What Rights Do Non-Citizens Have in Ancient Greece?

What Rights Do Non-Citizens Have in Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece, known for its democratic ideals and cultural contributions, was a society that highly valued citizenship. In this article, we will explore the rights granted to non-citizens in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greek Citizenship

In ancient Greece, citizenship was highly esteemed and granted only to a select few. To be considered a citizen, one had to be born to citizen parents. This meant that foreigners or non-Greeks were automatically excluded from the rights and privileges enjoyed by citizens.


The term “metics” referred to non-citizens who resided in ancient Greek city-states. Metics were free individuals who migrated to Greece voluntarily or were born outside the city-state but chose to settle there. While metics did not possess full citizenship rights, they had certain privileges and protections.

  • Metics were allowed to engage in trade and business activities within the city-state.
  • They could own property and accumulate wealth.
  • Metics paid taxes but were exempt from military service.
  • They had access to the legal system and could seek justice through courts.

Note: The specific rights granted to metics varied among different city-states within ancient Greece.


In contrast to metics, slaves held no rights or freedoms in ancient Greek society. Slavery was an integral part of the social structure, with slaves considered property rather than individuals with legal standing. Slaves had no control over their lives and were subject to their owners’ whims and desires.

The Importance of Citizenship

Citizenship in ancient Greece was paramount, as it determined a person’s political participation and access to social benefits. Citizens had the right to vote, hold public office, and participate in the decision-making processes of their city-state.

In conclusion, while non-citizens in ancient Greece did not possess the same rights and privileges as citizens, metics enjoyed a degree of legal protection and economic opportunities. However, it is important to acknowledge that these rights were limited compared to full citizenship. Slavery, on the other hand, represented the complete absence of rights for individuals.

Understanding the rights granted to non-citizens in ancient Greece provides valuable insights into the social dynamics and hierarchies of this influential civilization.