Citizenship in classical Athens


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Title Citizenship in classical Athens
Period 01 / 2004 - 01 / 2009
Status Completed
Research number OND1322042
Data Supplier Projectleider


Citizenship is a crucial concept in the history of ancient Greece and of classical Athens in particular. This project offers a fundamentally new approach to citizenship in classical Athens, attributing a formative role to religion within the political domain, leading to a clarification of female citizenship and a reassessment of the political role of resident immigrants (metics). As the alleged ancestor of modern democracies and as the origin of western political theory, classical Athens plays a key role in the historical and comparative understanding of political culture. "Citizenship" entails both the legal definition of a status (what criteria should someone fulfill in order to be a citizen? Which are a citizen's rights and duties?) and the ways in which this status is put into practice (what is a citizen required or allowed to do in order to carry out citizen status?). By applying a multifaceted, innovative approach, this project aims at an essentially different interpretation of classical citizenship from those that have been common for the past two centuries. Current estimations of the connections between citizenship and religion are fundamentally revised, and the relationship between male and female citizens is reassessed as being one of (partly) symmetry rather than opposition or exclusion. Although classical Athens is not representative of ancient Greece as a whole, it is the best documented case of classical policies, offering numerous prospects for wider conclusions. The project will found a new perception of the political and social structures of classical Athens and in a wider sense of ancient Greece, and will create a substantial contribution to comparative historical and modern debates on citizenship. The key objectives of the VICI-project are: a) to shape a conception of classical Athenian citizenship which does justice to the issues of citizenship vocabulary and conceptual context; b) to produce a coherent set of representative case-studies demonstrating the validity and applicability of this conception of citizenship; c) to create a comprehensive model of the social structure of the Athenian polis encouraging comparative analysis of citizenship. Athenian citizenship will be analyzed as a three-level structure, the connections between the levels showing varying degrees of stringency: 1) qualification of membership of the group "citizens"; this depended on descent, exceptions being not unfrequent but emphatically exceptions. Citizenship was confirmed and reinstated in religious activities. 2) activities required in order to put membership into practice. Athens created a vast number of religious activities in which only citizens participated, some in which only metics participated and some for both groups (some included slaves). The same pattern of exclusion, inclusion and mixed combinations applies to participation by men and women. In this way, social links developed between different groups and levels within society. 3) rights and duties following the status acquired by level 1) and 2), comprising of the right to fulfill certain functions. These included religious functions, notably priesthoods, for both men and women, and functions (many, but not all of them secular) in the military and political/administrative domain for men only. Some metics became involved in a number of these functions. The following themes will be covered by the project as a whole: 1. The rules of citizenship in the context of religion 2. Cults and social interaction 3. Legal and social consequences of citizenship 4. Synthesis: citizenship and the polis a new model. For a full description of the project, contact

Related organisations

Related people

Researcher Dr. S. Lambert
Project leader Prof.dr. J.H. Blok


D34100 Antiquity

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