The Populace of Athens – Metics
Metics were a class of free non-citizens, often employed on more menial, but nevertheless vital, tasks – including trireme building, rowing and maintenance. Metics were usually Greeks from other city-states. Women of non-Athenian origin could often rise to positions of considerable influence as courtesans.
What Metics Were Exactly
A Metic is a term that refers primarily to a non-citizen person permanently dwelling in Athens between 500 and 400 BC, a time in which foreigners were welcomed to settle in the city because of their positive impact on trade, culture and education. Most metics were either immigrants from other parts of Greece, freed slaves, or children of either of the two categories of people.
Because citizenship in ancient Athens was not based on where a person was born, but rather as a benefit of inheritance, many metic families had lived in Athens for generations and were likely physically indistinguishable from other local citizens. Based on the record of many tombstones, Metics retained the citizenship of their city of origin and preferred to list their home city on their tombs.
Metics Weren’t Given the Rights of Citizens
Although Athens allowed these non-citizens to live within its walls, they didn’t enjoy all the benefits that true Athenian citizens were allowed. There were also plenty of disadvantages for living here, yet for many, even the greatest disadvantages didn’t outweigh the benefits of living in the city. Among these disadvantages was that they had to pay a military duty as well as additional taxes called “eisphora” and, if they were wealthy, contributing to special civil projects such as helping other wealthy Athenians pay for a warship. Other taxes, such as poll tax and a tax for setting up a booth in the marketplace further discriminated against metics.
Besides needing to pay taxes, there were also other economic disadvantages of being a metic. For instance, they were were not paid for being on a jury and they also weren’t allowed to work in silver mines because the precious metal was considered exclusive property of citizens. However, although these restrictions make it seem as if they were economically disadvantaged, there were some metics who were considered to be extremely wealthy and amongst the most well-off in Athens.
you can also read:The Allegory of The Cave’ by Plato: Summary
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