Ancient Greece was a fervent civilization and the Greek society was divided based on socialism or classes into four strata. Only, the superior class of the Greek society enjoyed some privileges and benefits. The lower class people including the slaves were denied even the basic human rights. In this article the hierarchy of the Greek society from the upper to the lower class has been described.
Athens – The Upper Class
The topmost and superior class in the Ancient Greek Social Hierarchy was this Upper Class. The people belonging to this class had the ultimate power and status in society. In order to enjoy the benefits and privileges granted to the people of the upper strata of the society, one had to be a citizen of Athens and it could only be acquired on the basis of heredity. The people of the upper class exhibited a good moral character, brilliant artistic sense, and were highly social.
The upper class people managed all the government and administrative work, the philosophical and literary work, as well as the military department. They bought slaves to have their household chores done. These slaves were tortured, flogged and ill treated by their masters.
They toiled day and night to win the favour of their masters. The people of the upper class stayed away from trade, which was considered to be an occupation of the lower classes. They also stayed away from other inferior tasks and solely engaged themselves in administrative work. They were considered to be the superior, dignified, privileged leisure class.
Metics – The Middle Class
The next strata of the ancient Greek society was the Middle Class. This class of people were not the original citizens of Athens but were foreigners who had come to Greece to settle down. The people of the Middle Class were free men and not bonded labourers like the slaves, but they were denied the privileges granted to the Upper Class. Their main occupation was commercial trade and business related activities.
Freedmen – The Lower Class
This class of the society comprised of the free men who were once slaves or bonded labourers. They now belonged to the lower class and enjoyed the basic human rights. They did not enjoy the privileges granted to the Upper Class people, but their plight was certainly better than the slaves. They were not granted the citizenship of Athens during their lifetime, no matter how much they earned.
The lowest rung of the society was occupied by the slaves. Their condition in the Greek society was the worst compared to all the other three classes of people. These slaves were either bought with money, rescued from war or were criminals. The majority of the slaves were non Greeks who were even denied the basic human rights. They were treated miserably by their masters and were expected to be at the beck and call of their masters. They were supposed to pay a huge ransom to buy their freedom from their masters.
This was the ancient Greek social hierarchy in a nutshell.