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PE´LATAE (πελάται) are defined by Pollux (3.82) and other authorities to be free labourers working for hire, like the θῆτες, in contradistinction to the Helots and Penestae, who were bondsmen or serfs, having lost their freedom by conquest or otherwise. Aristotle (ap. Phot. s. v. Πελάται) thus connects their name with πέλας: Πελάται, he says, from πέλας, οἷον ἔγγιστα διὰ πενίαν προσίοντες: i. e. persons who are obliged by poverty to attach themselves to others. Timaeus (Lex. Plat. s. v.) gives the same explanation. Πελάτης, ἀντὶ ἀντὶ τροφῶν ὑπηρετῶν καὶ προσπελάζων. Its origin is therefore something like that of ἱκέτης, but it has more completely the notion of dependence, for sustenance as well as for protection. This will explain how some later Greek writers came to use it to translate the Latin cliens, though the relations expressed by the two words are by no means similar (Dionys. 1.83; Plut. Rom. 13). The work of the πελάτης was probably as a rule, if not always, field labour: whether a groom who was μισθωτός, not a slave, as in Plat. Lys. p. 208 A, could rightly be called πελάτης, cannot be determined. In Plat. Euthyphr. p. 4, we find a πελάτης working in the fields along with the slaves, and the word θητεύειν is applied more than once in that dialogue as the proper term for his labour [cf. THETES]. Its proper sense of free labour was not, however, always preserved in later Greek. Plutarch (Plut. Ages. 100.6) also uses the word rather loosely for Helots, and we are told of a nation of Illyrians (the Ardiaei) who possessed 300,000 prospelatae, compared by Theopompus (ap. Ath. vi. p. 271d, e)with the Helots of Laconia. (Müller, Dor. 3.4.7; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterthumsk. vol. i. pp. 361, 811, 2nd ed.; Hermann, Griech. Staatsalterth. § 101, n. 9; Becker-Göll, Charikles, 3.46.)

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