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Ancient Athenian Social Classes

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by

Stefan Kotzamanis

on 1 September 2014

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Transcript of Ancient Athenian Social Classes

SOCIAL CLASSES IN ANCIENT ATHENS
Ancient Athens' society divided people based on their social status. Which class you belonged to was usually due to your birth and it was almost impossible to change and work your way up.
SLAVES
During the height of Athens' power in ~400 BCE, it was estimated that they made up 1/3 of their population. What's most interesting is that not many Greeks were slaves! Most were non-Greeks captured in war, abandoned babies or criminals.
The upper class consisted of a tiny percentage of incredibly wealthy Athenian families. You were a member of this class if you didn't have to work or were in a position of power.

FREEDMEN (LOWER CLASS)
Freedmen were simply ex-slaves. They weren't citizens and couldn't get involved in politics or the government.
METICS (MIDDLE CLASS)
Metics are interesting because they could be poor or incredibly rich. The reason they couldn't become a part of the upper class was simply because they were people NOT born in Athens. They were like today's immigrants and refugees.
THE UPPER CLASS
The census of Demetrius Phalereus in ca. 317 BCE: 21,000 citizens, 10,000 metics and 400,000 slaves
Ancient societies were fiercely divided. There existed massive gaps between the rich and the poor, and the way they lived sadly reflects this.
Lets explore the various members of Ancient Athenian society
Slaves were at the bottom of the social order and had no rights (they were seen as property you could own). They couldn't even defend themselves when their master was beating them. They couldn't own land and would have to pay for their freedom. Few did due to their usually short and brutal lives.
They usually did the tougher, dirtier jobs and
were almost always poor.
Like citizens, they had to serve in the military and pay large taxes. They couldn't join in on politics but could take someone to court. If you killed a metic, you would get in LESS trouble than if you killed a citizen. They could be enslaved for lying about being a citizen or marrying one.
CITIZENS (MIDDLE CLASS)
Citizens were Athenian-born men over the age of 18. They would gather in assemblies called the 'Ekklesia' and decide the actions of the state (like how we vote in elections today).
Citizens were usually richer than non-citizens, but being a citizen didn't mean you were wealthy.
SOCIAL CLASSES IN ANCIENT ATHENS
YOUR TASK


Create your own Ancient Greek character
Give him (or her) a name, age, and job.

Make sure you also add a brief description about their social roles in the
polis
(city). So if you're creating a metic, maybe he is a an immigrant from Africa that has decided to live in Athens because he can make more money as a blacksmith (weapon-maker) than as a farmer in his homeland.

What does your person think of life? Is it easy or hard? What does he/she want in life? Make sure it relates to your character's social class.
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