Greek and Roman Slavery


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About The Archaeology of Greek and Roman Slavery

When slavery eventually dies out in Western Europe, it seems to be for economic reasons, just as economic factors originally stimulated its growth. For the ancients, rights are entirely a matter of belonging to the group, being a citizen. Indeed, it seems that the times when Athenian and Roman civilisation were at their height were precisely the times when slavery was at its strongest and most crucial to the system.


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    After the battle, Crassus walked among the dead, which included women and children who. Slavery was the practice of taking a human being and making them do the work of another by force. This was practiced through out the ancient world and especially in Rome and Greece. Slaves were nothing more than just property to the ancient peoples.

    Greek and Roman Slavery - Thomas E. J. Wiedemann - Google книги

    They didn't have the rights of citizens nor were they able to do what they want in most cases. Slaves had many tasks that they had to do, many of which included taking care of the masters house and kids, cooking and cleaning that house, herding the cattle for the farming families, being guards for some prisons, fighting for entertainment of the masses, and more common was sexual activities with the slaves.

    The most common use of a slave was to have the around the house to do common tasks …show more content…. The owners could do with the slaves what they wished, be it sexual favors or they could beat them at will. Beating a slave though was not usually the best thing that an owner of slaves could do because they didn't want to damage their property. To get a slave to work hard wasn't that difficult most of the time, all the owner had to do was refrain from beating and instead be nice to them. In Rome some slaves were offered freedom if they met certain criteria of the owner. After earning their freedom they were given citizenship in the city.

    This gave the slaves a reason to work hard, something to look forward to. Although slaves worked mainly inside of the house there were owners who used them for other reasons also. Almost everyone in the ancient world had a slave or two, the only exception was with the poorest families. There was even slaves that owned their own slaves, usually only one of the opposite sex though so that they could have some semblance of a family. Pliny, a governor of a Roman province wrote to emperor Trajan asking if he should use the slaves as guards in a local prison or use soldiers or to mix them both in there.

    Pliny obviously trusted his slaves enough if he was willing. As for the Romans, the state of slavery was a legal matter. One became a slave, hence the property of another, as a result of circumstances that the law regulated. They acknowledged that it was against nature Digest, Florentinus, 1. The common denominator of these two views is the ownership aspect of it. As early as the fifth century BC, slaves are treated as property according to the Romans Twelve Tables.

    The Iliad The rights of ownership described by Ste. They are the following: 1 right to possess, 2 right to use, 3 right to manage, 4 right to income, 5 right to capital, 6 right to security, 7 transmissibility, 8 absence of term, 9 prohibition of harmful use, 10 liability to execution AH, p. These rights and responsibilities towards the slave seem to have been shared by Greeks and Romans alike. Becoming a slave in antiquity could happen in various ways. The most common way was during warfare.

    It was universally agreed upon, according to Xenophon Cyr. Both Greek and Romans acquired an important number of slaves through warfare. Though they generally made sure to have legitimate motives for waging war, it is very likely that the possibility of enslaving their enemies and seize their goods was a major incentive that prompted the launching of many military expeditions. Aristotle Pol. Though they could enslave their enemies, they were under no obligation to do so, especially when they were fighting their own.

    This reluctance to enslave their own as mentioned above, is shown in the historical record of classical Greece, in that there were few Greek slaves Garland, , cited in Braund,, p. Sparta, Crete and few other Greeks poleis might have dissented from this general rule, but even in the case of Sparta, they showed reluctance in enslaving the Athenians in Xenophon, Hellenica,2. This, however, could be just a pragmatic gesture of clemency, rather than being motivated by any moral scruples about enslaving other Greeks.

    They had much more to gain in the future by not enslaving the Athenians. Conversely, it was clear in classical Rome that the citizens could not ever legally become slaves. The Romans took status very seriously. As Harper , p. There were rare instances of penal servitude, but this was a prerogative that the state utilised to punish under some circumstances Gardener,, p. It was not a legal means by which the common citizen could legitimately acquire slaves.

    For the Romans, slaves were to be those who fraudulently sold themselves into slavery, those captured in war or purchased from a trader, and those who descended from a female slave Wiedemann, , p. It was fraudulent for a free person to sell himself as a slave, since the Roman law prohibited this. Some still managed to do it, with the deceitful intent to share in the profit of the transaction. They would, in all probability, get an accomplice to sell them, split the profit, and then later, claim their freedom.

    The buyer was powerless and had to let them go.

    If they were caught in the process, they were punished with permanent slavery. One could offer himself as a security to his creditor, until the debt was repaid Gardener, , p. If the debtor failed to repay his debt, he could be sold abroad Gardener, , p. This practice was condemned by the third century BC because of the abuse of the creditors.

    The exposure of infants is a well attested phenomenon in ancient Greece and Rome.

    ANCIENT GREEK AND ROMAN SLAVERY

    This practice seems to have been deemed a necessary evil since the methods of contraception and abortion were unreliable and dangerous. This habit might have helped supply both Greek and Roman societies with slaves. People would then get rid of the baby in the first ten days of life, before the baby had gone through the rituals of purification and formally been received into the family Grubbs,, p. The surviving infant, would then be taken by a family that would most likely use the child as a slave.

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    The inalterability of the freeborn status made it illegal in the Roman empire to use exposed infants as slaves. Their enslavement was invalid and if they could prove their status, they could be freed without having to repay any maintenance cost. The society greatly needed slaves and most individuals who had been exposed as infants probably did not know about it or were not able to prove it Harper, , p.

    The fact that the late Roman laws increasingly become more explicit about birth status and its inalienability, seems to indicate an attempt to address a social problem that was ongoing Harper,, p. Greeks and Romans could also acquire slaves from traders at market places. The number of slaves that they needed on a regular basis , according to Scheidel, , p. They needed to have enough labour at the right time to work in the mines or in the fields, and they sometimes also needed specialised labour. For this, Greeks traded with the barbarians from around the Black Sea area in periphery of the Greek world.

    Slaves were captured and then sold to small scale dealers who took care of distribution Braund, , p.

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