειραιῶς καὶ ψηφισαμένου διαλύσασθαι πρὸς τοὺς ἐν ἄστει καὶ μηδενὸς τῶν γενομένων μνησικακεῖν, δέους δὲ ὄντος μὴ πάλιν τὸ πλῆθος ἐς τοὺς εὐπόρους ὑβρίζῃ τὴν ἀρχαίαν ἐξουσίαν κεκομισμένον καὶ πολλῶν ὑπὲρ τούτου γινομένων λόγων Φορμίσιός τις τῶν συγκατελθόντων μετὰ τοῦ δήμου γνώμην εἰσηγήσατο τοὺς μὲν φεύγοντας κατιέναι, τὴν δὲ πολιτείαν μὴ πᾶσιν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς γῆν ἔχουσι παραδοῦναι, βουλομένων ταῦτα γενέσθαι καὶ Λακεδαιμονίων. ἔμελλον δὲ τοῦ ψηφίσματος τούτου κυρωθέντος πεντακισχίλιοι σχεδὸν Ἀθηναίων ἀπελαθήσεσθαι τῶν κοινῶν.

When the democrats had returned from Peiraieus and had ­voted to reconcile with the people from the city and for no-one to ­remember grievances that had happened, as there was fear that the multitude may again outrage the affluent people if they ­received their ancient power, and as many arguments were ­offered about this issue, Phormisios, one of the people who ­returned together with the democrats, proposed that the exiles should return, but citizenship should be given not to everyone, but to those who possess land; this proposal also met with the agreement of the Spartans. Were this decree to have been approved, almost five thousand Athenians were bound to be excluded from the administration of the city. (Dionysios of Halikarnassos, On Lysias, 32; my translation)

Phormisios’ proposal was rejected; nevertheless, it set the agenda for an argument regarding who was to be considered an Athenian. ­Whereas Phormisios wanted to limit the franchise to the propertied classes, Thrasyboulos wanted to expand it to include all the people who helped in the struggle against the Thirty (including metics and slaves). This was an appeal to the recent past when the Athenians, facing a shortage of manpower, offered citizenship to metics and slaves who manned the ships in the sea battle of Arginousai in 406, and it was approved by the assembly; but, another of the returnees, Archinos, submitted the decree to judicial review as “illegal” on procedural grounds, and ­obtained its cancellation. Instead of honouring all who participated in the struggle, Archinos proposed that the seventy persons who initiated the struggle, all native Athenians, be given an olive-branch crown and a grant to cover the expenses of sacrifices and dedications to the gods.[6] Both the attempt to reduce the franchise and the attempt to enlarge it were made on partisan lines, and as such both ran the risk of endangering the reconciliation between the two parties. So the Assembly decided instead to return to the citizenship conditions that existed before the Thirty, namely a law of 451 proposed by Perikles which defined as Athenian citizen anyone born of an Athenian man and an Athenian woman, but which was later amended by Nikomenes as to be valid only for those born after 403, while those born before that time would be accepted into citizenship even if only one of their parents was Athenian.[7]

One person who played an important part in the events of 403 was ­Lysias. According to the biographical details given to us by ancient writers,[8] he was born in Athens to a Syracusan father. At the age of ­fifteeen he joined in the Athenian-led foundation of a pan-Hellenic ­colony in South Italy, Thurii. However, almost twenty years later the Athenian campaign in Sicily and the destruction of the Athenian army there, caused a backlash in Thurii against the “Athenizers” in the city. As a ­result of this backlash, Lysias, alongside 300 other Thurian ­“Athenizers”, was expelled and returned to Athens. One of the paradoxes of this ­story is that while in Thurii Lysias was considered to be too much of an ­Athenian, in Athens he was not considered to be an Athenian at all, but a ­metic. Nevertheless, he supported very eagerly the democratic struggle: as Plutarch (Lives of Ten Orators, 3) informs us, he provided Thrasyboulos with 2,000 drachmas and 200 shields; together with Hermas, he covered the costs of 300 mercenaries; he additionally persuaded an old friend of his, Thrasylaios of Helis, to donate two talents to the democratic cause. After the restoration of democracy, he wrote the speech quoted by Dionysios of Halikarnassos against Phormisios’ proposal to limit the franchise to land owners,[9] he was briefly awarded citizenship by the proposal of Thrasyboulos mentioned above, and –according to Plutarch– he wrote a (non-extant) speech defending Thrasyboulos’ decree in court when it was indicted by Archinos.

Many other speeches by Lysias make reference to the events of 403, and two (Against Eratosthenes and Against Philon) have been interpreted by Bakewell (1999, p. 22) as an indication that some metics and some Athenians were “sympathetic to the notion that civic merit was not necessarily linked to birth.” Bakewell’s interpretation has come to be generally accepted, and so Lape (2010, p. 272, fn. 98) claims that

“Some foreigners clearly felt deserving of citizenship since they pushed (unsuccessfully) to redefine it on basis of desire and consent in the immediate post–civil war era.”

In this paper I will try to show that Bakewell’s interpretation of these two speeches is flawed in three respects: (a) he extends a statement made in Against Philon with reference to a very particular context (eligibility to serve as a member of the executive chamber of the Athenian state –the boule) to a much broader context (eligibility to be a citizen); (b) he fails to realize that this statement provides two concurrent criteria for eligibility to serve in the boule, and he understands it as two alternative criteria; (c) what he characterizes as being stereotypical Athenian views of the characteristic patterns of behaviour of the metics are not really evidenced as such, but they are rather modern scholarly assumptions based on further assumptions on the composition of the metic stratum of the ancient Athenian society.

Among these three topics the only one that requires a lengthy discussion is the one about the stereotypical Athenian views of the metics; as this topic is also likely to be the one that may be of some interest to a larger audience than the classics experts, I will first deal with the less demanding problems in Section 1. Then I will proceed, in a much less elliptical form than would be expected if I addressed this paper only to classicists, to deal with the more expansive issue concerning the metics in Athens and the alleged stereotypes regarding them. So, Section 2 will provide readers with the main information regarding our knowledge about who the metics were, while Section 3 will address Bakewell’s arguments and the evidence that no such stereotypes existed in ancient Athens.

1 What was the issue in Against Philon?

Bakewell’s argument takes as its starting point the fact that both Against Eratosthenes and Against Philon,

“employ a similar rhetorical gambit: they use metics as a point of reference in evaluating the deeds of the accused, who were citizens. In particular, the speeches note that some metics acted better than did some citizens.” (Bakewell, 1999, p. 6).

Continuing his argument, Bakewell first claim that in both speeches the orator equates the behaviour of the defendants with that of “bad” metics,[10] and then he analyses Against Philon 5-6 in a way that allows him to maintain that in this passage Lysias is proposing a new criterion for citizenship:

A second proposition is that the rigid separation of metics and citizens based solely on heredity was not in the best interests of the city. The remarks at Lysias 31.5 are particularly suggestive here. Lysias argues that it is not enough to be born a citizen; one should also want to be a citizen. The only ones who belong on the council (or in the demos for that matter) are τοὺς πρὸς τῷ εἶναι πολίτας καὶ ἐπιθυμοῦντας τούτου.[11] Citizens should thus have an affective attachment to their πόλις,[12] and be willing to put its good above their own. Lysias’ description of those who fail to meet this standard begins with the phrase ὅσοι δὲ φύσει μὲν πολῖταί εἰσι.[13] This reference to φύσει[14] calls to mind the Sophistic νόμος/φύσις[15] debate of the late fifth century; Lysias’ suggestion that φύσις in and of itself should not suffice for citizenship hints at a role for νόμος. In political terms, it suggests the possibility of enfranchising deserving non-citizens by legal means. (Bakewell, 1999, pp. 18-19)

Bakewell’s association of this speech by Lysias with the law (or, in other translations, convention) – nature debate is ingenious; but, unfortunately, it cannot be applied to this text since Bakewell’s own translation makes clear the two criteria are not alternatives (and not opposites as νόμος and φύσις were in the late fifth century debate), but cumulative: according to the opinion expressed in the speech someone must “in addition to being a citizen, also want to be one”. The Greek text is equally unequivocal on the issue: πρὸς+dative means “in addition to”, and just as the English “also” reinforces the prosody of addition, so does καί in the Greek text.

Furthermore the Greek text makes absolutely clear that the speaker here is not concerned with disenfranchising Philon, but with disqualifying him from becoming a member of the boule (council):

ἐγὼ γὰρ οὐκ ἄλλους τινάς φημι δίκαιον εἶναι βουλεύειν περὶ ἡμῶν, ἢ τοὺς πρὸς τῷ εἶναι πολίτας καὶ ἐπιθυμοῦντας τούτου.

For I say that it is unjust for any others to serve on our council except those who, in addition to being citizens, also want to be citizens.[16] (Lysias, Against Philon, 5)

Bakewell understands the text, as is evidenced by his own translation, but with a simple assertion in a parenthetical comment ­enlarges the point of the text to a much wider context: “The only ones who belong on the council (or in the demos for that matter) are τοὺς πρὸς τῷ εἶναι πολίτας καὶ ἐπιθυμοῦντας τούτου”[17] (Bakewell, 1999, p. 19). Unfortunately, there are reasons to consider this assertion erroneous:

Firstly, to be eligible serve in any office of the state it was not enough just to be a citizen. In addition one should also be at least 30 years old, and for some offices one should possess a certain amount of property. So “to belong to the council” and “to belong to the demos” cannot be equated.

Furthermore, the speech Against Philon was delivered in a hearing of δοκιμασία,[18] a formal procedure concerning the eligibility of an incoming officer to serve as a functionary of the state. According to Aristotle (Constitution of the Athenians, 55.3), the prospective officer would be asked a number of questions that established that the individual was a member of the citizen body and had fulfilled financial, military, religious and other responsibilities. Then

ἐπειδὰν δὲ παράσχηται τοὺς μάρτυρας, ἐπερωτᾷ “τούτου βούλεταί τις κατηγορεῖν;” κἂν μὲν ᾖ τις κατήγορος, δοὺς κατηγορίαν καὶ ἀπολογίαν, οὕτω δίδωσιν ἐν μὲν τῇ βουλῇ τὴν ἐπιχειροτονίαν, ἐν δὲ τῷ δικαστηρίῳ τὴν ψῆφον: ἐὰν δὲ μηδεὶς βούληται κατηγορεῖν, εὐθὺς δίδωσι τὴν ψῆφον.

And when he has produced his witnesses, the officer further asks, ‘Does anybody wish to bring a charge against this man?’ And if any accuser is forthcoming, he is given a hearing and the man on trial an opportunity of defence, and then the official puts the question to a show of hands in the Council. (Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 55.3-4)

As Todd (1993, p. 287) mentions in examining the function of the dokimasia “the emphasis is on technical qualification”. So the invitation to anyone who wishes to “bring a charge” against the prospective officer, could/should, in Todd’s opinion, be understood as an invitation to challenge the answers given (and the witnesses provided in evidence) to the explicit questions addressed to him earlier. However, they also created an opportunity for other, non-technical matters, to be brought up; an opportunity utilized by Lysias to an extent that Todd (1993, p. 288) finds “astonishing”.

Todd finds two facts astonishing regarding Lysias' speech writing for dokimasia cases. First, that while no other extant dokimasia speech can be securely attributed to any other speech writer or orator, nevertheless “no fewer than five complete speeches or substantial fragments in the Lysian corpus seem to belong to this process” (Todd 1993, p. 288); and indeed “there are no more traces of contested dokimasiai before 403 and after 380 B.C.” (Todd 1993, p. 288), a period that coincides with the dates in which Lysias was active. The second fact Todd is that while in the other contested cases we hear of “the identifiable objections seem almost entirely technical”, yet in only one of these five speeches “is there any hint at technical grounds for disqualification: Philon allegedly deserted his mother…But even here, the stress is far more on his anti-democratic behaviour” (Todd 1993, p. 288). Todd attributes these two astonishing facts to the amnesty declared in Athens as part of the reconciliation of the two factions in the civil war: since the oligarchic partisans were protected by the amnesty, “your opponents may be unable to initiate a prosecution based on your record under the oligarchy, but if you have to come before a tribunal for other reasons, you are fair game for any allegation” (Todd 1993, p. 289).

Another explanation offered by Adeleye (1983) connects this attitude of Lysias with the ability offered to “whomsoever wishes” to bring a charge against the prospective officer and argues that it offered an opportunity to challenge a potential officer on issues additional to those covered by the questions covering technical aspects of eligibility for office. Adeleye’s view relies mainly on the speeches composed by Lysias, but it also brings an additional element. We are informed by Andokides 1.73-80 that between the collapse of an earlier oligarchic putsch in late 411, known as the Four Hundred, and the autumn of 405 a number of the people associated with the Four Hundred had incurred variable selective deprivation of their rights as citizens, so that some were not eligible to hold an office (including being members of the boule), others to initiate certain legal procedures, others to speak in the assembly and so on. So, Adeleye argues, since this “partial disenfranchisement” is not covered by the questions quoted in the Constitution of the Athenians, the ability to bring a charge against a potential officer could very well be there in order to allow the tribunal to assess other reasons that may disqualify one to hold office. Although Todd (1993, p. 289) does not accept the validity of Adeleye’s arguments on the grounds that we cannot “safely and unquestioningly deduce what ought to have happened in court from what did happen”, nevertheless, it seems unquestionable that in the political climate prevailing in Athens after the restoration of democracy, it was certainly an option for militant democrats both (a) to make use of dokimasia as a vehicle for excluding from positions of influence individuals that could be identified as hostile to democracy; and (b) to consider it viable to put into examination not only strictly technical requirements, but the conduct of one’s whole life as is evidenced by another speech composed by Lysias, for the defence this time:

τῆς αἰτίας οὐκ οἶδ᾽ ὅ τι δεῖ πλείω λέγειν: δοκεῖ δέ μοι, ὦ βουλή, ἐν μὲν τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀγῶσι περὶ αὐτῶν μόνων τῶν κατηγορημένων προσήκειν ἀπολογεῖσθαι, ἐν δὲ ταῖς δοκιμασίαις δίκαιον εἶναι παντὸς τοῦ βίου λόγον διδόναι.

Now, as regards the charge itself, I do not see what more there is to say. But it seems to me, gentlemen, that although in other trials one ought to confine one’s defence to the actual points of the accusation, in the case of scrutinies one has a right to render an account of one’s whole life. (Lysias, For Mantitheos, 9)

However, even if the whole of one’s life is up for scrutiny, yet the only thing that is in jeopardy is the eligibility to hold the particular office, since “defeat at the dokimasia was unique in leading to no penalties” (Todd 2000, p. 260), certainly not disenfranchisement.

In other words, Bakewell’s (1999, p. 19) unfounded assertion that anyone disqualified from being a member of the boule is also disqualified from being a member of the demos (i.e. a citizen) cannot be correct. However, some of the supporting arguments made by Bakewell require further discussion, since they pertain to our understanding of the social standing of the metic community in ancient Athens. These arguments concern Bakewell’s contention that in both Against Eratosthenes and in Against Philon the defendants are presented as metaphorical metics by being portrayed as engaging in the behaviour that ancient Athenians would associate with the stereotypical “bad metics”. In preparation for discussing this argument, the next section will present a summary of our knowledge of the position of metics in Athens, before dealing with each of the sub-components of Bakewell’s argument in Section 3.

2 Metics in Athens

Our knowledge of the standing of the metic community in Athens has undergone changes through time:

"... eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholars saw the Athenian metic as a humiliated being, hounded from pillar to post by a narrow-minded, vindictive citizenry; and metic-status, on this view, was a burden to be avoided if at all possible." (Whitehead, 1977, p. 1)

However, from the end of the nineteenth century a new model arose espoused by the famous Wilamowitz:

...the central tenet now, explicit and implicit, was that Athenian metics enjoyed a privileged status, a ‘quasi-citizenship’ (Wilamowitz’ own term) coveted throughout Greece and beyond. (Whitehead, 1977, p. 1)

Another change occurred in 1977 with the publication of Whitehead’s study The Ideology of the Athenian Metic, still the standard reference work on the subject. In this work Whitehead sets up a comprehensive reconstruction of the situation of metics in Athens and showed that metic status in Athens: (a) was not a privilege that was earned, but a status that was simply automatically imposed to any non-Athenian free person who stayed in Athens over a certain length of time; (b) it did not carry with it any connotations of honour, but on the contrary was a term to be avoided in any other contexts apart from strictly legal-bureaucratic ones.

To demonstrate point (a) Whitehead (1977, pp. 7-10) utilizes the evidence provided by lexicographers, and primarily that of Aristophanes of Byzantium, combined with epigraphical evidence that specifies a privilege for merchants from Sidon who are allowed to stay in Athens without becoming metics. Those Sidonian merchants are not people planning to settle and reside permanently in Athens, but merchants in transit whose business may keep them in Athens longer than the time allowed them to stay there without registering as metics.

As for point (b), Whitehead (1977, pp. 27-30) points out that the city itself in honorific decrees never names individual honorands as metics, but instead refers to them by using the formula “X, son of Y, from city Z”; and the same formula is also used in tombstones, i.e. private, indeed personal, inscriptions which are “the record transmitting them and their status to posterity” (Whitehead 1977, p. 33).

Once a visitor in Athens overstayed the specified amount of time, then he needed to register as a metic. All the information we have regarding registration comes from later scholarly works,[19] and we are told only that it was required without further details of how it was organized. Furthermore, nothing suggests that any social attitudes were associated with one’s registration as a metic, and it seems that it was simply regarded as an administrative act, and perhaps it was viewed as equivalent to the registration of citizens.

On the contrary, two other features of the legal position of a metic did attract considerable attention in contemporary oratory, and were considered both as defining features of a metic and as carriers of considerable social stigma. These two features were the obligation of a metic to pay a capital tax the μετοίκιον (metoikion), and the requirement to nominate an Athenian citizen as their προστάτης (prostates) “guardian/sponsor” (lit. someone who stands in front, champion).

The nomination of a prostates would presumably take place at the time of registration, and the metic who did not have a prostates would be legally liable to an indictment of “being without a guardian” (γραφὴ ἀπροστασίου), and according to theSuda (pi,2159 Adler) the punishment in such a case was confiscation of property. However, despite the fact that the nomination of a prostates was necessary, the information we have regarding the relationship between a metic and a prostates is limited and has become a subject of debate. The important point in the debate is whether the prostates was required only for purposes of registration and thereafter had no obligation towards the metic he sponsored, or whether he was his permanent legal representative; and there is, of course, also a middle position which sees the prostates as a general guarantor of the metic, but not as a necessary intermediary between metic and the Athenian legal system, although a likely first choice.[20]

No matter what the legal duties of the prostates were, as Todd (1993, p. 198) makes clear:

“the prostatês had a primarily symbolic function: failure to have a prostatês was to insult the citizen community by attempting unilaterally to blur the distinctiveness of your subordinate ­status.”

Living under a prostates made the metic a subordinate to a citizen by putting him only a step away from the slave who lived under a master, and conversely elevated the Athenian citizen into a superior position. As a consequence if an Athenian chose to abandon his status as a citizen and become a metic living under a prostates in some other city, he attracted a considerable amount of shame upon himself. This is capitalized by Lysias (Against Philon, 9):

συσκευασάμενος γὰρ τὰ ἑαυτοῦ ἐνθένδε εἰς τὴν ὑπερορίαν ἐξῴκησε, καὶ ἐν Ὠρωπῷ μετοίκιον κατατιθεὶς ἐπὶ προστάτου ᾤκει, βουληθεὶς παρ᾽ ἐκείνοις μετοικεῖν μᾶλλον ἢ μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν πολίτης εἶναι.

For he packed up all his belongings and left the city to live beyond the border, at Oropus, where he paid the aliens tax [metoikion] and resided under the protection of a patron [prostates], since he preferred the life of an alien [metic] among those people to citizenship with us.

The accuser of Philon is trying to prove the disloyalty of the accused, and to do so he points out that rather than standing together with his fellow citizens at a critical moment as a free citizen and master of his own self, he preferred to incur the humiliation of living abroad under someone else.

Actually, this humiliation is even greater because in addition to living under a prostates, Philon also paid the metoikion. The metoikion, a tax paid by the metics (in addition to all other taxes that Athenians also paid), was one more characteristic of the status of metics that brought them nearer the status of the slaves rather than that of the citizens. The amount of the tax was twelve drachmas a year for men, six drachmas a year for women. While the amount was probably not particularly high,[21] it was a tax levied on the person of the individual metic, and not on his property or income. Furthermore, failure to pay it led to slavery as evidenced by Demosthenes 25.57:

ὡς δ᾽ οὐκ ἐπαύεθ᾽ ἡ ἄνθρωπος, ἀλλὰ γυναίου πρᾶγμ᾽ ἐποίει καὶ πρὸς τοὺς γνωρίμους προσιοῦσ᾽ ἐνεκάλει, λαβὼν αὐτὸς αὐτοχειρίᾳ πρὸς τὸ πωλητηρίον τοῦ μετοικίου ἀπήγαγεν: καὶ εἰ μὴ κείμενον αὐτῇ τὸ μετοίκιον ἔτυχεν, ἐπέπρατ᾽ ἂν διὰ τοῦτον, ᾧ τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτὴ αἰτία ἐγεγόνει.

But when she persisted and, woman-like, went about among her acquaintance with complaints of his conduct, he seized her with his own hands and dragged her off to the auction-room at the aliens’ registry, and if her tax had not happened to be duly paid, she would have been put up for sale, thanks to this man who owed his safety to her.

But even paying the metoikion still had the effect of lowering the status of the metic close to that of a slave since the connection of paying for misdeeds through one’s body was something hard to imagine for a citizen, and something to be expected in the case of slaves:

καὶ μὴν εἰ θέλετε σκέψασθαι τί δοῦλον ἢ ἐλεύθερον εἶναι διαφέρει, τοῦτο μέγιστον ἂν εὕροιτε, ὅτι τοῖς μὲν δούλοις τὸ σῶμα τῶν ἀδικημάτων ἁπάντων ὑπεύθυνόν ἐστιν, τοῖς δ᾽ ἐλευθέροις, κἂν τὰ μέγιστ᾽ ἀτυχῶσιν, τοῦτό γ᾽ ἔνεστι σῶσαι: εἰς χρήματα γὰρ τὴν δίκην περὶ τῶν πλείστων παρὰ τούτων προσήκει λαμβάνειν.

Indeed, if you wanted to contrast the slave and the free man, you would find the most important distinction in the fact that slaves are responsible in person for all offences, while freemen, even in the most unfortunate circumstances, can protect their persons. For it is in the shape of money that in the majority of cases the law must obtain satisfaction from them.(Demosthenes, 22.55)

Therefore, the very payment of the metoikion had the effect of reminding the metic that he was not quite free, and he had to pay for his freedom. Actually, as the amount that had to be paid was 12 drachmas, it is quite likely that this amount was being paid in monthly installments: so the reminder was repeated in relatively short time intervals and, consequently, was all the more effective in demarcating the social stratification operating in Athens.

If the obligation to have a prostates and to pay the metoikion were the most prominent of the features of the metic in Athens, the discrimination and differentiation was also felt in the legal system. Trials concerning metics (as attested by Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 58.2-3) were filed with the polemarchos rather than any of the other officials that oversaw the legal process for Athenians; and the prosecutor could demand that the metic provided sureties, something that could be a serious disadvantage for a poor metic. For some cases, particularly a γραφὴ ὕβρεως (indictment of hubristic assault), while the metics (and even the slaves) are provided with the protection of the law, they cannot themselves initiate the procedure, but must rely upon a citizen willing to do so on their behalf.[22] Another instance of the way the legal system marked the inferiority of metics in relation to citizens was in cases of premeditated murder. The murderer of an Athenian citizen was tried at the Areopagus which could impose the death penalty; the murderer of a metic was tried at the Palladion where the maximum penalty would be exile. Similarly, in the case of marriages between citizens and metics, which were not allowed,[23] according to Demosthenes 59.16, the penalty for a male citizen who transgressed this prohibition was 1,000 drachmas, while the metic male was to be sold into slavery. Finally, metics were not allowed to own land or houses in Athens.

Since cults and festivals were an integral part of the political life in ancient Athens (to such an extent that in the agenda of the assembly of the people, the sovereign body in Athens, there were slots reserved for discussions pertaining to religious issues), there too a barrier existed between citizens and metics. So, for example, although metics were given a role in the procession of the Panathenaic Festival carrying trays of offerings to Athena, they were excluded from sharing in the sacrifices. Actually, the development of the perceptions of the metic participation in the Panathenaic procession displays the ideology of the inferiority of the metic in Athens. The information we have received from antiquity regarding this practice is clearly conflicting: some of it considers it as disgraceful and humiliating for the metics, while another part of the information considers it as an action of inclusion. So, for example, Aelian (Varia Historia, 6.1) gives it as an illustration of his opinion that “the Athenians became more hubristic than even hubris itself”; while, on the other hand, Hesychios (skaphephoroi) considers that the Athenians “wanted the metics to participate in the festival so that they will be counted among those who are well-disposed towards the city”. Katayama (1970) reconciled these two conflicting strands of information by showing that the inclusion of the metics in the procession was initially meant as a real show of honour from the city towards the metics, but with the passage of time turned to have negative connotations. Whitehead (1977, p. 88) considers this change as inexplicable, but one can explain it easily when one considers it within the overall framework that considers the metics as inferior. Since in all Athenian cults the metics were allowed to participate as observers, but they were not allowed to take active roles in the rites and were excluded from priesthoods, when initially a place was made for them for a limited and strictly prescribed participation it was clearly seen as a token of honour. With the passage of time attention shifted from the fact that a place was opened for the metics to the fact that the metics’ place was limited and strictly prescribed.

In addition to these restrictions, a metic in Athens could not expect, as a “resident alien” in most countries in our times can expect, to become a citizen. A process of naturalization did exist in Athens, but it was not a private act to be initiated by the individual who wished to acquire Athenian citizenship, but a public act initiated by a decision of the Athenian assembly. No length of residence in Athens, or birth in Athens would entitle someone to citizenship. Instead this right was reserved for individuals[24] who the assembly considered to have performed exceptional services[25] to Athens. Even in this case, the vast majority of the receivers of this honour were foreign rulers, who as such were not expected to really take residence in Athens, and exercise their citizen rights; in other words the vast majority of awards of Athenian citizenship was a matter of diplomacy and foreign policy, rather than an issue of domestic policy.

As Whitehead (1977, p. 70) rightly points out, the evidence paints a picture of the metics in ancient Athens not so much as “quasi-citizens” but as “anti-citizens”, as the negative term in an opposition between homo politicus and homo apoliticus. If this opposition is viewed from the perspective of our own times then it suggests parallels with the development of racist ideologies in our times, as is seen by Lape (2010), and as such would be in tension with the Athenians’ self-perception as a community hospitable to outsiders which positively welcomed refugees. However, as Balot (2006) stresses, ancient Athens was not a modern state, and should be viewed in terms of its own time and milieu.[26] The Athenians' perception of the state was not that of a union of individuals, but that of an extended family with sub-units (tribe,[27] phratry, clan) that each represented a further extension of the family.

However, the fact that the metics were never allowed to forget that they were not members of the Athenian “family”, does not mean that they were not allowed to pursue meaningful lives in other ways: in some domains they would create formal and informal bonds parallel and separate from those of the citizens; in other domains again they will engage in common pursuits together with the citizens.

Whitehead (1977, p. 88) cites a law of Solon cited by Gaius (ap. Dig. 47.22.4) that allows the regulations of private clubs and associations, whether religious or secular, to be binding for their members, provided they do not violate the laws of the city. To judge from Lysias’ mention that the Plataians would collect on the last day every month at the fresh cheese market (Against Pankleon, 6), the civic associations would have set meetings at particular places.

Furthermore, we hear that the Athenians showed a remarkable tolerance, at least in the eyes of their contemporaries, of foreign cults:

Ἀθηναῖοι δ᾽ ὥσπερ περὶ τὰ ἄλλα φιλοξενοῦντες διατελοῦσιν, οὕτω καὶ περὶ τοὺς θεούς. πολλὰ γὰρ τῶν ξενικῶν ἱερῶν παρεδέξαντο ὥστε καὶ ἐκωμῳδήθησαν: καὶ δὴ καὶ τὰ Θρᾴκια καὶ τὰ Φρύγια. τῶν μὲν γὰρ Βενδιδείων Πλάτων μέμνηται, τῶν δὲ Φρυγίων Δημοσθένης. (Strabo, 10.3.18)

Just as in all other respects the Athenians continue to be hospitable to things foreign, so also in their worship of the gods; for they welcomed so many of the foreign rites that they were ridiculed; and among these were the Thracian and Phrygian rites. For instance, the Bendideian rites are mentioned by Plato, and the Phrygian by Demosthenes.

These cults administered themselves, selected their own priests and officials, and have left epigraphical evidence of their activities.[28] They also went further than just tolerating the operation of foreign cults, and the Assembly of the People gave permission for the acquisition of land to associations of foreigners for building temples for their gods. We do have inscriptional evidence of the grant of the right to purchase land to the Kitians, so that they will built a temple of Aphrodite, to the Egyptians, for a temple of Osiris, and we hear from Plato about the Thracian temple of Bendis.

This last temple eventually became the location of cultic activities by two separate religious associations: one Thracian, one Athenian. So a cult that is initially foreign eventually starts exercising influence on Athenian religious activities, and there the two communities, the host and the hosted one, exercise forms of worship, which are separate and parallel from each other, but nevertheless both open (at last at the level of observation) to both communities.

This cult of Bendis was the starting point of Plato’s Republic. The participants in the discussion in the Republic are a mixture of Athenian citizens, foreign intellectuals in short-time visits to Athens, and the family of Lysias, whose father Kephalos (himself a metic, guest in the “Athenian family-state”) hosts all of them in his house. Cohen (2000) offers a remarkably lucid picture of the ways in which the metics could be involved in the cultural and social life of the city. They could be χορηγοί (sponsors)[29] in some festivals, and competed on equal terms against Athenian citizens in the dramatic contests: both comic and tragic victories are recorded for non-citizens (though not necessarily metics) in both the Lenaia and the Dionysia.

Finally, while any individual metic could not expect to receive Athenian citizenship, he could expect to receive honours for services rendered to Athens (just as Athenians could receive honours for being good citizens). Some of these privileges were the permission to serve in the army “with the Athenians”,[30] the right to acquire land, and ἰσοτέλεια (“equality of taxation” with the Athenians). This last one was an award that was apparently considered to confer esteem to its bearer, so great that in the private tombstones we saw above in page 14, the designation isoteles replaces the ethnic designation of the deceased (“of city Z”). As Whitehead (1977, p. 34) observes:

...the astonishing thing is that in their own eyes it ousted even their citizen-status from pride of place, and they wanted to be remembered not as citizens of wherever it might be but as men honoured by their city of residence. (Emphasis in the original).

3 Metic stereotypes?

Given that the metics in ancient Athens were a group of people that could be defined, at least legally, and deemed different and inferior, regarding political rights, to the citizens, it would presumably not be strange if certain stereotypes had emerged about them among the citizen body; nor would it be unreasonable to suppose that these stereotypes would probably be negative and discriminatory. So Bakewell (1999) as part of his general argument identifies these stereotypes in evidence in two of Lysias’ speeches: Against Eratosthenes and Against Philon.

The starting point of his argument is that in both speeches there is a contrast about the behaviour of the defendants with the behaviour of metics in recent times. The metics had behaved in a proper and praiseworthy way that was beneficial for the city, while the defendants did it harm. This had already been noticed by Whitehead (1977, p. 55) who considered that it relied for its effect on the negative stereotype of metics. So the metics were just a foil for the behaviour of the citizens, and the topos could be paraphrased as “if (mere) metics do or suffer something, then surely citizens ...” Bakewell accepts this interpretation and adds to it an additional dimension:

Yet the comparisons here also have the effect of ennobling metic behavior… Thus even though the primary thrust of Lysias’ metic/citizen comparisons was to cast the defendants in a bad light, they also contained an important implication which stood conventional civic wisdom on its head: with regard to the πόλις [city], good metics were preferable to bad citizens. (Bakewell, 1999, pp. 8-9)

Bakewell is correct that these comparisons of proper metic behaviour with aberrant citizen behaviour do indeed have the effect of ennobling metic behaviour, especially at the time of delivery of the speeches: the immediate aftermath of a civil war in which the metics played an important role in the restoration of democracy. At that time it is reasonable to assume both that the general metic population would be more conscious of their contribution to the city, and especially that the elite metics like Lysias would be pushing for a public recognition of their role in the events of the civil war. However, it is difficult to see how by setting up this contrast Lysias also “stood conventional civic wisdom on its head”. On the one hand, if the audience accepted the supposed upturn of conventional civic wisdom, then the topos would be devoid of all rhetorical power: it cannot operate without the assumption that metics are ordinarily expected to contribute less than citizens. Secondly, and more importantly, the metics were supposed to be something good for the city[31] as can be seen both in tragedy and in oratory. For example, Aeschylus’ Eumenides concludes with an extended metaphor of the Erinyes-Eumenides as metics who are taken into their permanent abode in Athens under the guidance of Athena who instructs the Athenians:

  προτέραν δʼ ἐμὲ χρὴ  
  στείχειν θαλάμους ἀποδείξουσαν  
  πρὸς φῶς ἱερὸν τῶνδε προπομπῶν.  
  ἴτε καὶ σφαγίων τῶνδʼ ὑπὸ σεμνῶν  
  κατὰ γῆς σύμεναι τὸ μὲν ἀτηρὸν  
  χώρας κατέχειν, τὸ δὲ κερδαλέον  
  πέμπειν πόλεως ἐπὶ νίκῃ.  
  ὑμεῖς δʼ ἡγεῖσθε, πολισσοῦχοι  
  παῖδες Κραναοῦ, ταῖσδε μετοίκοις.  
  εἴη δʼ ἀγαθῶν      
  ἀγαθὴ διάνοια πολίταις.  

I must lead the way to show you your dwellings by the sacred light of these, your escorts.
Go, and, speeding beneath the earth with these solemn sacrifices, hold back what is ruinous
to the land, but send what is profitable for the city to win her victory. You who hold the city,
children of Cranaus, lead on their way these new dwellers here. May there be good will in
the citizens in return for good done to them!             (Aeschylus, Eumenides, 1003-1013).

The Erinyes (Furies) have been transformed into Eumenides (Well-intentioned Ones) and then they become metics, and they are welcomed as metics by the whole city (led by Athena herself), because as metics they will bring blessings to Athens, in exchanged for guaranteed honours. In a similar vein, Euripides in The Children of Herakles (1032-1037) presents Eurystheus as a metic that will be a perpetual savior of the city.

The benefits of the metics for the city do not occur only in poetic texts. Here is Isocrates, in a speech much concerned with influencing political decisions:

ἢν δὲ τὴν εἰρήνην ποιησώμεθα, …ὀψόμεθα δὲ τὴν πόλιν διπλασίας μὲν ἢ νῦν τὰς προσόδους λαμβάνουσαν, μεστὴν δὲ γιγνομένην ἐμπόρων καὶ ξένων καὶ μετοίκων, ὧν νῦν ἐρήμη καθέστηκεν.

If we make peace,… we shall see our city enjoying twice the revenues which she now receives, and thronged with merchants and foreigners and resident aliens by whom she is now deserted. (Isocrates, On the Peace, 20-21)

Similarly the Old Oligarch (Xenophon, 1.12) mentions in no uncertain terms that Athens needed the metics because of its needs for skilled workers and sailors for the navy. Moreover Xenophon (Ways and Means, 2), admittedly almost fifty years after Lysias, proposed legislative measures designed to attract more metics to Athens since in his opinion an increased metic presence would help regenerate the economic life of the city.

The evidence also does not seem to suggest at all that there was a “civic wisdom” that would equate citizen with good, and metic with bad. On the contrary, it seems preferable to think that “civic wisdom” believed that there were both good citizens and bad citizens, and good metics and bad metics. More importantly, it seems that the criteria of “goodness” and “badness” for citizens and metics were not so very dissimilar. So, in describing Parthenopaios Euripides gives us what Whitehead (1977, p. 37) called “a blueprint for the ideal metic”:

  Ἀρκὰς μὲν ἦν, ἐλθὼν δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ Ἰνάχου ῥοὰς  
  παιδεύεται κατ᾽ Ἄργος. ἐκτραφεὶς δ᾽ ἐκεῖ  
  πρῶτον μέν, ὡς χρὴ τοὺς μετοικοῦντας ξένους,  
  λυπηρὸς οὐκ ἦν οὐδ᾽ ἐπίφθονος πόλει  
  οὐδ᾽ ἐξεριστὴς τῶν λόγων, ὅθεν βαρὺς  
  μάλιστ᾽ ἂν εἴη δημότης τε καὶ ξένος.  
  λόχοις δ᾽ ἐνεστὼς ὥσπερ Ἀργεῖος γεγὼς  
  ἤμυνε χώρᾳ, χὡπότ᾽ εὖ πράσσοι πόλις,  
  ἔχαιρε, λυπρῶς δ᾽ ἔφερεν, εἴ τι δυστυχοῖ.  
  πολλοὺς δ᾽ ἐραστὰς κἀπὸ θηλειῶν ὅσας      
  ἔχων ἐφρούρει μηδὲν ἐξαμαρτάνειν.  

He was an Arcadian, but having come to the streams of Inachos he was educated in Argos.
Having been brought up there, in the first place, as foreigners who live as metics should do,
he was not troublesome, or a source of envy in the city, nor an arguer with words, things by
which both a citizen and a foreigner make themselves bothersome. He stood in the ranks, just
as if he had been born Argeian; and whenever the city was doing well, he rejoiced; but he felt
sadness, if it was unfortunate in something. Having many male lovers, and so how many      
among the women, he was always on guard not to do anything wrong.                                    
                                               (Euripides, Suppliants, 889-899, my translation)

The text starts out to describe how a metic should behave (ὡς χρὴ τοὺς μετοικοῦντας ξένους), but quickly makes explicit that the very things that a metic should avoid doing are also things that mark a citizen too as a disagreeable person. What makes Parthenopaisos praiseworthy is that he has learnt the values of his host city, has made them his own, and has learnt to live as a metic in peace and harmony with the citizens. At the same time he has learnt to restrain himself in a private life, as “he prefers the lochoi of the camp to the logoi of the contentious agora” (Michelini, 1994, p. 243, fn. 78). This is precisely what ennobles metics in, for example, Lysias’ descriptions of his family’s behavior in Athens:

ἀλλʼ οὕτως εἰς ἡμᾶς διὰ τὰ χρήματα ἐξημάρτανον, ὥσπερ ἂν ἕτεροι μεγάλων ἀδικημάτων ὀργὴν ἔχοντες, οὐ τούτων ἀξίους γε ὄντας τῇ πόλει, ἀλλὰ πάσας μὲν τὰς χορηγίας χορηγήσαντας, πολλὰς δʼ εἰσφορὰς εἰσενεγκόντας, κοσμίους δʼ ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς παρέχοντας καὶ πᾶν τὸ προσταττόμενον ποιοῦντας, ἐχθρὸν δʼ οὐδένα κεκτημένους, πολλοὺς δʼ Ἀθηναίων ἐκ τῶν πολεμίων λυσαμένους· τοιούτων ἠξίωσαν οὐχ ὁμοίως μετοικοῦντας ὥσπερ αὐτοὶ ἐπολιτεύοντο.

Our wealth impelled them to act as injuriously towards us as others might from anger aroused by grievous wrongs. This was not the treatment that we deserved at the city’s hands, when we had produced all our dramas for the festivals, and contributed to many special levies; when we showed ourselves men of orderly life, and performed every duty laid upon us; when we had made not a single enemy, but had ransomed many Athenians from the foe. Such was their reward to us for behaving as resident aliens far otherwise than they did as citizens! (Lysias, Against Eratosthenes, 20)

Lysias and his family have learnt and adopted the values of Athens. Just as Parthenopaios put his physical prowess into the service of the city he has immigrated to, in the same way this family of metics has put their financial prowess (Lysias, Against Eratosthenes, 20) the service of Athens. Just as Parthenopaios would not engage into arguments, so Lysias, his father and his brothers did not make enemies. The difference between the Thirty and Lysias’ family is that the Thirty did not abide by the values of Athens. However, being better in abiding by Athenian values than the Thirty does not entitle Lysias to Athenian citizenship, since an integral part of the Athenian values concerning metics is that they should not aspire to a share in the administration of the city. Indeed, in his text he offers submitting “to every order laid upon us by the city” (πᾶν τὸ προσταττόμενον) as a synonym of “being orderly” (κοσμίους ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς παρέχοντας); and nowhere in the whole of the speech is there any hint whatsoever that any member of his family had ever attempted to cross the divide between citizen and metic, and to attempt to influence decision-making. On the contrary, he felt it imperative that his narrative of the events that led to the murder of his brother, Polemarchos, by the Thirty should be prefaced by an explicit mention of how the whole of the family never acted in the public sphere:

οὑμὸς πατὴρ Κέφαλος ἐπείσθη μὲν ὑπὸ Περικλέους εἰς ταύτην τὴν γῆν ἀφικέσθαι, ἔτη δὲ τριάκοντα ᾤκησε, καὶ οὐδενὶ πώποτε οὔτε ἡμεῖς οὔτε ἐκεῖνος δίκην οὔτε ἐδικασάμεθα οὔτε ἐφύγομεν, ἀλλʼ οὕτως ᾠκοῦμεν δημοκρατούμενοι ὥστε μήτε εἰς τοὺς ἄλλους ἐξαμαρτάνειν μήτε ὑπὸ τῶν ἄλλων ἀδικεῖσθαι.

My father Cephalus was induced by Pericles to come to this country, and dwelt in it for thirty years: never did he, any more than we, appear as either prosecutor or defendant in any case whatever, but our life under the democracy was such as to avoid any offence against our fellows and any wrong at their hands. (Lysias, Against Eratosthenes, 4)

It is extremely important to notice the presupposition upon which Lysias assumes responsibility even for crimes committed not only by his family, but also against his family: it is their duty as metics to stay out of public life, and so avoid attracting any accusations.

To summarize the argument up to this point: Bakewell (1999, pp. 8-9) argued that Lysias in two of his speeches proposed that “good metics” should be preferred to “bad citizens”, and that this was contrary to “conventional Athenian civic wisdom”. As I have tried to show above, the evidence seems to point that: (a) Athenians considered the presence of metics in Athens as beneficial for the city, (b) of course, good metics were preferable to bad metics, (c) being a good metics one should commit to the same values as a good Athenian would, with the exception of trying to take part in the administration of the city, (d) Lysias claims to be a good metics in all respects, including obeying the instructions of the city but never attempting to participate in the decision-making.

However, Bakewell (1999, p. 9-10) advances his argument claiming that “Lysias goes one step further: he shrewdly recasts the defendants as metics of the worst sort. According to him, both men are devoted to money, and place their own good above that of the city.” Bakewell demonstrates that Lysias in Against Eratosthenes does indeed present greed as the main motivating force of the Thirty against his family; and again, how in Against Philon the defendant is vividly portrayed as completely indifferent to the fate of the city and concerned only about his own well-being. However, he never offers any evidence that the Athenians really felt that these were defining stereotypes of the metics in ancient Athens. Instead of citing any primary evidence of these stereotypes, Bakewell (1999, p. 10) simply asserts that “in the popular imagination, metics were strongly linked with money” and he argues that this presumed association of metics with money was a result of their being economic migrants to Athens. Unfortunately, there are good grounds to think that this is a simplistic view of the composition of the metic population in Athens.

Firstly, some metics were undoubtedly economic migrants, but not all of them were. Lysias, as we have seen, says that his father Kephalos came to Athens in the invitation of Perikles: not so much a poor person looking for a job in a richer city, as an elite moving at the instigation of another elite. The mobility of elites in ancient Greece can be illustrated by the life of Aristotle, another metic in Athens who was not an economic migrant. He moved in Athens to study with Plato and stayed for twenty years in Athens, then he moved to the court of Hermias of Atarneus in Asia Minor, from there to Lesbos, then he moved again to Macedonia to tutor Alexander, and by 335 BC returned to Athens twelve years after his earlier departure, to depart once more thirteen years later to Chalkis where he died. Xenophon, a native Athenian, provides a similar life of travelling in close association with host elites. Herodotos, on the other hand, became a metic in Athens some time around 447 BC as a political exile, before moving to Thurii (together with Lysias) in 443 as part of the Athenian contribution to the establishment of this colony. Herodotos remained in Thurii, but Lysias, as we saw earlier was exiled, and returned back to Athens, he too becoming a metic as a political exile this time. So, apart from economic migrants, we also have good evidence for a number of metics in Athens who relocated either as a result of political developments in their native cities, or as part of the general mobility that sustained networks of elites in Ancient Greece.

Clearly, this group of metics, no matter how visible, could not be very big, and cannot account for the great number[32] of metics in Athens. Akrigg (2015) offers an interpretation that the bulk of the metic population in Athens might very have been manumitted slaves. The arguments he provides for his views are based on (a) the fact that the proportion of metics to citizens remained as high as 1:2 in the late fourth century, despite the dire economic situation of Athens at the time; (b) the fact that Athenians (e.g. Xenophon, Ways and Means, 2.3) when they talk of metics often associate them with Phrygians, Lydians, Syrians, i.e. nations that provided a great proportion of the slaves in Athens; (c) the existence of a “Little Phrygia” (Thucydides, 2.22.2) in Athens and the grant for land to build a temple to the Thracian community in Peiraieus (Thrace being another place from which many slaves were brought to Athens). Some additional evidence comes from attitudes in the surviving literature that seem to adopt a similar attitude towards the metics as towards the slaves (e.g. Aristophanes, Acharnians, 507-508: “This time we are alone, ready hulled; for I reckon that the metics are the bran of the citizens”).[33] The text here is somewhat patronizing; but “it is the inseparability from the citizens which is the clearest message from these texts, and it makes more sense if the metics were substantially composed of freedmen and women than if they were economic migrants” (Akrigg, 2015, p. 169).

Whether or not one accepts Akrigg’s interpretation of the evidence to the extent that “the metics were substantially composed of” manumitted slaves, nevertheless it becomes apparent that the metics in Athens were a mosaic of many different kinds of people. On the one end there were the economical and intellectual elites, people like Lysias, Aristotle and Herodotos, about whom we are quite well informed, and who were quite wealthy, and could easily relocate if they wished (but, as exemplified by the case of Lysias, were not always willing to do so). On the other end there were the manumitted slaves, who having probably spent most of their productive years in Athens, had neither the means nor any compelling reason to leave Athens. Among them a tiny minority will go a step further than Lysias, like Pasion. He was a manumitted slave, who became rich, donated a trireme and a thousand shields to Athens and he was awarded citizenship for his services to Athens. Both he and one of his sons, Apollodoros, became well-known figures of Athenian life. But we can safely assume that a vastly greater number of manumitted slaves fared in life more like the nurse described in Demosthenes (47.55-58 and 47.67). After she was set free, she got married, but when her husband died, she went back to her ex-master’s house to live as she could not maintain herself, and she died when she tried to save a cup belonging to her ex-master from confiscation. Finally a substantial number of the metics, whether originally manumitted slaves or free immigrants, must have belonged to the great mass of people in Athens who could support a tolerable life without any expectation of great comforts. At least this is the conclusion to be drawn by the fact that in the Erechtheion metics, citizens and slaves worked alongside each other, all for the same salary (Whitehead, 1977, p. 76).

In conclusion it seems more reasonable to side with the Old Oligarch (Xenophon 1.10) who complains that in Athens citizens, metics, and slaves all look indistinguishable, rather than with Bakewell’s assumption that metics were thought as exceptionally wealthy. While on the related point assumed by Bakewell, namely that the metics were thought to care only for their money and to feel no loyalty for Athens, there is evidence suggested that the Athenians felt that they could count to the loyalty of their metics, even if the foreign mercenaries would abandon them for a higher salary elsewhere:

εἴ τε καὶ κινήσαντες τῶν Ὀλυμπίασιν ἢ Δελφοῖς χρημάτων μισθῷ μείζονι πειρῷντο ἡμῶν ὑπολαβεῖν τοὺς ξένους τῶν ναυτῶν, μὴ ὄντων μὲν ἡμῶν ἀντιπάλων ἐσβάντων αὐτῶν τε καὶ τῶν μετοίκων δεινὸν ἂν ἦν: νῦν δὲ τόδε τε ὑπάρχει, καί, ὅπερ κράτιστον, κυβερνήτας ἔχομεν πολίτας καὶ τὴν ἄλλην ὑπηρεσίαν πλείους καὶ ἀμείνους ἢ ἅπασα ἡ ἄλλη Ἑλλάς.

Suppose, again, that they lay hands on the treasures at Olympia and Delphi, and tempt our mercenary sailors with the offer of higher pay, there might be serious danger, if we and our metics embarking alone were not still a match for them. But we are a match for them: and, best of all, our pilots are taken from our own citizens, while no sailors are to be found so good or so numerous as ours in all the rest of Hellas. (Thucydides, 1.143)

Evidently Perikles did not seem to be concerned that the metics would be tempted by money to abandon the Athenians; moreover, given that this passage comes from a (purported) speech to the assembly, he believed that this argument about the loyalty of the metics would be shared by the Athenian citizens in the assembly.

If there is evidence of disloyalty towards the city (associated with excessive interest on money) then this concerns Athenian citizens, not metics. One example is Kallimachos:

ὃς δέκα μὲν ἔτη συνεχῶς ὑμῖν Λακεδαιμονίων πολεμησάντων οὐδὲ μίαν παρέσχεν αὑτὸν ἡμέραν τάξαι τοῖς στρατηγοῖς, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκεῖνον μὲν τὸν χρόνον διετέλεσεν ἀποδιδράσκων καὶ τὴν οὐσίαν ἀποκρυπτόμενος, ἐπειδὴ δ᾽ οἱ τριάκοντα κατέστησαν, τηνικαῦτα κατέπλευσεν εἰς τὴν πόλιν.

For during the ten years when the Lacedaemonians warred upon you uninterruptedly, not for one single day’s service did he present himself to the generals; on the contrary, all through that period he continued to evade service and to keep his property in concealment. But when the Thirty came to power, then it was that he sailed back to Athens. (Isocrates, 18.47-48)

Or again Chariades who:

ἀλλ᾽ ἀπ᾽ ἐκείνου ἑπτακαίδεκα ἐτῶν Ἀθήναζε οὐκ ἀφίκετο, πλὴν ἐπειδὴ Νικόστρατος ἀπέθανε. καὶ ὑπὲρ μὲν ὑμῶν οὔτε στρατείαν οὐδεμίαν ἐστράτευται οὔτε εἰσφορὰν οὐδεμίαν εἰσενήνοχε, πλὴν εἴ τι ἄρα ἐξ ὅτου τῶν Νικοστράτου ἠμφισβήτησεν, οὔτ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ οὐδὲν ὑμῖν λελῃτούργηκεν. ἔπειτα τοιοῦτος ὢν οὐκ ἀγαπᾷ εἰ μὴ τῶν ἡμαρτημένων δίκην δώσει, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων ἀμφισβητεῖ.

For seventeen years after this he never came near Athens, and only returned on the death of Nicostratus. He has never once served the state as a soldier nor made any contribution, except perhaps since he claimed Nicostratus’s estate, nor has he performed any other public service. And now, though such is his character, so far from being content if he avoids punishment for his misdeeds, he actually claims the property of others! (Isaios, 4.29)

So there is no reason to think that the metics were thought to care only for their money and to feel no loyalty at all towards Athens. Nor is Bakewell’s other point concerning the way Lysias recasts the defendants as metics particularly persuasive:

"Another reproach commonly directed against metics at Athens was that they put their own desires ahead of the good of the polis. In the idiom of late fifth-century political invective, metics were often suspected of doing whatever they wanted, ποιεῖν ὅ τι ἂν βούλωνται. This charge was an all-purpose bludgeon that could also be applied to citizens. Yet it may have been thought to have a special application to metics." (Bakewell, 1999, pp. 13-14).

Bakewell supports this argument by combining a question towards another defendant in another speech by Lysias[34] with a passage from Plato’s Critias (51D-E) where the laws give Socrates a choice: either to obey the laws of the city or to emigrate (literally: to become a metic in another city); the conclusion that Bakewell draws from the juxtaposition of these two passages is that the popular opinion would consider metics to be people who do not obey the laws. Somehow, this seems a laboured conclusion, as it assumes that the laws tell Socrates that ‘if you become a metic in another city, you can do whatever you want and you do not need to obey the laws of that city’.

Nor am I aware of any passages which imply that the “metics were often suspected of doing whatever they wanted”, nor does Bakewell cite any. On the contrary, there are many passages in which Athenian citizens were accused of ‘doing whatever they wanted to do’. There was a good reason too, as Demosthenes explains:

τοὺς νόμους οὖν δεῖ τηρεῖν καὶ τούτους ἰσχυροὺς ποιεῖν τοὺς ἀεὶ δικάζοντας ὑμῶν ... εἰ δὲ μή, λέλυται πάντα, ἀνέῳκται, συγκέχυται, τῶν πονηροτάτων καὶ ἀναιδεστάτων ἡ πόλις γίγνεται. φέρε γὰρ πρὸς θεῶν, εἰ ἕκαστος τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει τὴν Ἀριστογείτονος τόλμαν καὶ ἀναισχυντίαν λαβών, καὶ διαλογισάμενος ταῦθ᾽ ἅπερ οὗτος, ὅτι ἔξεστι καὶ λέγειν καὶ ποιεῖν μέχρι παντὸς ὅ τι ἂν βούληταί τις ἐν δημοκρατίᾳ …εἰ ταῦτα ποιοῖμεν, ἔστι τὴν πόλιν οἰκεῖσθαι;

Therefore those of you who sit upon juries ought to protect and strengthen the laws, … If not, all is dissolved, broken up, confounded, and the city becomes the prey of the most profligate and shameless. For tell me this, in Heaven’s name; if everyone in the city copied the audacity and shamelessness of Aristogeiton and argued in the same way as he, that in a democracy a man has an unlimited right to say and do whatever he likes … if, I say, we should act like this, would it be possible to live in this city?” [Loeb translation, modified by me in the last sentence]. (Demosthenes, 25.24-26)

If everyone ‘did whatever one wanted” and transgressed the laws, then this would cause a complete breakdown of city life, and human life would be different than the life of animals as a bit earlier in the same speech Demosthenes (25.20) had already mentioned. On the other hand, if it were one single individual that behaved in this way, then he would be suspected of anti-democratic sentiments and an ambition to elevate himself into the position of a tyrant; or at least this is how Thucydides explains the attitude of the democrats towards Alcibiades:

φοβηθέντες γὰρ αὐτοῦ οἱ πολλοὶ τὸ μέγεθος τῆς τε κατὰ τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σῶμα παρανομίας ἐς τὴν δίαιταν καὶ τῆς διανοίας ὧν καθ᾽ ἓν ἕκαστον ἐν ὅτῳ γίγνοιτο ἔπρασσεν, ὡς τυραννίδος ἐπιθυμοῦντι πολέμιοι καθέστασαν.

For the people feared the extremes to which he carried the lawlessness of his personal habits, and the far-reaching purposes which invariably animated him in all his actions. They thought that he was aiming at a tyranny and set themselves against him. (Thucydides, 6.15.4)

Isocrates (3.45) puts in the mouth of the king of Salamis in Cyprus, Nikokles, this exact phrase: λαβὼν δ᾽ ἐξουσίαν ὥστε ποιεῖν ὅ τι ἂν βούλωμαι “having taking power, so that I will do whatever I want”; a very appropriate phrase for a monarch, especially so in a speech that serves to idealize Nikokles as a perfect king.

However, just because this phrase, ‘to do whatever one wants’, was so strongly associated with the pursuit of power, it is very unlikely that we should consider it to “to have a special application to metics”. It was the “ideology of the metic”, that Whitehead (1977) refers in its title, which completely and totally disassociated the metics from any access to power. This disassociation from power is probably the only widely held public sentiment about the metics in Athens for which we have definite evidence. Here are some illustrative passages:

ὁρῶντες δὲ τοὺς τυραννεύοντας, αἰσθανόμενοι δὲ ἀφανιζομένην τὴν πόλιν διὰ τὸ καὶ ὅρους ἀνασπᾶσθαι καὶ Ἄργος ἀντὶ Κορίνθου τὴν πατρίδα αὐτοῖς ὀνομάζεσθαι, καὶ πολιτείας μὲν ἀναγκαζόμενοι τῆς ἐν Ἄργει μετέχειν, ἧς οὐδὲν ἐδέοντο, ἐν δὲ τῇ πόλει μετοίκων ἔλαττον δυνάμενοι, ἐγένοντό τινες αὐτῶν οἳ ἐνόμισαν οὕτω μὲν ἀβίωτον εἶναι: πειρωμένους δὲ τὴν πατρίδα, ὥσπερ ἦν καὶ ἐξ ἀρχῆς, Κόρινθον ποιῆσαι καὶ ἐλευθέραν ἀποδεῖξαι…

They saw, however, that those who were in power were ruling like tyrants, and perceived that their state was being put out of existence, inasmuch as boundary stones had been removed and their fatherland was called Argos instead of Corinth; and, while they were compelled to share in the rights of citizenship at Argos, for which they had no desire, they had less influence in their state than aliens. Some of them, accordingly, came to the belief that life under such conditions was not endurable; but if they endeavoured to make their fatherland Corinth again, even as it had been from the beginning. (Xenophon, Hellenika, 4.4.6)

τίνος οὖν εἵνεκ᾽ … ἔδεις καὶ ὕβριζες πολίτας ἀνθρώπους καὶ τοὺς ταλαιπώρους μετοίκους, οἷς ὑβριστικώτερον ἢ τοῖς οἰκέταις τοῖς σαυτοῦ κέχρησαι;

Then why did you ... proceed to imprison and insult Athenian citizens and the unfortunate resident aliens, whom you have treated with more insolence than your own slaves?[35] (Demosthenes, 22.54)

ἔτι τοίνυν καὶ τοδὶ σκέψασθε, ὦ ἄνδρες δικασταί, ὅτι Κάλλιππος μὲν ἦν πολίτης ὑμέτερος καὶ οὐκ ἀδύνατος οὐδέτερα ποιῆσαι, οὔτε κακῶς οὔτε εὖ, ὁ δὲ Κηφισιάδης καὶ μέτοικος καὶ οὐδὲν δυνάμενος, ὥστε μὴ προσθέσθαι ἂν παρὰ τὸ δίκαιον τῷ Κηφισιάδῃ μᾶλλον τὸν πατέρα ἢ τούτῳ τὰ δίκαια ποιῆσαι.

I would have you regard the following point also, men of the jury. Callippus was one of your citizens, a man able both to render a service and to do an injury, while Cephisiades was a resident alien and a person without influence; so one cannot suppose that my father would have taken the side of Cephisiades in defiance of justice rather than do what was right for the plaintiff. (Demosthenes, 52.25)

The picture becomes extremely clear; far from aspiring to ‘do what they want’ or to have delusions of getting themselves to be tyrants, the ­metics are depicted as (a) not having political power (so the Korinthians who were unhappy with the merge of their city with Argos, they considered the lot of the ­metics as an appropriate measure for comparison for the power they lost), (b1) not having the legal and social power to defend themselves when some Athenian abused them publically, and (b2) not having the legal power and social power to either benefit or harm someone in the city.

4 Conclusion

We saw above in section 3 the passage from Lysias’ Against Eratosthenes in which Lysias expresses with pride the benefactions Athens received from his family. The language is similar, but different in a crucial detail, to several other passages composed by Lysias for delivery in the court by a citizen. Here is an example:

λέξειν δὲ ὡς πολλὰ εἰς τὴν πόλιν ἀνηλώκασι καὶ φιλοτίμως λελῃτουργήκασι καὶ νίκας πολλὰς καὶ καλὰς ἐν δημοκρατίᾳ νενικήκασι, καὶ ὅτι αὐτὸς κόσμιός ἐστι καὶ οὐχ ὁρᾶται ποιῶν ἃ ἕτεροι ἐνταῦθα τολμῶσιν, ἀλλὰ τὰ ἑαυτοῦ πράττειν ἀξιοῖ.

He will tell how he and his family have spent a great amount on the State, have performed public services with ardent zeal, and have won many brilliant victories under the democracy; that he himself is an orderly person, and is not seen acting as others of our people venture to act, but prefers to mind his own business.(Lysias, Against Euandros, 3)

Here too, like in the passage from Against Eratosthenes, we meet claim to orderly behaviour (κόσμιος), which as Whitehead (1977, p. 58) noticed is frequently applied to metics in honorific decrees. Here it is applied to a citizen; this is not surprising: as I have been arguing the good-bad axis of evaluation was considered to be different from the citizen-metic axis of status. On the other hand, the citizen Euandros, when he will refer to his family’s benefactions to the city he will have access to a characterization of the way these services were rendered, which was not available to the metic Lysias: φιλοτίμως (here translated as “with ardent zeal”, elsewhere translators prefer to translate as “ambitiously”). The word, and its cognate noun and adjective, φιλοτιμία and φιλότιμον, are never applied to metics. With good reason: while the word τιμή, the second synthetic of φιλοτίμ-, is usually rendered as “honour”, in Athens the word was closely associated with “citizenship, enfranchisement”, and so combined with the alpha privative, ἀ-τίμ-, would form the root for the words we would translate as “disenfranchisement, disenfranchised”. This meaning of the word also found its way to political theory, so Aristotle would define both citizen and metic with reference to it:

λέγεται μάλιστα πολίτης ὁ μετέχων τῶν τιμῶν, ὥσπερ καὶ Ὅμηρος ἐποίησεν “ὡς εἴ τιν᾽ ἀτίμητον μετανάστην” ὥσπερ μέτοικος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ τῶν τιμῶν μὴ μετέχων.

A citizen in the fullest sense means the man who shares in the honors of the state [timai], as is implied in the verse of Homer: “Like to some alien settler without honor [atimeton]”, since a native not admitted to a share in the public honors [timai] is like an alien domiciled in the land. (Aristotle, Politics, 1287a)

Aristotle’s political definition of “citizen” and “metic” also had a psychological dimension:

ὁ δὲ τέταρτος τῶν διορισθέντων οὔτε πάμπαν ψεκτὸς οὔτε μεγαλόψυχος, περὶ οὐδὲν ἔχον ὢν μέγεθος: οὔτε γὰρ ἄξιος οὔτε ἀξιοῖ μεγάλων, διὸ οὐκ ἐναντίος. καίτοι δόξειεν ἂν ἐναντίον εἶναι τῷ μεγάλων ἀξίῳ ὄντι μεγάλων τὸ μικρῶν ὄντα ἄξιον μικρῶν ἀξιοῦν ἑαυτόν. οὐκ ἔστι δ᾽ ἐναντίος οὔτε τῷ μὴ μεμπτὸς εἶναι (ὡς γὰρ ὁ λόγος κελεύει, ἔχει)· καὶ ὁ αὐτός ἐστι τῇ φύσει τῷ μεγαλοψύχῳ (ὧν γὰρ ἄξιοι, τούτων ἀξιοῦσιν αὑτοὺς ἄμφω)· καὶ ὃ μὲν γένοιτ᾽ ἂν μεγαλόψυχος (ἀξιώσει γὰρ ὧν ἐστιν ἄξιος),...διὸ καὶ οὐθεὶς ἂν εἴποι μικρόψυχον, εἴ τις μέτοικος ὢν ἄρχειν μὴ ἀξιοῖ ἑαυτόν, ἀλλ᾽ ὑπείκει: ἀλλ᾽ εἴ τις εὐγενὴς ὢν καὶ ἡγούμενος μέγα εἶναι τὸ ἄρχειν.

The fourth of the persons in our classification is neither entirely reprehensible nor is he great spirited, as he is concerned with nothing possessing greatness, for he neither is nor thinks himself worthy of great things; owing to which he is not the opposite of the man of great spirit. Yet thinking oneself worthy of small things when one is worthy of small things might be thought the opposite of thinking oneself worthy of great ones when one is worthy of great ones; but he is not opposite to the great-spirited man because he is not blameworthy either, for his character is as reason bids, and in nature he is the same as the great-spirited man, for both claim as their desert the things that they are worthy of. And he might become great-spirited, for he will claim the things that he is worthy of;… Hence nobody would call a man small-spirited for not claiming to hold office and submitting to authority if he is a resident alien, but one would do so if he were of noble birth and attached great importance to office. (Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, 1233a)

According to Aristotle, a metic not only should not share in the political administration of a city, but it would be the proper attitude for him to know his place and not even want to do so. For a metic an important constituent of the meaning of κόσμιος is precisely that he is not (or even try to be) φιλότιμος. However, in all other respects we have no evidence that the metics would suffer prejudicial stereotypes like the ones claimed by Bakewell.

I should close with a disclaimer: I do not claim that ancient Athens was a place in which groups of foreigners could live without being subjected to negative, bigoted and extremely harmful stereotypes. It was not:

ἴσως μὲν οὖν, ὦ ἄνδρες δικασταί, οὐδὲν ὑπερθαύμαστόν με ὑπὸ Ἀντιγόνας τὸν τρόπον τουτονὶ παιδαγωγηθῆναι, γυναικὸς ἣ δεινοτάτη μὲν τῶν ἑταιρῶν, ὥς φασιν, ἐφ᾽ ἡλικίας ἐγένετο, διατετέλεκε δὲ πορνοβοσκοῦσα ... εν ... οἶκον τοῦ Χολλίδου οὐδενὸς ἐλάττω ὄντα ἀνῄρηκεν. καίτοι ὅπου καθ᾽ ἑαυτὴν οὖσα τοιαῦτα διεπράττετο, τί οἴεσθ᾽ αὐτὴν νῦν ἐννοεῖν, προσλαβοῦσαν συναγωνιστὴν Ἀθηνογένην, ἄνθρωπον λογογράφον τε καὶ ἀγοραῖον, τὸ δὲ μέγιστον, Αἰγύπτιον;

Perhaps there is nothing very surprising, gentlemen of the jury, in my having been taken in like this by Antigone, a woman who was, I am told, the most gifted courtesan of her time and who has continued to practise as a procuress . . . has ruined the house of . . . of the deme Chollidae which was equal to any. And yet if that was how she behaved on her own, what do you think her plans are now when she has taken Athenogenes into partnership, who is a speechwriter, a man of affairs and, most significant of all, an Egyptian? (Hypereides, 3.3)

Hypereides’ client faces not only a street-wise Antigone, but also Athenogenes, who in addition to all his other faults he is also an “Egyptian”, clearly evoking a stereotype that would hold Egyptians as crooks and swindlers. The cruelty of the situation becomes even more evident when one contrasts it with the feelings of his parents when they named him “born-in-Athens”. While both in his name and in reality he was born in Athens, nevertheless Athenogenes remained a metic and an Egyptian for all his life. However, the stereotypical slander that was addressed against him did not concern his being a metic, but his racial descent as an Egyptian. Metics, as I have argued in this paper were too diverse a group: ex-slaves, economic migrants, well-connected elites; Greeks and non-Greeks; wealthy, middle class, and paupers. The only thing that connected them with each other is that they were outsiders, not belonging to the “Athenian family”; nothing else; consequently, nothing else could give rise to stereotypes. Particular ethnic groups, on the other hand, was another story altogether.


Adeleye, G. (1983). “The purpose of dokimasia”. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 24(4), 295-306.

Bakewell, G. (1999). “Lysias 12 and Lysias 31: metics and Athenian citizenship in the aftermath of the Thirty”. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, 40(1), 5-22.

Baslez, M.F. (1988). ‘Les communautés d’Orientaux dans la cité grecque: formes de sociabilité et modèles associatifs’, in Lonis (ed.) L’Etranger dans le Monde Grec, Nancy: Presses universitaires de Nancy, 139-158.

Cohen, E.E. (2000). The Athenian Nation. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Davies, J. K. (1977). “Athenian citizenship: the descent group and the alternatives”. The Classical Journal, 73(2), 105-121.

Harrison, A. R. W. (1968–71). The Law of Athens. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Katayama, Y. (1970). “The social significance of liturgies from the viewpoint of the participation of metics’. Journal of Classical Studies, 18, 40-51 [Japanese with English summary].

Krentz, P. (1980). “Foreigners against the Thirty: IG 22 10 Again.” Phoenix 34, 298–306.

Lape, S. (2010). Race and Citizen Identity in the Classical Athenian Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Manville, P. B. (1990). “The Origins of Citizenship in Ancient Athens”. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Michelini, A. N. (1994). “Political Themes in Euripides’ Suppliants”. The American Journal of Philology, 115(2), 219-252.

Munn, M. H. (2000). The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ostwald, M. (1986). From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of Law: Law, Society, and Politics in Fifth-Century Athens. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Osborne, M. J. (1981–3). Naturalization in Athens. 4 vols. Brussels: Koninklijke academie voor wetenschappen, letteren en schone kunsten van België.

---. (1985). Demos: The Discovery of Classical Attika. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sinclair, R. K. (1991). Democracy and Participation in Athens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Todd, S. C. (2000). Lysias. Austin: Texas University Press.

---. (1993). The Shape of Athenian Law. Oxford:Clarendon Press.

Whitehead, D. (1977). The Ideology of the Athenian Metic. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society.

---. (1984). “A Thousand New Athenians IG2.10+.” Liverpool Classical Monthly, 9(1), 8–10.

[1] If not otherwise stated, all Greek text quoted in this article is the text in the Loeb Classical Library; the translations are my adaptations of the Loeb translation.

[2] Metic is usually translated as “resident alien”; however, as this translation may mislead some readers into thinking this status category as similar to the resident aliens of modern times, I will just leave it untranslated. Section 1 below discusses this category in more detail.

[3] As Xenophon (Hellenika, 2.4.25) records, the democrats promised everyone who joined them the status of isoteles (a privileged group of metics, for more details look Section 1 below); for slaves joining the democrats see Aristotle (Constitution of the Athenians, 40.2)

[4] For the discussion in this paragraph I draw extensively on Munn (2000), and to a lesser degree on Ostwald (1986), Osborne (1985), and Manville (1990).

[5] Aristotle (Constitution of the Athenians, 29.3, 34.3, 35.2).

[6] Later, perhaps as long as two years later, more people were rewarded for assisting the democrats. A partially preserved inscription of a decree of the Athenian assembly includes a catalogue of approximately one thousand two hundred names of honourands, divided into three categories depending on their involvement in the struggle against the Thirty. Unfortunately, the fragments do not make clear how exactly each group was honoured. According to Whitehead’s interpretation (1984b) everyone named in the decree was given citizenship; Osborne (1981–183, vol. 2, 29–41) argues that citizenship was granted only to the 70-90 people in category A; while Krentz (1980) believes nobody was granted citizenship. Both Osborne and Krentz believe that those who did not receive citizenship were granted isoteleia (“equality of taxation” with the Athenians).

[7] Scholion on Aeschines 1.39 and Demosthenes 57.30. It is believed that during the later period of the Peloponnesian war the standards of the Periklean law were not strictly adhered to and so many people who had only one Athenian parent obtained citizenship, and so Nikomenes’ amendment simply ensured that no one who enjoyed citizenship before the Thirty did not lose it after the restoration of democracy. See further Davies (1977/78, p. 111); Harrison (1968–71, vol. 1, p. 26).

[8] Dionysios of Halikarnassos, On Lysias, and Plutarch, Lives of Ten Orators.

[9] Lysias, Against the Subversion of the Ancestral Constitution.

[10] In section 3 I will deal in detail with these claims, and I will show why I do not consider them valid.

[11] “those who, in addition to being citizens, also want to be citizens”. Translated by Bakewell (1999, p. 16).

[12] “city”.

[13] “But all those who on the one hand are citizens by birth”. Translated by Bakewell (1999, p. 16).

[14] “nature”.

[15] “law/nature”; however, when referring to this philosophical debate, νόμος is usually translated as “convention”. I suspect Bakewell prefers the translation “law” as it suits better his argument.

[16] Again, the translation is by Bakewell (1999, pp. 15-16).

[17] The Greek phrase is translated in fn. 11 above.

[18] The term would probably be best translated as “scrutiny”; however, often it is simply transliterated as dokimasia.

[19] Polux 3.57, Scholia on Aristophanes, Birds 1669 and Scholia on Aristophanes, Frogs, 416.

[20] For a more detailed discussion of this topic see Whitehead (1977, pp. 90-92).

[21] For purposes of comparison, workmen at the Erechtheion in Acropolis in the late fifth century were paid 1 drachma a day.

[22] For more details one can see Todd (1993, pp. 195-198).

[23] However, this prohibition was not enforced during the later years of the Peloponnesian War as we saw earlier in the section about the citizenship debates in 403.

[24] Only in very extreme circumstances mass enfranchisement occurred. In the fifth century we know of only two such instances the grant of Athenian citizenship to the Pataians who remained steadfast to their alliance with Athens and as a consequence their city was destroyed by the Spartans and Thebans, and the slaves who manned the fleet for the sea-battle at Arginousai and so solved the manpower problem Athens faces at the time.

[25] How exceptional these services should be becomes clear from the fact that to the best of our knowledge Lysias, despite his very strong commitment to the restoration of democracy, was never granted Athenian citizenship.

[26] Consequently, it should also not be seen as an appropriate model for how we should arrange our own affairs; certainly not without strong reservations and highly critical examination.

[27] Although the “tribes” in democratic Athens were artificial political constructions, they were still presented to the public as organic unions, each originating from a single hero, the (legally created) common ancestor of the whole tribe.Although the “tribes” in democratic Athens were artificial political constructions, they were still presented to the public as organic unions, each originating from a single hero, the (legally created) common ancestor of the whole tribe.

[28] For references to these inscriptions see Whitehead (1977, p. 106, fn. 135).

[29] Although being a “sponsor” was a type of taxation, and it could be a huge financial burden, it was also a great source of honour for the elite members of the Athenian society, especially those interested in an active political life.

[30] This statement is subject of scholarly debate regarding its actual meaning (i.e. “in the same units as the Athenians” or “at the same time as the Athenians”). For details of the argument see Whitehead (1977, pp. 82-86).


As Whitehead (1977, p. 38) notes there seemed to be some kind of duality: “to have metics in the city might be advantageous; to be a metic was quite another story.”

[32] We only have clear evidence about the amount of metics in Athens from a census contacted by Demetrios of Phaleron in the late fourth century. At that time, the metics were recorded as 10,000 in comparison with a citizen body of 21,000. Numbers of both citizens and metics were bigger earlier, but it is difficult to arrive to any generally accepted numbers; it seems that the problem of clear information is here compounded “by a reluctance to accept what is clearly implied by it [the interpretation of the available information]—that there really were very large numbers of metics” (Akrigg, 2015, p. 159). Nevertheless, no one argues that the ratio of metics to citizens was ever less than 1:2, and some interpretations of the evidence get the proportion to be as high as 4:5 at the start of the Peloponnesian War.

[33] Translation by Akrigg (2015, p. 169).

[34] Lysias (Against the Corn-dealers, 5): “Do you live as a metic in order to obey the laws of the city, or to do whatever you want?””

[35] Apparently this passage was judged by Demosthenes to be particularly successful, so it was repeated with minor adjustments in Demosthenes 24.166.

× Footnote:
[received September 3, 2018
accepted October 10, 2018]


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Vassilis Vagios

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved | Interface | ISSN: 2519-1268