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In ancient Greece, the term metic (Greek métoikos: from metá, indicating change, and oîkos "dwelling")[1] referred to a resident alien, one who did not have citizen rights in his or her Greek city-state (polis) of residence.

If it had been borrowed early, Greek métoikos would become Latin metoecus and English metecous or the like. But because it was borrowed when Greek oi was pronounced as y (see Koine Greek phonology), it was transliterated into Latin as metycus. English metic replaces y with i, perhaps by analogy with the -ic suffix.


Metics in Classical Athens

The bulk of this article pertains to Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries BC during the Athenian democracy, which encouraged foreigners to settle in Athens, on account of the part which they took in trade, industry, education, and of which period we have primary sources about the specific legal status of a Metic, as reported by the Attic orators . However, the history of foreign migration to Athens begins earlier with Solon, who is said to have offered Athenian citizenship[2][3] to foreigners, who would relocate to his city to practice a craft; indeed, in the period of Solon, Attic pottery flourished. In other Greek cities (poleis), foreign residents were few, with the exception of cosmopolitan Corinth, of which however we do not know their legal status. In Sparta and Crete, as a general rule with few exceptions, foreigners were not allowed to stay (Xenelasia). There are also reported immigrants to the court of tyrants and kings in Thessaly, Syracuse and Macedon,whose status is decided by the ruler. So for a number of reasons the legal term metic should be associated with Classical Athens. At Athens, the largest city in the Greek world at the time, they amounted to roughly half the free population. The status applied to two main groups of people—immigrants and former slaves. As slaves were almost always of foreign origin they can be thought of as involuntary immigrants, drawn almost exclusively from non-Greek speaking areas, while free metics were usually of Greek origin. Mostly they came from mainland Greece rather than the remote parts of the Greek world.

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