Non-Citizen Commemoration in Classical Athens (5th – 4th Century BC)
During the classical period Athens was a democracy and while modern democracy conjured ideas of inclusivity, Athenian democracy was exclusive, with non-citizen out-groups excluded from political participation. These resident non-citizens were classified under two different legal statuses; metic, the free, tax-paying foreigners who had immigrated to Athens from the rest of Greece and beyond, or were the descendants of past immigrants; and slave, peoples brought largely from Asia Minor, Thrace (modern Bulgaria and Romania) and Scythia (modern Ukraine and Russia) to serve citizen and metic masters or the Athenian state at large. All other identities - ethnic, economic, gender, religious identities for example - were engulfed by the broader legal distinctions of metic and slave. As much of the history written about Athens is political, the agency and identities of metics and slaves have only recently attracted attention, with scholars seeking to ‘reinsert’ them into discourse on Athens.
This project seeks to explore the agency and identities of non-citizens resident at or involved with Athens through the iconographic evidence preserved on commemorative reliefs. Such commemoration incorporates public and private monuments, i.e. those erected at the behest of the state and those at the behest of families and individuals. This includes funerary commemoration, religious dedications, whereby individuals are commemorated indirectly in the act of giving to the gods, and civic commemorations in the form of decrees, whereby the Athenians honoured foreigners and foreign states with whom they had allied or who had done them some service. Of course the relationships resident and allied foreigners had with the Athenian state differed and, therefore, how we can use these differing forms of commemoration to understanding non-citizen agency and identity in classical Athens differs, but the project seeks to encapsulate as much of non-citizen commemoration as possible. Recognition of these differences, then, is vital, but the people and the differing nature of their presence in the commemorative landscape of Athens are not irreconcilable.
Working with the framework of ‘free spaces,’ the idea that the use of certain civic and private spaces in Athens and its broader territory Attica were not exclusively dictated by political and legal status, we can interpret commemoration in its context, in spaces where citizens, metics, slave and others came together. The project selects those examples of the above named commemorative types with surviving decoration and seeks to use iconography in particular as a tool with which to explore the non-citizen identities masked beneath the statuses of metic, slave and foreigner.