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The Status of Women In Ancient Athens
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Status in Classical Athens
Page duBois. Citizenship at Athens brought eligibility for numerous state payments such as jury and assembly pay, which could be significant to working people. During emergencies the city could distribute rations to citizens. None of these rights were available to metics. They were not permitted to own real estate in Attica , whether farm or house, unless granted a special exemption.
Neither could they sign contract with the state to work in the silver mines, since the wealth beneath the earth was felt to belong to the political community. Metics were subject to a tax called the metoikion , assessed at twelve drachmas per year for metic men and their households, and six for independent metic women.
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Although metics were barred from the assembly and from serving as jurors, they did have the same access to the courts as citizens. They could both prosecute others and be prosecuted themselves. A great many migrants came to Athens to do business and were in fact essential to the Athenian economy. It would have been a severe disincentive if they had been unable to pursue commercial disputes under law.
Metic - Wikipedia
At the same time they did not have exactly the same rights here as citizens. Unlike citizens, metics could be made to undergo judicial torture and the penalties for killing them were not as severe as for killing a citizen. Metics were also subject to enslavement for a variety of offences. These might either be failures to abide by their status obligations, such as not paying the metoikon tax or not nominating a citizen sponsor, or they might be "contaminations" of the citizen body, marrying a citizen, or claiming to be citizens themselves.
How long a foreigner could remain in Athens without counting as a metic is not known. In some other Greek cities the period was a month, and it may well have been the same at Athens. All metics there were required to register in the deme local community where they lived. They had to nominate a citizen as their sponsor or guardian prostates , literally "one who stands on behalf of".
The Athenians took this last requirement very seriously. A metic without a sponsor was vulnerable to a special prosecution. If convicted, his property would be confiscated and he himself sold as a slave. For a freed slave the sponsor was automatically his former owner. This arrangement exacted some extra duties on the part of the metic, yet the child of an ex-slave metic apparently had the same status as a freeborn metic. Citizenship was very rarely granted to metics.
More common was the special status of "equal rights" isoteleia under which they were freed from the usual liabilities. In the religious sphere all metics were able to participate in the festivals central to the life of the city, except for some roles that were limited to citizens. The status divide between metic and citizen was not always clear. In the street no physical signs distinguished citizen from metic or slave. Sometimes the actual status a person had attained became a contested matter. Although local registers of citizens were kept, if one's claim to citizenship was challenged the testimony of neighbours and the community was decisive.
In Lysias 23,  a law court speech, a man presumed to be a metic claims to be a citizen, but upon investigation—not by consulting official records but by questions asked at the cheese market—it transpires that he may well be a runaway slave, so the hostile account attests. Metics whose family had lived in Athens for generations may have been tempted to " pass " as citizens.
On a number of occasions there were purges of the citizen lists, effectively changing people who had been living as citizens into metics. In typical Athenian fashion, a person so demoted could mount a challenge in court. If however the court decided the ejected citizen was in fact a metic, he would be sent down one further rung and sold into slavery. In studying the status of the metics it is easy to gain the impression they were an oppressed minority.
But by and large those who were Greek and freeborn had at least chosen to come to Athens, attracted by the prosperity of the large, dynamic, cosmopolitan city and the opportunities not available to them in their place of origin.