beginning in the tenth century, a member of certain categories of the dependent rural population of the Byzantine Empire. Originally the eleutheroi were legally free, landless settlers on a feudal estate. Having obtained parcels of land from the landowners and having gradually acquired other ownership rights, most of the eleutheroi merged in the 12th century with the paroikoi (peasants who were hereditary holders of land belonging to a feudal lord or were state peasants). Some of them in this period were servants of feudal lords, and others belonged to feudal lords’ armies. In the 13th to 15th centuries the eleutheroi were most often indigent workers on an estate, subjected to especially severe exploitation.
The term eleutheroi was also used in a broad sense in the Byzantine Empire to designate all free subjects of the emperor.