A free city (Latin: civitas libera, urbs liberae condicionis; Greek: ἐλευθέρα καὶ αὐτόνομος πόλις)[1] was a self-governed city during the Hellenistic and Roman Imperial eras. The status was given by the king or emperor, who nevertheless supervised the city's affairs through his epistates or curator (Greek: epimeletes) respectively. Several autonomous cities had also the right to issue civic coinage bearing the name of the city.


Examples of free cities include Amphipolis, which after 357 BC remained permanently a free and autonomous city inside the Macedonian kingdom;[2] and probably also Cassandreia and Philippi.

Under Seleucid rule, numerous cities enjoyed autonomy and issued coins; some of them, like Seleucia and Tarsus continued to be free cities, even after the Roman conquest by Pompey. Nicopolis was also constituted a free city by Augustus, its founder.[3] Thessalonica after the battle of Philippi, was made a free city in 42 BC, when it had sided with the victors.[4] Athens, a free city with its own laws, appealed to Hadrian to devise new laws which he modelled on those given by Draco and Solon.[5]

Autonomi[6] or rather Autonomoi was the name given by the Greeks to those states which were governed by their own laws, and were not subject to any foreign power.[7] This name was also given to those cities subject to the Romans, which were permitted to enjoy their own laws, and elect their own magistrates.[8] This permission was regarded as a great privilege, and mark of honour; and it is accordingly found recorded on coins and medals (e.g. Metropolis of the Antiochians autonomous).[9]


  1. ^ IG II² 3301 - ἡ πόλις Παλέων τῆς Κεφαληνίας ἐλευθέρα καὶ αὐτόνομος διὰ ἐπιμελητοῦ Pale city (of Paleans) (modern Paliki) on Kefalonia honours Trajan.
  2. ^ Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond, Guy Thompson Griffith, and Frank William Walbank. A History of Macedonia: Volume II: 550-336 B.C. Clarendon Press, 1979, Page 351, ISBN 0-19-814814-3
  3. ^ The Greek city from Alexander to Justinian By Arnold Hugh Martin Jones. p. 129 (1940)
  4. ^ The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians By George Gillanders Findlay Page 10 ISBN 1-4372-9209-7 (2008)
  5. ^ Municipal Administration in the Roman Empire By Frank Frost Abbott Page 412 ISBN 1-4067-3900-6 (2007)
  6. ^ Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray. ((cite encyclopedia)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ (Thuc. v. 18, 27 ; Xen. Hell. v. 1. § 31.)
  8. ^ (Omnes suis legibus et judiciis usae autonomian adeptae, revixerunt. Cicero. Ad Atticum . vi. 2)
  9. ^ Ezechiel Spanheim. Dissertationes de praestantia et usu numismatum . p. 789. Amst. 1671.)

See also