UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Athenian metic Ritchie, Virginia Joyce


This thesis considers the position of the Athenian metic in the fifth and fourth centuries B. C. Chapter I, the Introduction, sets the limits of the study. In Chapter II the status of the resident alien is shown to have been no accident, hut a conscious creation, well-defined within the Kleisthenic democracy. While the rights of the metic appear superficially analogous to those of the citizen, in fact they differed in five essentials: 1) the metic was not independent but required a "patron" or prostates; 2) he paid an annual tax, the metoikion; 3) he had no political rights; 4) he could not marry an Athenian citizen; and 5) he was forbidden to own real property, either land or houses. Chapter III tests the validity of the antithesis between the citizen or homo politicus and the non-citizen or homo economicus. The economic pursuits of both metic and citizen are outlined, and it is thus seen that the metic's rôle in the Athenian economy was not casual but fundamental: he monopolized banking and trade and was predominant in industry. By contrast the citizen's activities were those based on his ownership of land. Because of this division, land, industry, and commerce never became permanently interrelated and Athens' economy remained inherently weak. Indispensable as the metic was to Athens, Chapter IV points out that he never overcame the citizen's jealous hold on the right to citizenship. In fact, a very high penalty was set for the usurpation of this privilege. The naturalization of the metic was rare even in the fourth century, when the demos lavished every kind of honour on foreign kings and dignitaries whose patronage it sought. Chapter V concludes that, although the metic was responsible for Athens' economic superiority and, indeed, for much of her cultural heritage, his contributions have been underestimated, if not ignored. As a result, our picture of Athenian life is one-sided. A discussion of two historical problems that concern the metic and a chronological table are appended.

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