PERIOECI (veploiKoi, those who dwell around, in the neighbourhood), in ancient Laconia the class intermediate between the Spartan citizens and the serfs or helots (q.v.). Ephorus says (Strabo viii. 364 seq.) that they were the original Achaean inhabitants of the country, that for the first generation after the Dorian invasion they shared in the franchise of the invaders, but that this was afterwards taken from them and they were reduced to a subject condition and forced to pay tribute. The term, however, came to denote not a nationality but a political status, and though the main body of the perioeci may have been Achaean in origin, yet they afterwards included Arcadians on the northern frontier of Laconia, Dorians, especially in Cythera and in Messenia, and lonians in Cynuria. They inhabited a large number of settlements, varying in size from important towns like Gythium to insignificant hamlets ( Isocrates xii. 179); the names of these, so far as they are known, have been collected by Clinton (Fasti hellenici, 2nd ed. i. 401 sqq.). They possessed personal freedom and some measure of communal independence, but were apparently under the immediate supervision of Spartan harmosts (governors) and subject to the general control of the ephors, though Isocrates is probably going too far in saying (xii. 181) that the ephors might put to death without trial as many of the perioeci as they pleased. Certain it is that they were excluded not merely from all Spartan offices of state, but even from the assembly, that they were absolutely subject to Spartan orders, and that, owing to the absence of any legal right of marriage (tTnyania) the gulf between the two classes was impassable. They were also obliged to pay the "royal tribute, "perhaps a rent for domain-land which they occupied, and to render military service. This last burden grew heavier as time went on; 500x3 Spartiates and 5000 perioec hoplites fought at Plataea in 479 B.C., but the steady decrease in the number of the Spartiates necessitated the increasing employment of the perioeci. Perioeci might serve as petty officers or even rise to divisional commands, especially in the fleet, but seemingly they were never set over Spartiates. Yet except at the beginning of the 4th century the perioeci were, so far as we can judge, fairly contented, and only two of their cities joined the insurgent helots in 464 B.C. (Thuc. i. 101). The reason of this was that, though the land which they cultivated was very unproductive, yet the prohibition which shut out every Spartiate from manufacture and commerce left the industry and trade of Laconia entirely in the hands of the perioeci. Unlike the Spartiates they might, and did, possess gold and silver and the iron and steel wares from the mines on Mt Taygetus, the shoes and woollen stuffs of Amyclae, and the import and export trade of Laconia and Messenia probably enabled some at least of them to live in an ease and comfort unknown to their Spartan lords.
See G. Grote, History of Greece, pt. ii., ch. 6 ; C. O. Miiller, Dorians (Eng. trans.), bk. iii., ch. 2; A. H. J. Greenidge, Greek Constitutional History, p. 78 sqq. ; G. Gilbert, Greek Constitutional Antiquities (Eng. trans.) p. 35 sqq. ; G. F. Schomann, Antiquities of Greece (Eng. trans.) p. 201 sqq. ; G. Busolt, Die griech. Staats- und Rechtsaltertilmer , 84; Griech. Geschichte, i. 528 seq. (2nd ed.) ; V. Thumser, Lehrbuch der griech. Staatsaltertumer (6th ed.), 19; B. Niese, Nachrichten von der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft zu Goltingen, Phil. -Hist. Klasse, (1906), 101 sqq. (M. N. T.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)