Gyorgy Nemeth on Foreigners in Ancient Athens

The Hungarian scholar Gyorgy Nemeth [1] compiled the list of all foreigners living in Athens from [2] based on their place of origin. This includes metics, slaves and freedmen whose place of origin is known (from literature/tombstones/execution orders/military rosters/rolls/etc.). At present, there are 8209 such individuals, and we know the origin of 7367 of those.

In the sixth to fifth century BC, the top sources of foreigners were (top ones out of 337 known):

Ceos (Greek island) 15
Plataiai (Greek city) 14
Samos (Greek island) 11
Thrace (territory) 8
Miletos (Greek city) 7
Megara (Greek city) 7
Syrakousai (Greek city) 7
Thasos (Greek island) 7
Aigina (Greek island) 6
Torone (Greek city) 6
Caria (territory in SW. Asia Minor) 6

Therefore, most commonly, foreigners in Athens were from other Greek cities and as Nemeth records “Syracuse [Sicily] was the most distant point of origin” and their origin was confined to “the member states of the Delian League and the countries closest to Attica (Megara, Corinth, etc.)”

For the total sample of 7367, there is greater variety, including foreigners from the Hellenistic world at large. The top sources are:

Miletos (Greek city) 2012
Herakleia (Greek city) 618
Antiocheia (Hellenistic city, Syria) 558
Roma (Italian city) 146
Ankyra (Galatian city, Anatolia) 124
Salamis (Greek city) 113
Thrace (territory) 109
Alexandreia (Hellenistic city, Egypt) 105
Sinope (Greek city) 103
Laodikeia (Hellenistic city, Anatolia) 97
Thebae (Greek city) 93
Megara (Greek city) 87

It must be noted that again the great majority of foreigners are from Greek cities. The member states of the Delian League alone provide 52% of the total foreigners in Athens (3851 individuals). We must also note that Athens was a cosmopolitan center in the Hellenistic and Roman ages. It is quite certain that other cities which did not have a flourishing commerce and economy would attract an even more limited variety of foreigners.

[1] Nemeth, G. (2001) Metics in Athens, Acta Ant. Hung. 41, 2001, 331-348
[2] The Foreign Residents of Athens: An Annex to the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names: Attica, by Michael J. Osborne and Sean G. Byrne (British Academy)