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Non-hoplites as Citizens

Most men in the new city-states were too poor to qualify as hoplites. It is usually assumed that poor men most likely could contribute little to military defense because they lacked hoplite armor and metal weapons and Greek armies at this date made scant use of light-armed troops1 like skirmishers, slingers, and archers2. Nor had the Greeks developed navies yet, the military service for which poor men would provide the manpower in later times when a fleet was a city-state's most effective weapon. If being able to make a contribution to the city-state's defense as a hoplite3 was the only grounds for meriting the political rights of citizenship, the aristocrats along with the old and new hoplites had no obvious reason to grant poor men the right to vote on important matters. Yet poor men did become politically empowered citizens in many city-states, with some variations on whether a man had to own a certain amount of land to have full political rights or whether eligibility for higher public offices required a certain level of income. In general, however, all male citizens, regardless of their level of wealth, eventually were entitled to attend, speak in, and cast a vote in the communal assemblies4 in which policy decisions for the city-states were made. That poor men gradually came to participate in the assemblies of the city-states means they were citizens possessing the basic component of political equality5. The hoplite revolution fails as a complete explanation of the development of the city-state above all because it cannot account for the extension of this right to the poor. Furthermore, the emergence of large numbers of men wealthy enough to afford hoplite armor seems to belong to the middle of the seventh century B.C., well after the period when the city-state as an innovative form of political organization was first coming into existence.

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