In describing the Athenians’ preparations for war, Demosthenes states: “We resolve that the fleet shall be manned by metics (metoikous) and khôris oikountes, then again by ourselves [i.e., citizens], then by substitutes” (Dem. 4.36-37). Debate on the meaning of the phrase khôris oikountes began at least as early as the second century CE, when
the lexicographer Harpocration identified the group as freedmen, since “freedmen lived by themselves, apart from their manumittors.” A Byzantine lexicographer concurred with Harpocration but added a secondary definition: “Or slaves living apart from their masters.” Since then, scholars have tended to adopt one or the other of these definitions, generally without any explanation for their choice. In this article, I make the case that khôris oikountes must refer to freed slaves, thereby broadening our understanding of the range of status groups recognized in classical Athens.


Descrivendo i preparativi bellici ateniesi, Demostene afferma: “Decidiamo che per gli equipaggi della flotta dobbiamo reclutare meteci (metoikous) e choris oikountes, poi decidiamo che noi stessi dobbiamo imbarcarci, poi di nuovo quelli precedentemente nominati” (Dem. 4. 36-37). Il dibattito sul significato della locuzione choris oikountes è iniziato almeno a partire dal II sec. d.C., quando il lessicografo Arpocrazione identificò il gruppo con i manomessi, in quanto “i manomessi vivevano per conto loro, separati dai loro manomissori”. Un lessicografo bizantino concorda con Arpocrazione ma aggiunge una seconda definizione: “Oppure schiavi che vivono separati dai loro padroni”. Da allora gli studiosi hanno adottato l’una o l’altra di queste definizioni, generalmente senza fornire spiegazioni della loro scelta. In questo articolo avanzo l’ipotesi che con choris oikountes ci si riferisca agli schiavi liberati, ampliando così i criteri di classificazione degli status personali riconosciuti nell’Atene classica.

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