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Demetrius and Draco: Athens' property classes and population in and before 317 BC

  • Hans Van Wees (a1)


The nature of the census figures produced by Demetrius of Phaleron, crucial evidence for the size of the Athenian population, has been misunderstood. The census categories were not ‘native Athenians, foreign residents and slaves’, but ‘citizens above the property qualification, residents without political rights and members of households’. The property qualification of 1,000 drachmas associated with Demetrius' regime was the requirement for holding the highest offices; the property requirement for citizenship rights was lower, as it was in the spurious constitution of Draco described in Athenaion Politeia 4, which was probably invented and inserted during Demetrius' reign. In the light of this reinterpretation of the evidence for the structure of the Athenian population under Demetrius, a reconsideration of the evidence for the size of the Athenian population in 322 BC suggests that there were ca. 30,000 adult male citizens and far fewer metics than generally assumed, probably ca. 5,000. The distribution of property among the citizen population was very uneven, with the richest 30% of the population owning about 80% of the wealth. According to Demetrius’ census as reinterpreted here, slaves outnumbered free residents by ‘only’ about 3:1, which still seems an implausibly high figure, but needs to be taken seriously as a government estimate rather than a rhetorical exaggeration.



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* h.. This paper has been much improved by the incisive and helpful comments provided by Riet van Bremen and two anonymous referees for JHS. I am also grateful to Yoshie Sugino for checking some of the calculations. None of the above bear responsibility for any remaining flaws.


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