Athenian Society

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  • Created by: MaaB
  • Created on: 02-06-16 16:46


  • Foreigners who lived in Athens and made up a lot of the population: 431BC, they made up a third of the male population.
  • Metoikos in Greek means the 'one who lives with us' and the majority of them came for job opportunities and others may have been fleeing from political persecution.
  • After they had lived in an area for a month, they had to register as a metic.
  • Each metic needed an Athenian to support them and had to pay a monthly tax to stay.
  • A male metic was also expected to fight for Athens in times of war. Wealthier metics could become hoplites but most would row in the Navy.
  • Not many metics became wealthy and weren't allowed to own land in Attica so were found in non-farming industries such as crafts and commerce: gardening, baking, mule-driving.
  • Many lived in a place called Piraeus where they made money in areas like foreign trade, banking or armament production (making weapons). Some females were hetairai.
  • Metics had a limited status as they had no political rights but were given some legal rights in court and were allowed freedom or religious worship and they could take part in cultural life of the city. Metics could be awarded citizenship if they had performed outstanding service for the city.
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  • At 18, a boy (with an Athenian mother/citizen father) presented himself to a council to register as a citizen. He had to prove his age and that he was not a slave.
  • If his application was accepted, he'd serve for 2 years in the military. He'd undergo training, when he would guard the borders of Attica and be introduced to its main religious sanctuaries.
  • After serving, he would become a citizen and could speak in the assembly
  • Full rights came after the age of 30 when he would serve as a magistrate or juror.
  • The rights of a full citizen: free from paying tax; had the right to his own land; could bring lawsuits and serve as a juror; he had full political rights.
  • The most important thing about being a citizen is that you could participate in the government.
  • There were few politicians instead the city relied on its ordinary citizens to vote in the assembly, serve as state officials, sit on juries and serve in the military.
  • Athenians called citizens who did not take part 'idiotes'
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  • Some people born into slavery. Other babies brought up as slaves after being sold. Some travellers were captured and sold at slave markets but some could be captured after war.
  • They would then be taken to the agora (market). The cost of slaves varied according to: age, talent, education, gender. E.g. attractive=prostitution/dancer=increase in price.
  • Domestic slaves: they lived in the oikos and performed house tasks: answering front door, supervising children, collecting water, shopping. Male slaves would work on the farm and as a paidogogos and female slaves would be wet-nurses. They were treated as part of the family and could worship the same gods, share the family's food.
  • Wage-earning slaves: wealthier families who wanted to make a profit could with slaves. Unskilled slaves would be hired for work in farms, docks, mines. Slaves who were skilled/could handle finance=valued. Attractive families/young male dancers/prostitutes. A skilled slave would be based in a workshop so usually lived apart from his master allowing him some freedom in his private life.
  • Public slaves: owned by the state. Lots of roles e.g. Athenian police force, street-cleaners, made Greek currency, executioners.
  • They could be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries which was a celebration in honour of Demeter and Persephone - for crops and the fertility of soil and took place over a few days.
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Slaves 2

  • Quality of slave's life depended on owner/job but all slaves treated like property/had few rights. Weren't allowed to marry/vote. Were called "pais"=child and often used for sexual pleasure. If sent to court, they could only give evidence under torture.
  • However, some slaves could buy freedom if allowed by master and became metics.
  • Worst conditions=silver/lead mines at Laureion (35miles from Athens). Sold what mined to pay for building of navy. At least 10,000 slaves working in mines, at times=20,000. Poor conditions: they were dark, narrow, and collapsible. Fumes from smelting metals=poisonous. Had to spend a lot of time kneeling/lying flat to dig out ore using oil-lamps.
  • Harsh personal lives, lived in barracks near mines (guarded by soldiers in watchtowers)
  • There was a slave market near here so some slaves were sent straight to the mines.
  • No other family members were allowed to live there, owners did not want to feed them.
  • However, upon joining an oikos, they're accepted with a religious ceremony at family's fire.
  • It was illegal to hit another man's slave. If the slave was killed, the killer was thought to have been polluted and had to purify himself.
  • If a slave felt their master was treating them unfairly, they could seek protection at a religious altar or sanctuary. An official would either force the master to sell the slave or make them swear an oath to treat them better.
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