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Thētes, hired labourers, the lowest class of free men in a Greek state. At Athens, after Solon, the lowest of the four property classes, said (perhaps by false analogy with pentakosiomedimnoi) to comprise men who did not own land yielding as much as 200 medimnoi of corn or the equivalent in other produce. (The others classes were zeugitai, hippeis). Solon admitted them to the assembly (ekklēsia) and ēliaia (indeed, probably they had never been formally excluded from the assembly), but not to magistracies (see magistracy, greek) or, presumably, the council (boulē) (Arist. Ath. pol. 7. 3–8. 1). This limitation was never formally abolished, but by the second half of the 4th cent. it was being ignored in practice. Because they could not afford the armour, thētes did not fight as hoplites, but when Athens became mainly a naval power they acquired an important role as oarsmen in the fleet; they may also have served in such bodies as the archers. Whether they were included among the ephēboi (‘cadets’) as reorganized in the 330s is disputed.

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