What Groups Were Considered Citizens in Ancient Greece?

Citizenship was a complex concept in Ancient Greece. While modern democracies grant citizenship based on birth or naturalization, the Greeks had a more nuanced understanding of who could be considered a citizen. In this article, we will explore the groups that were considered citizens in Ancient Greece.

Freeborn Male Greeks

The most obvious group of citizens were freeborn male Greeks. These men were born to Greek parents and enjoyed all the rights and privileges of citizenship. They were allowed to participate in public life, vote in elections, and hold public office.


The perioikoi were freeborn non-citizens who lived in the surrounding areas of Sparta. They were neither slaves nor citizens but they were still subject to Spartan rule and military service. Despite their lack of citizenship, they played an important role in Spartan society as skilled craftsmen and traders.


Metics were foreigners who lived in Athens but were not citizens. They came from all over the Mediterranean world and worked as merchants, artisans, or laborers. They had some legal protections but could not own property or vote in elections.


Slaves made up a large portion of the population in Ancient Greece. They had no rights or freedoms and could be owned by anyone who could afford to buy them. Slaves performed various tasks such as household chores, farming, mining, and even skilled labor such as metalworking.


In conclusion, citizenship was a complex concept in Ancient Greece that varied depending on location and social status. Freeborn male Greeks enjoyed full citizenship rights while non-citizens such as perioikoi and metics had limited legal protections and freedoms.

Slaves had no rights or freedoms at all and were considered property rather than people. Understanding these groups is crucial to understanding Ancient Greek society and the development of democracy.