Citizens To be considered a citizen in fifth-century Athens, you had to be male, born of two Athenian parents, over the age of eighteen, and have served in the military. Women, slaves, metics, and minors under the age of 20 were all denied citizenship. The state could revoke citizenship at any time; individuals could lose it through birth outside of Athens, conversion to another religion, or treason against Athens.
In order to become an Athenian citizen, one must fulfill some requirement of citizenship. In ancient times, this was achieved either by birth or by receiving the vote of admission to citizenship. In modern times, people can also gain citizenship by completing some form of government service (i.e., army, police force).
The loss of citizenship was a serious punishment since it meant banishment from Athens. A citizen who had his citizenship taken away could not appeal this decision to the courts system since there were no courts with jurisdiction over citizens.
There are several examples of people losing their citizenship in ancient history. One example is Cleisthenes, who led the people of Athens in creating their own democratic government but was not born into slavery so he couldn't pass on citizenship to his son. Another example is Socrates, who was accused of undermining the city's power structure and convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens, both of which were crimes punishable by death.
In Athens, not everyone was considered a citizen. Only free, adult males were granted citizenship rights and obligations. Citizens constituted just around 20% of Athens' population. In other words, 80% of people living in Athens were considered non-citizens.
The word "Athenian" was used to describe both citizens and non-citizen residents of Athens. Sometimes it also meant a person who lived outside of Athens but had some connection to the city, such as being born there or having relatives there. For example, an Athenian might be called an "Athenian-born citizen" or simply an "Athenian."
Citizenship in Athens was based on birth: you were born an Athenian if your parents were both citizens. If one of your parents wasn't a citizen, then you didn't get citizenship until you reached the age of 20 years old. Even if your parent was already a citizen when you were born they could still lose their citizenship if they were convicted of a crime.
There are no official numbers for how many citizens and non-citizens there were in Athens. But we do know that the total population of Athens probably ranged from 100,000 to 200,000 people. Of these, about 20% were citizens and the rest non-citizens.
Citizens may be active in the administration of Athens and be appointed to significant offices. They were also given the right to own land. The number of citizens at any one time is not known, but it probably did not exceed 5% of the population.
Athenians lived in or near the city for the most part, although some farmers settled in the surrounding territory. There were also soldiers stationed in outlying towns and villages who would march into the city whenever there was a war. These men would sleep on the streets with no shelter other than what they could find when they were not on duty. In time, these men became part of the urban community and they too had the right to vote in town meetings and take part in the government of Athens.
The people of Athens were very proud of their city and its history. It was here that the ancient civilization of Greece came to life after being dormant for many years following the Trojan War. Every year, students around the world learn about the great minds of Greek culture including Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Herodotus. Indeed, Athens was called the City-State of Genius because it was here that these ideas were born.
Citizens made up just around 20% of Athens' population. Women were not citizens, and hence could not vote or participate in the political process. Black slaves were not granted citizenship rights; instead, they were given some legal protections but also had few rights.
In addition to free people who were at least twenty-five years old, there were two other categories of citizens: those who paid a tax on income over 2,500 drachmas per year and those who served in an army regiment for three months in the year. This last category was known as the "heterarchy" and included older men who were unable to serve in the army or pay their taxes. There were also some foreigners who were allowed to live in Athens. They were called "metics" and were mainly from Italy and Sicily. However many others countries also sent immigrants to Athens.
The number of citizens in Athens' assembly was equal to that of the generals. Each district was supposed to have one representative, but sometimes more than one person from the same family would be elected to represent the area. Citizens could become members of the assembly any time before 30 June, but only those who had been born after the war against Sparta ended in 404 BC were eligible to sit in judgment cases.