The metics and their social position: foreign residents in Athens during the Classical period
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Scholars have always accepted the importance of metics in Athens during the Classical Period. However, the modern orthodoxy has sought to minimize their social and legal position, often naming metics as "anti-citizens" with little to no rights or privileges outside of the economic sphere. This thesis challenges the longstanding belief that metics held a secondary position in Athenian society, and argues instead that they were incorporated into local and city-wide communities that neither barred nor discriminated against migrant residents. At its core, this thesis revolves around the idea that legal status was not the primary means of identification in Athens; Attic legislation was fluid, and the meaning of individual laws was primarily determined by the arguments of litigants. A broad scope of intersecting spheres (legal, political, religious, economic, social, etc.) helped to create the chaotic structure of Athenian society. Citizens and their official status were not the yardsticks against which all other inhabitants were measured, and a majority of citizens, outside of the politically and rhetorically active elites, had no daily need for class or status distinctions. The metic was an integrated member of Athenian society, even if some privileges were out of his initial reach, and to speak of him as being completely defined by legal codes is not to give due weight to the complexity of Athenian society. By focusing the discussion in this manner, this thesis sheds light on the place, both spatial and theoretical, that metics occupied. There should be no doubt that the metic was a crucial, and voluntary, participant in the inclusive and variegated life of Athens.
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