Who Were the Real Citizens of Ancient Greece?

Ancient Greece is known for its great philosophers, artists, and thinkers. It was also the birthplace of democracy, which allowed citizens to participate in government decision-making.

But who were the real citizens of Ancient Greece? Let’s take a closer look.

The Definition of Citizenship in Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, citizenship was not as straightforward as it is today. Only adult men who were born free and whose parents were both Athenian citizens could be considered citizens themselves. Women, children, foreigners, and slaves were excluded from citizenship.

The Role of Women in Ancient Greece

Women in Ancient Greece had limited rights and opportunities. They could not vote or hold public office, and their main role was to run the household and raise children.

However, there were some exceptions to this rule. For example, some women from wealthy families had access to education and could become priestesses or even philosophers.

The Role of Children in Ancient Greece

Children in Ancient Greece had a different status depending on their gender. Boys were considered more valuable than girls because they would become citizens and soldiers. As such, boys received a formal education while girls learned domestic skills at home.

The Role of Foreigners in Ancient Greece

Foreigners (also known as “metics”) in Ancient Greece had limited rights but were not completely excluded from society. They could not own land or vote but could engage in trade and commerce. Some foreigners even became wealthy enough to sponsor public events like festivals.

The Role of Slaves in Ancient Greece

Slavery was an integral part of life in Ancient Greece. Slaves were considered property rather than people and had no rights whatsoever. They performed a variety of tasks such as manual labor or serving as household attendants.

Becoming a Citizen

Becoming a citizen was not easy in Ancient Greece. It required a lengthy process that could take years to complete.

First, the individual had to be born to two Athenian citizen parents. Then, they had to complete military training and pay a fee to the government. Finally, they had to be approved by a vote of the Assembly.

The Importance of Citizenship

Citizenship was highly valued in Ancient Greece because it came with certain rights and privileges. Citizens could participate in government decision-making, hold public office, and even receive monetary compensation for their services. They were also exempt from certain taxes and were protected by the law.


In conclusion, citizenship in Ancient Greece was a complex and exclusive concept that only applied to adult male Athenians born to two citizen parents. Women, children, foreigners, and slaves were excluded from citizenship but could still play important roles in society. Citizenship came with certain rights and privileges that were highly valued at the time and served as a symbol of status and power.