When you are born, you become a citizen of your country. Today, this may seem natural, but it hasn’t always been this way. The idea of citizenship has been traced back to Ancient Greece.
Around 2,800 years ago, Greek farmers banded together and created the first city-states. Members of these cities were the world’s first citizens. Their invention made the modern world possible.
Farmers in ancient Greece owned land that needed protection. There were roaming bandits who wanted to rob them and tyrannical kings who tried to rule them. To protect themselves, the farmers joined together and formed the polis, the city-state. Polis is the Greek word that gave us English words such as “police” and “politics.”
With less worry about robbers and tyrants, people could instead focus on trading. The Greek city-states became rich.
Changes in Citizenship
What did citizenship mean in ancient Athens? It was not the same as the modern version.
Most people living in the Greek city-states were not citizens. Only adult men were citizens with the right to vote. Women and children were excluded, and so were slaves and foreigners. Generally, only people born in their city-state could be citizens. Other groups did not have the same rights.
Citizenship no longer depends on where you are born. People who decide to move overseas can apply to gain citizenship in their new home. They can change their citizenship or even become a citizen of more than one country at a time.
Legal immigrants in the U.S. are allowed to own property and do business, but not to vote. They also have to pay taxes.
Have you given thought to what makes a good citizen? What rights should they be granted? How does citizenship affect the culture of a nation? If you were to create your own country, what citizenship rules would you have?