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As the Greek polis evolved, it sought to differentiate, amongst its inhabitants, between insiders and outsiders. Insiders par excellence were its own members, the citizens; palpable outsiders were its slaves, native or imported (see slavery); but this simple dichotomy would have sufficed only for communities like Sparta which discouraged immigration. Elsewhere it was necessary to recognize free persons who lived, temporarily or permanently, in the polis without becoming its citizens. Such a person was a metoikos (‘home‐changer’, metic, immigrant). The precise nature and complexity of metic‐status doubtless varied from place to place; evidence approaches adequacy only for Athens, atypical in its allure and so in the numbers of those who succumbed thereto (half the size of the (reduced) citizen body of c.313 bc; perhaps proportionately larger in the 5th cent.) With Solon having created only indirect incentives to immigration, Athenian metic‐status probably owes its formal origins to Cleisthenes (2), after whom the presence of metics was recognized in law and could develop in its details at both city and local (deme) level. The dividing line between visitors and residents seems to have been drawn on a common‐sense basis in the 5th cent. bc but became more mechanical in the 4th. Definition as a metic brought some privileges but many burdens, largely fiscal (including the metoikion, ‘poll‐tax’) and military. Socio‐economically, Athens' metics were highly diverse, and contemporary attitudes to their presence deeply ambivalent.

Subjects: Classical studies

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