Immigration and Refugee Crises in Fourth-Century Greece: An Athenian Perspective

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The fourth-century B.C. was a period during which a large number of Greek cities were affected by civil wars, military conquests, and destruction, with the displacement of large numbers of men, women and children as a result. This has implications for the modern debate on Athenian attitudes to immigration, which normally focuses on just two groups of free non-citizens: adult, able-bodied men who moved to Athens voluntarily to take advantage of the city’s economic opportunities and (more recently) on the free non-citizen population who had come to Athens as slaves and who stayed on after their manumission. This article argues that refugees were likely to have constituted a considerable component of the migration to Athens during certain troubled periods in the course of the fourth century. This means that the size of Athens’s immigrant population was likely to have fluctuated considerably, that many of the refugees would have been destitute, that women and children (sometimes unaccompanied by adult male relatives) may have made up an even greater proportion of the non-citizen population than normally assumed, and, thus, that a considerable number of these immigrants would not have been able to contribute substantially to Athens’s grain trade or military. The implications of this for our assessment of the Athenian motives for admitting groups of refugees are discussed, and it is argued that the requirement that all male and all unaccompanied female immigrants had to find an Athenian sponsor and pay a special metic tax may have constituted a certain level of control over immigrant numbers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalThe European Legacy
Issue number1-2
Early online date26 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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