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11 Apr 2012

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Required Reading: Nagle, AW pp. 138-155
Athenian Society
Approximately 50% of Athenian population was non citizens
o Citizens
o Women and children
o Metics
o Slaves
o Freed men
Besides obvious differences, no characteristic distinctions to classify one
as a citizen or a metic
Main basis for social stratification was that of citizen and non citizen
Citizenship: The Inside Track
Only Athenians could own land, exercise all rights of membership and
experience benefits
Until 450 BC could be considered a citizen if only father was Athenian
After 450 BC both parents had to be Athenian
On his 18th year, potential citizens would submit application to demarch
(chief magistrate) to be approved/rejected by deme assembly
Checks were done periodically to ensure that no registered citizens were
underage or ineligible
Ownership of land was prerequisite
o Considered only ‘half’ a citizen if didn’t own land
o Ceased to be a requirement by end of 6th century
Rich and Poor and the Athenian Economy
Distinction between rich and poor was very much alive in Athens
Considered chic to proclaim family name and maintain traditions and
Aristocratic practices were questioned by middle class
5th Century BC Athens was an empire
o Greatly benefitted both rich and poor
o Rich became less supportive in 4th century when they had to pick
up the tab for the fleet
Democracy did not remove distinction of wealth
Athens became major commercial center in 4th and 5th century BC
o Port was foremost in the Mediterranean
o Little industrial concern full time devotion to public careers
Aristocratic leadership was gradually passed on to members
of the upper middle class
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Metics, Foreigners and Slaves
Metics recent arrivals or may have lived in Athens for generations
without being assimilated into citizen body
o Could not own land, marry an Athenian or participate in public life
o Subject to special taxes as well as military service in times of crisis
o Were registered in the deme rolls, had patrons to represent them in
o Could attend festivals, live, worship
Metics were skilled craftspeople, bringing many talents to different
Slaves large numbers during classical times
o Mostly used in mines
o Businesses who only needed occasional help used slaves instead
of employed labourers
o Slaves were common, but not all could afford them
Men, Women, and Families
First duty of the family is to the state
Little choice in terms of who they marry determined by social customs
Responsible for maintaining honour of household
Reputation was important so oikos could remain functional unit of society
Ideal of seclusion on women in the home
o Some economic and social activities brought them out
o Upper class women confined themselves (slaves could carry out
duties such as shopping) so that when they did go out their pale
skin was indicator of status
Heads of families responsible for rituals and religious celebrations
Primary purpose of marriage was perpetuation of the household not
o Joint effort of building household would often result in mutual
respect and friendship
Adultery was frowned upon, though common
o Other than social disrespect, most damage done by adultery was to
the affection of the husband and wife
Enforcement of Morals
o If wife commits adultery, household is destroyed
Husband could kill male adulterer or take him to court
Females become restricted from public religious life
(essentially all public life)
o Greeks were ambivalent regarding erotic relations with males
No statute prohibited intercourse between consenting males
Prohibited male prostitution and procuring of boys (they are
in training to be citizens)
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