A free city (Latin: civitas libera, urbs liberae condicionis; Greek: ἐλευθέρα καὶ αὐτόνομος πόλις) 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.
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. Thessalonica after the battle of Philippi, was made a free city in 42 BC, when it had sided with the victors. 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.
Autonomi 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. 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. 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).
- IG II² 3301 - ἡ πόλις Παλέων τῆς Κεφαληνίας ἐλευθέρα καὶ αὐτόνομος διὰ ἐπιμελητοῦ Pale city (of Paleans) (modern Paliki) on Kefalonia honours Trajan.
- 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
- The Greek city from Alexander to Justinian By Arnold Hugh Martin Jones. p. 129 (1940)
- The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians By George Gillanders Findlay Page 10 ISBN 1-4372-9209-7 (2008)
- Municipal Administration in the Roman Empire By Frank Frost Abbott Page 412 ISBN 1-4067-3900-6 (2007)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray. Missing or empty
- (Thuc. v. 18, 27 ; Xen. Hell. v. 1. § 31.)
- (Omnes suis legibus et judiciis usae autonomian adeptae, revixerunt. Cicero. Ad Atticum . vi. 2)
- Ezechiel Spanheim. Dissertationes de praestantia et usu numismatum . p. 789. Amst. 1671.)