Ancient Greece (slavery)
Overview, philosophers examples, and life of slaves
The Perfect Machine:
To live this life your best life, a purpose you need
For at home a perfect machine, plowing seed
You can call it by name, you can call it family.
At the end of the day, it knows the game.
Its burdened life your desire, your wants feel free
What if I told you though this machine has a voice?
What if I told you.
It sleeps, it loves, it laughs,
it fears… the voice, its voice
to have a voice!
History of Trialed trails of shaking hands grown old and frail.
Yet, You can sell it; you can buy it, hate it, feed it, make greed from it
But in the end, they need it.
To live this your best life, it’s this, a slave you need
At home a perfect machine, plowing seed
The collar heavy, burden great, its shoulders weighed
It ends like all end, of earth and stone decayed
A Brief History Of Ancient Greece
Greek history can be said to have started around 1600 BC, when the Indo-Europeans invaded the Greek mainland. The so-called Indo-Europeans were the group of people sharing the same language but not necessarily of the same ethnic race, who lived in the region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. They started migrating beginning around 4000 BC. Some migrated toward Europe and some toward Iran and India. A branch of the migrants moved into Greece around 1600 BC. People had lived in Greece for a long time before that event and an advanced Minoan culture had flourished in the Aegean islands, centering in Crete. These indigenous people are believed to have been of a different race from the Indo-Europeans, both culturally and linguistically. The palace of Knossos in the northern part of Crete, excavated by Arthur Evans in 1899, was the center of the Minoan civilization.
The title Kamaeu, occurs in the Pylos and Knossos tablets. It refers probably to specific persons and not to titles. The persons that bore this title belonged to the lower social classes and included a "slave of the god" and a baker. The words doero and doera of the palace texts mean the slaves or the slaves who worked in the service of different individuals or the palace.
Ancient Greek Class system
Conversely, there are no records of a large-scale Greek slave revolt comparable to that of Spartacus in Rome. It can probably be explained by the relative dispersion of Greek slaves, which would have prevented any large-scale planning. Slave revolts were rare, even in Rome. Individual acts of rebellion of slaves against their master, though scarce, are not unheard of; a judicial speech mentions the attempted murder of his master by a boy slave, not 12 years old.
Unlike Christian ethics, labor itself was not regarded as a virtue in classical
Greece. There were two reasons for this. First, it was believed that citizens should
have as much free time as possible so that they could devote their time to participa-
tion in government. (Note that a Greek word for labor is ascholia, a negation of
scholè, leisure.) Second, it was believed that it was not good for a free man to work
Greek society included a significantly larger proportion of labourers than slaves. These were semi-free workers, wholly dependent on their employer. The most famous example is the helot class of Sparta. These dependents were not the property of a particular citizen - they could not be sold as a slave could - and they often lived with their families. Generally, they formed arrangements with their employer such as giving a quantity of their produce to the farm owner and keeping the rest for themselves. Sometimes the quota required may have been high or low, and there may also have been some extra benefits to the serfs such as protection and safety in numbers. However, the serf-class or helots could never achieve any real security as they were given little or no legal status and harshly treated, even killed in regular purges (especially in Sparta), in order to instil a fear which would ensure continued subordination to the ruling class. In certain periods such as war, helots were required to serve in the armed forces and, fighting well, they could even earn an escape from their lot and join the intermediary social groups which existed below the level of full-citizen and included such individuals as children with parents of mixed status (e.g.: father-citizen, mother-helot).
In Greek society, slaves were seen as a necessary and perfectly normal part of city-life. Acquired through war and conquest, kidnap and purchase, slaves were simply amongst life’s losers. There were even intellectual arguments from philosophers like Aristotle, which propounded the belief that slaves were demonstrably inferior, a product of their environment and inherited characteristics. Greeks persuaded themselves that it was they who had the best environment and characteristics and the purest bloodline and were, therefore, born to rule.
It is impossible to say with accuracy how many slaves (douloi) there were in Greek society and what proportion of the population they made up. It is unlikely, due to the costs, that every single citizen had their own slave but some citizens undoubtedly owned many slaves. Accordingly, estimates of the slave population in the Greek world range from between 15 and 40% of the total population. However, a defence speech made in a court case in Athens by Lysias, and hints from others such as Demosthenes, strongly suggest that if every citizen did not have slaves then they certainly desired them and to be a slave owner was considered a measure of social status. Slaves were not only owned by private individuals but also by the state, which used them in municipal projects such as mining or, as in the case of Athens, the police force.
The relationship between slaves and owners seems to have been much as in any other period of history with a mix of contempt, distrust, and abuse from the owners and contempt, theft, and sabotage from the enslaved. Source material is always from the viewpoint of the slave owner but there are references in literature, particularly in Greek comedy, of friendship and loyalty in at least some owner-slave relationships. Whilst the flogging of slaves is commonly referred to in Greek plays, there were also treatises written extolling the benefits of kindness and incentives in slave management.
Slaves worked in all spheres and over 200 hundred occupations have been identified. These include working in the home, in agriculture, industry workshops (e.g.: making shields, food, clothes and perfumes), mines, transport, retail, banking, entertainment, in the armed forces as attendants to their owner or as baggage carriers, as rowers in naval vessels or even as fighters. Farms were generally small affairs with even the richest citizens tending to own several small farms rather than one large estate, therefore, slaves were not concentrated into large groups as in later ancient societies.
Aristotle Plato and socrates
Views on Slavery
Aristotle describes a natural slave in his book Politics as "anyone who, while being human, is by nature not his own but of someone else…" Aristotle also states "he is of someone else when, while being human, he is a piece of property; and a piece of property is a tool for action separate from its owner." Based on this quote, Aristotle defines natural slavery in two phases. The first part is the natural slave's existence and characteristics. The second part is the natural slaves in society and how they interact with his or her master. According to Aristotle, natural slaves' main features include being pieces of property, tools for actions, and belonging to others.
Aristotle's work has come under controversy and criticism in recent years, with many scholars agreeing that "…the formulation of Aristotle's account of slavery is riddled with inconsistency and incoherence." Other scholars have argued that the state of natural slavery is ultimately alterable, since Aristotle's conception of nature is as well.
In book I of the Politics, Aristotle addresses the questions of whether slavery can be natural or whether all slavery is contrary to nature and whether it is better for some people to be slaves. He concludes that
those who are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from beast—and they are in this state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them—are slaves by nature. For them it is better to be ruled in accordance with this sort of rule, if such is the case for the other things mentioned.
It is not advantageous for one to be held in slavery who is not a natural slave, Aristotle contends, claiming that such a condition is sustained solely by force and results in enmity.
Aristotle often refers to slaves as tame animals. In this way slaves are so much more beast-like than man-like that it is natures design that slaves would actually be distinguishibale physically from masters, a design that, unfortunaely nature fails to satisfy the fact.
During the 16th century, as the Americas began to be colonized, the debate over enslavement of the native peoples grew. John Mair (Johannes Maior) was the first European recorded to cite Aristotle's theory of Natural Slavery, in 1510. Mair stated "As the Philosopher [Aristotle] says in the third and fourth chapters of the first book of the Politics it is clear that some men are by nature slaves, others by nature free... And this has now been demonstrated by experience, wherefore the first person to conquer the Indians, justly rules over them because they are natural slaves." The idea of their being "natural slaves" came from Aristotle's writings, and were used to justify their enslavement.
A quick but interesting not on bicameralism and the
Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Bicameral mentality would be non-conscious in its inability to reason and articulate about mental contents through meta-reflection, reacting without explicitly realizing and without the meta-reflective ability to give an account of why one did so. The bicameral mind would thus lack metaconsciousness, autobiographical memory, and the capacity for executive "ego functions" such as deliberate mind-wandering and conscious introspection of mental content. When bicamerality as a method of social control was no longer adaptive in complex civilizations, this mental model was replaced by the conscious mode of thought which, Jaynes argued, is grounded in the acquisition of metaphorical language learned by exposure to narrative practice.
According to Jaynes, ancient people in the bicameral state of mind would have experienced the world in a manner that has some similarities to that of a person with schizophrenia. Rather than making conscious evaluations in novel or unexpected situations, the person would hallucinate a voice or "god" giving admonitory advice or commands and obey without question: One would not be at all conscious of one's own thought processes per se. Jaynes's hypothesis is offered as a possible explanation of "command hallucinations" that often direct the behavior of those afflicted by first rank symptoms of schizophrenia, as well as other voice hearers.
Plato wishes to abolish freedom, and hence in our terminology make everybody slaves. He tries to cover this by claiming that rulers are enslaved (by responsibility and fear of those who rules over) and in pure NewSpeak claim that freedom leads to slavery. (ref: The Republic)
In Platos later 'Laws', he describes another city which he thinks is more realistic, and it does have a separate slave cast. Ref
Platos view of slavery was therefore quite clearly very positive. But he knew that the word was negative, and therefore tried both to associate things he did not like, primarily freedom, with the word slavery, and also tried to excuse tyrannic rulers by claiming they actually were slaves to the people. But people that we today would call slaves, are people he wanted many of in his ideal states.
...nature herself intimates that it is just for the better to have more than the worse, the more powerful than the weaker; and in many ways she shows, among men as well as among animals, and indeed among whole cities and races, that justice consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior
"Now suppose a man who has been elected general enslaves an unjust and hostile city, shall we say that he acts unjustly?"
"We shall say that his actions are just, shall we not?"
Although Euthydemus is the one that says that it just for a general to enslave an unjust and hostile city, Socrates asks the question as if the answer were obvious that that was just. A fortiori, at Memorabilia 2.2.2, Socrates says that "enslavement is considered a just or an unjust act according as the victims are friends or enemies". Furthermore, at Plato's Euthydemus 282A-282B, Socrates argues that there is no reprobation in being a slave if the enslavement leads to wisdom.
So, according to the best sources that we have, Socrates believed that slavery was sometimes just.
According to Xenophon, Socrates believed that there were better and worse forms of slavery. For example, at Memorabilia 1.5.6, Socrates says:
For he kept in subjection not only the pleasures of the body, but those too that money brings, in the belief that he who takes money from any casual giver puts himself under a master and endures the basest form of slavery.
This passage also shows that Socrates believed that one can become a slave by borrowing money from a certain type of person. It also suggests that he believed that the incontinent were slaves.
He also suggested that "slave" is the name given to those who are ignorant of the beautiful and good and just.
Such, then, was his criticism of those who meddle with these matters. His own conversation was ever of human things. The problems he discussed were, What is godly, what is ungodly; what is beautiful, what is ugly; what is just, what is unjust; what is prudence, what is madness; what is courage, what is cowardice; what is a state, what is a statesman; what is government, and what is a governor;—these and others like them, of which the knowledge made a “gentleman,” in his estimation, while ignorance should involve the reproach of “slavishness."
So, to sum up, Socrates believed that slavery was just in some cases, that some forms of slavery were worse than others, that the incontinent endured the worst form of slavery, and that those who were ignorant of knowledge required of a gentleman (ie, a kalo kagathos, or a noble and good man) were slaves. Those were some of his views on slavery (according to Xenophon or Plato).
By the rules of war of the period, the victor possessed absolute rights over the vanquished, whether they were soldiers or not. Enslavement, while not systematic, was common practice. Thucydides recalls that 7,000 inhabitants of Hyccara in Sicily were taken prisoner by Nicias and sold for 120 talents in the neighbouring village of Catania. Likewise in 348 BC the population of Olynthus was reduced to slavery, as was that of Thebes in 335 BC by Alexander the Great and that of Mantineia by the Achaean League.
The existence of Greek slaves was a constant source of discomfort for free Greeks. The enslavement of cities was also a controversial practice.
Some generals refused, such as the Spartans Agesilaus II and Callicratidas. Some cities passed accords to forbid the practice: in the middle of the 3rd century BC, Miletusagreed not to reduce any free Knossian to slavery, and vice versa. Conversely, the emancipation by ransom of a city that had been entirely reduced to slavery carried great prestige: Cassander, in 316 BC, restored Thebes. Before him, Philip II of Macedon enslaved and then emancipated Stageira.
Piracy and banditry
Piracy and banditry provided a significant and consistent supply of slaves, though the significance of this source varied according to era and region. Pirates and brigands would demand ransom whenever the status of their catch warranted it. Whenever ransom was not paid or not warranted, captives would be sold to a trafficker. In certain areas, piracy was practically a national specialty, described by Thucydides as "the old-fashioned" way of life. Such was the case in Acarnania, Crete, and Aetolia. Outside of Greece, this was also the case with Illyrians, Phoenicians, and Etruscans. During the Hellenistic period, Cilicians and the mountain peoples from the coasts of Anatolia could also be added to the list. Strabo explains the popularity of the practice among the Cilicians by its profitability; Delos, not far away, allowed for "moving myriad slaves daily". The growing influence of the Roman Republic, a large consumer of slaves, led to development of the market and an aggravation of piracy. In the 1st century BC, however, the Romans largely eradicated piracy to protect the Mediterranean trade routes.
Debt Slaves (Until about 600 BC)
There was slave trade between kingdoms and states of the wider region. The fragmentary list of slaves confiscated from the property of the mutilators of the Hermai mentions 32 slaves whose origins have been ascertained: 13 came from Thrace, 7 from Caria, and the others came
from Cappadocia, Scythia, Phrygia, Lydia, Syria, Ilyria, Macedon and Peloponnese. Local professionals sold their own people to Greek slave merchants. The principal centres of the slave trade appear to have been Ephesus, Byzantium, and even faraway Tanais at the mouth of the Don. Some "barbarian" slaves were victims of war or localised piracy, but others were sold by their parents. There is a lack of direct evidence of slave traffic, but corroborating evidence exists. Firstly, certain nationalities are consistently and significantly represented in the slave population, such as the corps of Scythian archers employed by Athens as a police force—originally 300, but eventually nearly a thousand. Secondly, the names given to slaves in the comedies often had a geographical link; thus Thratta, used by Aristophanes in The Wasps, The Acharnians, and Peace, simply signified Thracian woman. Finally, the nationality of a slave was a significant criterion for major purchasers; the ancient advice was not to concentrate too many slaves of the same origin in the same place, in order to limit the risk of revolt. It is also probable that, as with the Romans, certain nationalities were considered more productive as slaves than others.
The price of slaves varied in accordance with their ability. Xenophon valued a Laurion miner at 180 drachmas; while a workman at major works was paid one drachma per day. Demosthenes' father's cutlers were valued at 500 to 600 drachmas each. Price was also a function of the quantity of slaves available; in the 4th century BC they were abundant and it was thus a buyer's market. A tax on sale revenues was levied by the market cities. For instance, a large helot market was organized during the festivities at the temple of Apollo at Actium. The Acarnanian League, which was in charge of the logistics, received half of the tax proceeds, the other half going to the city of Anactorion, of which Actium was a part. Buyers enjoyed a guarantee against latent defects; the transaction could be invalidated if the bought slave turned out to be crippled and the buyer had not been warned about it.
Isocrates claimed that "not even the most worthless slave can be put to death without trial"; the master's power over his slave was not absolute. Draco's law apparently punished with death the murder of a slave; the underlying principle was: "was the crime such that, if it became more widespread, it would do serious harm to society?" The suit that could be brought against a slave's killer was not a suit for damages, as would be the case for the killing of cattle, but a δίκη φονική (dikē phonikē), demanding punishment for the religious pollution brought by the shedding of blood. In the 4th century BC, the suspect was judged by the Palladion, a court which had jurisdiction over unintentional homicide; the imposed penalty seems to have been more than a fine but less than death—maybe exile, as was the case in the murder of a Metic.
Slaves working in a mine of Laurium
However, slaves did belong to their master's household. A newly-bought slave was welcomed with nuts and fruits, just like a newly-wed wife. Slaves took part in most of the civic and family cults; they were expressly invited to join the banquet of the Choes, second day of the Anthesteria, and were allowed initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries. A slave could claim asylum in a temple or at an altar, just like a free man. The slaves shared the gods of their masters and could keep their own religious customs if any.
Slaves could not own property, but their masters often let them save up to purchase their freedom, and records survive of slaves operating businesses by themselves, making only a fixed tax-payment to their masters. Athens also had a law forbidding the striking of slaves: if a person struck what appeared to be a slave in Athens, that person might find himself hitting a fellow-citizen, because many citizens dressed no better. It astonished other Greeks that Athenians tolerated back-chat from slaves. Athenian slaves fought together with Athenian freemen at the battle of Marathon, and the monuments memorialize them. It was formally decreed before the battle of Salamis that the citizens should "save themselves, their women, children, and slaves".
Slaves had special sexual restrictions and obligations. For example, a slave could not engage free boys in pederastic relationships ("A slave shall not be the lover of a free boy nor follow after him, or else he shall receive fifty blows of the public lash."),
Women as slaves
Because female slaves were literally owned by their employers, how well slaves were treated depended upon their status in the household and the temperament of their owners. As a result of her vulnerable position within the household, a female slave was often subjected to sexual exploitation and physical abuse. Any children born of master-servant liaisons were disposed of because female slaves were prohibited from rearing children.
As Xenophon's Oceonomicus reveals, slaves were even prohibited from marrying, as marriage was deemed the social privilege of the elite citizens of Athens.
In addition to their official chores in the household, slave girls also performed unofficial services. For example, there is evidence that close relationships developed between female slaves and their mistresses. Given the relative seclusion of upper-class women in the private realm of their homes, many sought out confidantes in their slave girls.
For example, Euripedes' tragic character of Medea confided her deepest feelings with her nurse, who both advised and comforted her in her troubled times. Furthermore, slaves always accompanied their mistresses on excursions outside of the home.
Tombstones of upstanding Athenian women often depict scenes of familiarity between the deceased and her slave companion. It is likely that a sense of their common exclusion from the masculine world of public affairs would have drawn women together, regardless of class. The only public area in which women were allowed to participate was religion.
Many became concubines (formally or otherwise) of the men who put up the money from their freedom, implicitly or explicitly owing them services in exchange for their “purchase.” This situation is akin in some respects to the requirement of paramonê found in many of the Delphic inscriptions discussed above, with the main difference being that in sacral fictive sale, services are generally owed to the former master (the “seller”), whereas in secular fictive sale they are owed (formally or otherwise)to the “purchaser.”84 In both cases, the freed slave, despite her newfound legal status, remained in many respects servile.
85 Thisexploration also sheds light on the relationship between gender (and sex) on the one hand, and manumission on the other. In nearly all slave-holding societies, including ancient Greece, female slaves are freed more often than male slaves. 86 Scholars have speculated that the primary reason for this gender imbalance is that female slaves often engage in sexual relationships with free men, whether their own masters or other individuals. 87 These intimate relationships make men more eager to help their slave-consorts become free, whether out of 84 Hopkins (1978) 169 points out that in eleven of the Delphic inscriptions, freed slaves are required to perform paramonê service for someone who is not their former master; presumably in these cases it is the person who put up the money for their freedom.
), unlike in many other slave societies, slave boys were also involved in sexual relationships with free men (see e.g. discussion of Hyp. 3 above), but this less often led to manumission. One reason may be the (obvious) fact that slave women could become pregnant, furnishing them with more compelling grounds for manumission by their masters.
generosity rooted in affection, or, perhaps more often, because they want to keep these women in their households as concubines. If this explanation is valid, then of all female slaves in Greece, prostitutes (especially hetairai) should have been among the most likely to be manumitted, given that they cultivated sexual relationships with the greatest number of men, not to mention men willing to spend money on them.
State-owned slaves Helots.
The ancient Greek city state of Sparta had a social hierarchy that was different from many of its neighbors. The top of the social pyramid was occupied by the two kings, whose powers were checked by a ‘council of elders’. These elders were chosen from the next class, the Spartiates. Below this aristocratic class was a middle class which was called the Perioeci. The lowest class, which was also the largest, in Spartan society was held a group known as the Helots.
According to the Greek geographer Pausanias, the Helots hailed from a city called Helos. This city is said to have been conquered by the Spartans, and its inhabitants became their first slaves. Subsequent peoples enslaved by the Spartans were also called Helots. The Greek historian, Thucydides, however, gives a different account of the origins of the Helots. According to this writer, the Helots were the descendants of the Messenians who were enslaved by the Spartans during the First Messenian War in the 8 th century BC. Another account of the origins of the Helots can be found in Strabo’s Geography. According to this writer, the peoples who were subjected to Spartan rule were initially accorded equal rights. During the reign of Agis I, however, these rights were revoked, and the subjects forced to pay a tribute. All complied, except the people of Helus, who revolted. They were crushed in a war, and reduced to slavery.
Whilst they are considered as slaves, it has been pointed out that they were somewhat different from other slaves in the neighbouring Greek city states. It is claimed that in Athens, for instance, slaves did not have families and communities of their own. The Helots, by contrast, had their own families and communities. Additionally, the Helots were not privately owned, but belonged to the state. According to Strabo, “the Lacedaemonians held the Helots as state-slave in a way, having assigned to them certain settlements to live in and special services to perform.”
As the male citizens of Sparta devoted their lives to athletic and military training, war, politics, and hunting, they could not afford to spend time on agricultural activities. The task of producing food was left to the Helots. Although the Helots were, generally speaking, peasants, they may be employed for other jobs, such as servants or grooms, as well. Additionally, the Helots could be conscripted into military duties at times of war. For instance, the Greek historian Herodotus records that each of the 5000 Spartiate at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC was protected by seven light-armed Helots. Thus, there was a total of 35,000 Helots at that battle.
Although the Helots were crucial for the functioning of Spartan society, the other classes had an uneasy relationship with them. Given that the Helots greatly outnumbered their Spartan masters, the possibility of them revolting against their repressive rulers was ever present. The first major Helot revolt took place around 665 BC, and is known as the Second Messenian War (The First Messenian War had ended around 40 years prior to this conflict). The Helots seized on the occasion of Sparta’s defeat by Argos at the Battle of Hysiae to launch a revolt. It took the Spartans nearly 20 years to put down the rebellion.
Given the precarious state of things, the Spartans took precautions to prevent the Helots from revolting. During the Persian Wars, for instance, the Spartans were not too eager to send their hoplites abroad to fight for the freedom of Greece. This was due to the fear that the Helots would revolt when the Spartan army was fighting away from home. Despite these and other precautions, several revolts by the Helots took place over the centuries. When an earthquake struck the Eurotas Valley in 464 BC, the Helots seized this opportunity to revolt. This was the largest revolt recorded. The Helots fortified Mount Ithome, which was besieged by Sparta. The siege only ended five years later when both sides agreed to a truce. The surviving Helots were taken by Athens and settled on Naupactus on the Corinthian Gulf.
Spartan treatment of Helots improved overtime, perhaps as a means of appeasing them. For instance, Helots could hope to be emancipated, and it is known that groups of Helots were sometimes liberated. Nevertheless, the system collapsed in the 4 th century BC. In 371 BC, the Spartans suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Leuctra. The victorious Thebans then invaded the Peloponnese, and the Helots of Messenia were liberated. The last Helots (the Helots of Laconia) were emancipated at the end of the 3 rd century BC by the reformer kings Cleomenes III and Nabis.
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