What Is a Metic in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, a metic was a term used to describe a resident foreigner who lived in the city-state of Athens. These individuals were not considered citizens, but they were free and had certain rights that were not afforded to slaves or other non-citizens.

Origins of the Term

The word “metic” comes from the Greek word “metoikos,” which literally translates to “one who lives in a different place.” These individuals were typically merchants, artisans, or skilled workers who moved to Athens for economic opportunities.

Rights and Responsibilities

Metics had some legal protections and could own property, marry Athenian citizens, and engage in trade. However, they were not allowed to participate in politics or hold public office. They also had to pay special taxes and perform military service if called upon.

The Role of Metics in Athenian Society

Metics played an important role in Athenian society. They contributed to the economy by producing goods and services that Athenians needed. Some metic families became quite wealthy through trade and commerce.

However, metics also faced discrimination from Athenian citizens. They were often viewed with suspicion and resentment because they were outsiders. They could be subject to violence and mistreatment by citizens who saw them as a threat to their way of life.

Metic Status Today

Today, the term “metic” is no longer used in Greece or anywhere else. However, the legacy of metics can still be seen in modern discussions about immigration and citizenship.

Like metics in ancient Athens, immigrants today often face discrimination and hostility from those who see them as outsiders. However, just as metics contributed to Athenian society through their work and skills, immigrants today also make valuable contributions to their adopted countries through their labor and talents.


The concept of being a metic in ancient Greece was complex and nuanced. While metics were not full citizens, they were still an important part of Athenian society. Their experiences offer insights into the challenges faced by immigrants throughout history and the present day.