Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Metic

Metic

Overview
In ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, the term metic (Greek métoikos: from metá, indicating change, and oîkos "dwelling") referred to a resident alien, one who did not have citizen rights in his or her Greek city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

 (polis
Polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

) of residence.

If it had been borrowed early, Greek métoikos would become Latin metoecus and English metecous or the like. But because it was borrowed when Greek oi was pronounced as y (see Koine Greek phonology), it was transliterated into Latin as metycus.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Metic'
Start a new discussion about 'Metic'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
In ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, the term metic (Greek métoikos: from metá, indicating change, and oîkos "dwelling") referred to a resident alien, one who did not have citizen rights in his or her Greek city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

 (polis
Polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

) of residence.

If it had been borrowed early, Greek métoikos would become Latin metoecus and English metecous or the like. But because it was borrowed when Greek oi was pronounced as y (see Koine Greek phonology), it was transliterated into Latin as metycus. English metic replaces y with i, perhaps by analogy with the -ic suffix.

Metics in Classical Athens


The bulk of this article pertains to Athens
Classical Athens
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was a notable polis of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias...

 in the 5th and 4th centuries BC during the Athenian democracy
Athenian democracy
Athenian democracy developed in the Greek city-state of Athens, comprising the central city-state of Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica, around 508 BC. Athens is one of the first known democracies. Other Greek cities set up democracies, and even though most followed an Athenian model,...

, which encouraged foreigners to settle in Athens, on account of the part which they took in
trade, industry, education, and of which period we have primary sources about the specific legal status of a Metic, as reported by the Attic orators
Attic orators
The ten Attic orators were considered the greatest orators and logographers of the classical era . They are included in the "Alexandrian Canon" compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace.-The Alexandrian "Canon of Ten":* Aeschines* Andocides* Antiphon* Demosthenes*...

. However, the history of foreign migration to Athens begins earlier with Solon
Solon
Solon was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic and moral decline in archaic Athens...

, who is said
to have offered Athenian citizenship to foreigners who would relocate to his city to practice a craft; indeed, in the period of Solon, Attic pottery flourished. In other Greek cities (poleis
Polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

), foreign residents were few, with the exception of cosmopolitan Corinth
Ancient Corinth
Corinth, or Korinth was a city-state on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern town of Corinth is located approximately northeast of the ancient ruins...

, of which however we do not know their legal status. In Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 and Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, as a general rule with few exceptions, foreigners were not allowed to stay (Xenelasia
Xenelasia
Xenelasia was the title given to a set of laws in ancient Doric Crete and Lacedæmonia that proscribed the inclusion of foreigners and any foreign arts and music into their respective commonwealths.-In Lacedæmonia:...

). There are also reported immigrants to the court of tyrants and kings in Thessaly
Ancient Thessaly
Ancient Thessaly or Thessalia was one of the traditional regions of Ancient Greece. During the Mycenaean period, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, a name which continued to be used for one of the major tribes of Greece, the Aeolians, and their dialect of Greek, .-History:Thessaly was home to an...

, Syracuse and Macedon, whose status is decided by the ruler. So for a number of reasons the legal term metic should be associated with Classical Athens
Classical Athens
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was a notable polis of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias...

. At Athens, the largest city in the Greek world at the time, they amounted to roughly half the free population. The status applied to two main groups of people—immigrants and former slaves
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

. As slaves were almost always of foreign origin they can be thought of as involuntary immigrants, drawn almost exclusively from non-Greek speaking areas, while free metics were usually of Greek origin. Mostly they came from mainland Greece rather than the remote parts of the Greek world.

Metics held lower social status but not on the basis of socio-economic class. Some were poor artisans and ex-slaves, while others were some of the wealthiest inhabitants of the city. As citizenship was a matter of inheritance and not place of birth, a metic could be either an immigrant or the descendant of one. Regardless of how many generations of the family had lived in the city, metics did not become citizens unless the city chose to bestow citizenship on them as a gift. This was rarely done. From a cultural viewpoint such a resident could be completely "local" and indistinguishable from citizens. They had no role in the political community but might be completely integrated into the social and economic life of the city. In the urbane scene that opens Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's Republic—the dialogue takes place in a metic household—the status of the speakers as citizen or metic is never mentioned.

Metics typically shared the burdens of citizenship
Citizenship
Citizenship is the state of being a citizen of a particular social, political, national, or human resource community. Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities...

 without any of its privileges. Like citizens, they had to perform military service and, if wealthy enough, were subject to the special tax contributions (eisphora) and tax services ("liturgies", for example, paying for a warship or funding a tragic chorus) contributed by wealthy Athenians. Citizenship at Athens brought eligibility for numerous state payments such as jury and assembly pay, which could be significant to working people. During emergencies the city could distribute rations to citizens. None of these rights were available to metics. They were not permitted to own real estate in Attica
Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

, whether farm or house, unless granted a special exemption. Neither could they contract with the state to work the silver mines, since the wealth beneath the earth was felt to belong to the political community. Further, they had to pay a metic poll tax, the metoikon, of twelve drachmas a year for men and six for women, as well a special tax (xenikon telos) if they wanted to set up a stall in the market place (agora
Agora
The Agora was an open "place of assembly" in ancient Greek city-states. Early in Greek history , free-born male land-owners who were citizens would gather in the Agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council. Later, the Agora also served as a marketplace where...

).

Although metics were barred from the assembly
Ecclesia (ancient Athens)
The ecclesia or ekklesia was the principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens during its "Golden Age" . It was the popular assembly, opened to all male citizens over the age of 30 with 2 years of military service by Solon in 594 BC meaning that all classes of citizens in Athens were able...

 and from serving as jurors, they did have the same access to the courts
Athenian democracy
Athenian democracy developed in the Greek city-state of Athens, comprising the central city-state of Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica, around 508 BC. Athens is one of the first known democracies. Other Greek cities set up democracies, and even though most followed an Athenian model,...

 as citizens. They could both prosecute others and be prosecuted themselves. A great many migrants came to Athens to do business and were in fact essential to the Athenian economy. It would have been a severe disincentive if they had been unable to pursue commercial disputes at law. At the same time they did not have exactly the same rights here as citizens. Unlike citizens, metics could be made to undergo judicial torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 and the penalties for killing them were not as severe as for killing a citizen. Metics were also subject to enslavement for a variety of offences. These might either be failures to abide by their status obligations, such as not paying the metoikon tax or not nominating a citizen sponsor, or they might be "contaminations" of the citizen body, marrying a citizen, or claiming to be citizens themselves.

How long a foreigner could remain in Athens without counting as a metic is not known. In some other Greek cities the period was a month, and it may well have been the same at Athens. All metics there were required to register in the deme
Deme
In Ancient Greece, a deme or demos was a subdivision of Attica, the region of Greece surrounding Athens. Demes as simple subdivisions of land in the countryside seem to have existed in the 6th century BC and earlier, but did not acquire particular significance until the reforms of Cleisthenes in...

 (local community) where they lived. They had to nominate a citizen as their sponsor or guardian (prostates, literally "one who stands on behalf of"). The Athenians took this last requirement very seriously. A metic without a sponsor was vulnerable to a special prosecution. If convicted, his property would be confiscated and he himself sold as a slave. For a freed slave the sponsor was automatically his former owner. This arrangement exacted some extra duties on the part of the metic, yet the child of an ex-slave metic apparently had the same status as a freeborn metic. Citizenship was very rarely granted to metics. More common was the special status of "equal rights" (isoteleia) under which they were freed from the usual liabilities. In the religious sphere all metics were able to participate in the festivals central to the life of the city, except for some roles that were limited to citizens.

The status divide between metic and citizen was not always clear. In the street no physical signs distinguished citizen from metic or slave. Sometimes the actual status a person had attained became a contested matter. Although local registers of citizens were kept, if one's claim to citizenship was challenged the testimony of neighbours and the community was decisive. (In Lysias
Lysias
Lysias was a logographer in Ancient Greece. He was one of the ten Attic orators included in the "Alexandrian Canon" compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace in the third century BC.-Life:According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the author of the life ascribed to...

 16, a law court speech, a man presumed to be a metic claims to be a citizen, but upon investigation—not by consulting official records but by questions asked at the cheese market—it transpires that he may well be a runaway slave, so the hostile account attests.)

Metics whose family had lived in Athens for generations may have been tempted to "pass" as citizens. On a number of occasions there were purges of the citizen lists, effectively changing people who had been living as citizens into metics. In typical Athenian fashion, a person so demoted could mount a challenge in court. If however the court decided the ejected citizen was in fact a metic, he would be sent down one further rung and sold into slavery.

In studying the status of the metics it is easy to gain the impression they were an oppressed minority. But by and large those who were Greek and freeborn had at least chosen to come to Athens, attracted by the prosperity of the large, dynamic, cosmopolitan city and the opportunities not available to them in their place of origin. Metics remained citizens of their cities of birth, which, like Athens, had the exclusionary ancestral view of citizenship common to ancient Greek cities.

The large non-citizen community of Athens allowed ex-slave metics to become assimilated in a way not possible in more conservative and homogenised cities elsewhere. Their participation in military service
Military service
Military service, in its simplest sense, is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job or as a result of an involuntary draft . Some nations require a specific amount of military service from every citizen...

, tax
Tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

ation (for the rich at Athens a matter of public display and pride) and cult
Cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

 must have given them a sense of involvement in the city, and of their value to it. Though notably, while Athenians tended to refer to metics by their name and deme of residence (the same democratic scheme used for citizens), on their tombstones freeborn metics who died in Athens preferred to name the cities from which they had come and of which they were citizens still.

Aftermath


The term Metic began to lose its distinctive legal status in 4th century BC, when metics were allowed to act in the court without a Prostates (patron) and came to an end in Hellenistic Athens, when the purchase of citizenship became very frequent. The census of Demetrius Phalereus
Demetrius Phalereus
Demetrius of Phalerum was an Athenian orator originally from Phalerum, a student of Theophrastus and one of the first Peripatetics...

 in ca. 317 BC gave 21000 citizens, 10000 metics and 400000 slaves (Athenaeus
Athenaeus
Athenaeus , of Naucratis in Egypt, Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourished about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD...

, vi. p. 272 B). In the Greco-Roman world, free people (non-citizens) living on the territory of a polis
Polis
Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

 were called "paroikoi
Paroikoi
Paroikoi is the term that replaced "metic" in the Hellenistic and Roman period to designate foreign residents. In Asia Minor they were named katoikoi...

" (see etymology of parish), in Asia Minor "katoikoi".

Modern France


The French translation métèque has modernly acquired a pejorative meaning, being applied against Mediterranean immigrants, as in the works of Charles Maurras
Charles Maurras
Charles-Marie-Photius Maurras was a French author, poet, and critic. He was a leader and principal thinker of Action Française, a political movement that was monarchist, anti-parliamentarist, and counter-revolutionary. Maurras' ideas greatly influenced National Catholicism and "nationalisme...

. According to Nicole Loraux, who compares Athens and Paris, it was probably better to be an Athenian Metic, than an immigrant in 1990s France.

Biblical parallel


The Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 makes numerous references to a class of people known as "gerim" (גרים) ("ger" גר in singular), a class of people of different origin living permanently in the country of others.

They had clearly demarcated rights, and the Hebrews are sternly and repeatedly enjoined to treat them fairly and keep in mind that that they themselves were in the same situation when living in Egypt. ("וְגֵר לֹא תוֹנֶה וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם." Book of Exodus 22, 20)

Also etymologically they are similar to the Greek metics, "ger" being derived from the Hebrew root for "to dwell", i.e. they were "the dwellers [among us]". The term "strangers" used in the King James Bible and other English translations (for example, "Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt" in Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

 10, 19) does not fully convey these connotations.

In modern Hebrew, "ger" has come to mean a convert to Judaism.

Notable Metics

  • Anacharsis
    Anacharsis
    Anacharsis was a Scythian philosopher who travelled from his homeland on the northern shores of the Black Sea to Athens in the early 6th century BCE and made a great impression as a forthright, outspoken "barbarian", apparently a forerunner of the Cynics, though none of his works have...

  • Aristotle
    Aristotle
    Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

  • Aspasia
    Aspasia
    Aspasia was a Milesian woman who was famous for her involvement with the Athenian statesman Pericles. Very little is known about the details of her life. She spent most of her adult life in Athens, and she may have influenced Pericles and Athenian politics...

  • Diogenes
    Diogenes of Sinope
    Diogenes the Cynic was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. Also known as Diogenes of Sinope , he was born in Sinope , an Ionian colony on the Black Sea , in 412 or 404 BCE and died at Corinth in 323 BCE.Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure...

  • Lysias
    Lysias
    Lysias was a logographer in Ancient Greece. He was one of the ten Attic orators included in the "Alexandrian Canon" compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace in the third century BC.-Life:According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the author of the life ascribed to...

  • Protagoras
    Protagoras
    Protagoras was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and is numbered as one of the sophists by Plato. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with having invented the role of the professional sophist or teacher of virtue...


Sources

  • Hansen M.H. 1987, The Athenian Democracy in the age of Demosthenes. Oxford.
  • Whitehead D. 1977, The ideology of the Athenian metic. Cambridge.
  • Garlan, Y 1988, Slavery in Ancient Greek. Ithaca. (trans. Janet Lloyd)