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Slavery in the ancient world, from the earliest known recorded evidence in Sumer to the pre-medieval Antiquity Mediterranean cultures, comprised a mixture of debt-slavery, slavery as a punishment for crime, and the enslavement of prisoners of war.
Masters could free slaves, and in many cases such freedmen went on to rise to positions of power. This would include those children born into slavery but who were actually the children of the master of the house. The slave master would ensure that his children were not condemned to a life of slavery.
The institution of slavery condemned a majority of slaves to agricultural and industrial labor and they lived hard lives. In many of these cultures slaves formed a very large part of the economy, and in particular the Roman Empire and some of the Greek poleis built a large part of their wealth on slaves acquired through conquest.
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The Sumerian king Code of Ur-Nammu includes laws relating to slaves, written circa 2100 – 2050 BCE; it is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, dating to c. 1700 BCE, also makes distinctions between the freeborn, freed and slave.
Hittite texts from Anatolia include laws regulating the institution of slavery. Of particular interest is a law stipulating that reward for the capture of an escaped slave would be higher if the slave had already succeeded in crossing the Halys River and getting farther away from the center of Hittite civilization — from which it can be concluded that at least some of the slaves kept by the Hittites possessed a realistic chance of escaping and regaining their freedom, possibly by finding refuge with other kingdoms or ethnic groups.
In Ancient Egypt, slaves were mainly obtained through prisoners of war. Other ways people could become slaves was by inheriting the status from their parents. One could also become a slave on account of his inability to pay his debts. Slavery was the direct result of poverty. People also sold themselves into slavery because they were poor peasants and needed food and shelter. The lives of slaves were normally better than that of peasants. Slaves only attempted escape when their treatment was unusually harsh. For many, being a slave in Egypt made them better off than a freeman elsewhere.Young slaves could not be put to hard work, and had to be brought up by the mistress of the household. Not all slaves went to houses. Some also sold themselves to temples, or were assigned to temples by the king. Slave trading was not very popular until later in Ancient Egypt. Afterwards, slave trades sprang up all over Egypt. However, there was barely any worldwide trade. Rather, the individual dealers seem to have approached their customers personally. Only slaves with special traits were traded worldwide. Prices of slaves changed with time. Slaves with a special skill were more valuable than those without one. Slaves had plenty of jobs that they could be assigned to. Some had domestic jobs, like taking care of children, cooking, brewing, or cleaning. Some were gardeners or field hands in stables. They could be craftsmen or even get a higher status. For example, if they could write, they could become a manager of the master's estate. Captive slaves were mostly assigned to the temples or a king, and they had to do manual labor. The worst thing that could happen to a slave was being assigned to the quarries and mines. Private ownership of slaves, captured in war and given by the king to their captor, certainly occurred at the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty (1550–1295 BCE). Sales of slaves occurred in the Twenty-fifth Dynasty (732–656 BCE), and contracts of servitude survive from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (c. 672 – 525 BCE) and from the reign of Darius: apparently such a contract then required the consent of the slave.
The Bible contains several references to slavery, which was a common practice in antiquity. The Bible stipulates the treatment of slaves, especially in the Old Testament.Male Israelite slaves were to be offered release after six to seven years of service, with some conditions. Foreign slaves and their posterity became the perpetual property of the owner's family, except in the case of certain injuries. There are also references to slavery in the New Testament.
The Bible was cited as justification for slavery by defenders. [ citation needed ]Abolitionists have also used text from the New Testament and the Exodus story in the Old Testament to argue for the manumission of slaves.
The study of slavery in Ancient Greece remains a complex subject, in part because of the many different levels of servility, from traditional chattel slave through various forms of serfdom, such as Helots, Penestai, and several other classes of non-citizen.
Most philosophers of classical antiquity defended slavery as a natural and necessary institution.Aristotle believed that the practice of any manual or banausic job should disqualify the practitioner from citizenship. Quoting Euripides, Aristotle declared all non-Greeks slaves by birth, fit for nothing but obedience.
By the late 4th century BCE passages start to appear from other Greeks, especially in Athens, which opposed slavery and suggested that every person living in a city-state had the right to freedom subject to no one, except those laws decided using majoritarianism. Alcidamas, for example, said: "God has set everyone free. No one is made a slave by nature." Furthermore, a fragment of a poem of Philemon also shows that he opposed slavery.
Greece in pre-Roman times consisted of many independent city-states, each with its own laws. All of them permitted slavery, but the rules differed greatly from region to region. Greek slaves had some opportunities for emancipation, though all of these came at some cost to their masters. The law protected slaves, and though a slave's master had the right to beat him at will, a number of moral and cultural limitations existed on excessive use of force by masters.
In Ancient Athens, about 30% of the population were slaves. [ citation needed ] Athens also had a law forbidding the striking of slaves—if a person struck an apparent slave in Athens, that person might find himself hitting a fellow-citizen, because many citizens dressed no better. It startled other Greeks that Athenians tolerated back-chat from slaves (Old Oligarch, Constitution of the Athenians). Pausanias (writing nearly seven centuries after the event) states that Athenian slaves fought together with Athenian freemen in the Battle of Marathon, and the monuments memorialize them. Spartan serfs, Helots, could win freedom through bravery in battle. Plutarch mentions that during the Battle of Salamis Athenians did their best to save their "women, children and slaves".The system in Athens encouraged slaves to save up to purchase their freedom, and records survive of slaves operating businesses by themselves, making only a fixed tax-payment to their masters.
On the other hand, much of the wealth of Athens came from its silver mines at Laurion, where slaves, working in extremely poor conditions, produced the greatest part of the silver (although recent excavations seem to suggest the presence of free workers at Laurion).[ citation needed ] During the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, twenty thousand Athenian slaves, including both mine-workers and artisans, escaped to the Spartans when their army camped at Decelea in 413 BC.[ citation needed ]
Other than flight, resistance on the part of slaves occurred only rarely. GEM de Ste. Croix gives two reasons:
Athens had various categories of slave, such as:
In some areas of Greece there existed a class of unfree laborers tied to the land and called penestae in Thessaly and helots in Sparta. Penestae and helots did not rate as chattel slaves; one could not freely buy and sell them.
The comedies of Menander show how the Athenians preferred to view a house-slave: as an enterprising and unscrupulous rascal, who must use his wits to profit from his master, rescue him from his troubles, or gain him the girl of his dreams. These plots were adapted by the Roman playwrights Plautus and Terence, and in the modern era influenced the character Jeeves and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum .
Rome differed from Greek city-states in allowing freed slaves to become Roman citizens. After manumission, a slave who had belonged to a citizen enjoyed not only passive freedom from ownership, but active political freedom (libertas), including the right to vote, though he could not run for public office.During the Republic, Roman military expansion was a major source of slaves. Besides manual labor, slaves performed many domestic services, and might be employed at highly skilled jobs and professions. Teachers, accountants, and physicians were often slaves. Greek slaves in particular might be highly educated. Unskilled slaves, or those condemned to slavery as punishment, worked on farms, in mines, and at mills.
In remarkable contrast to the other major ancient cultures of the region, the Achaemenid Persians, during the time of Cyrus the Great, formally banned most slavery of non-combatants within the empire. Indeed, Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Persians, was built with paid labor.
Sparta was a prominent city-state in Laconia, in ancient Greece. In antiquity, the city-state was known as Lacedaemon, while the name Sparta referred to its main settlement on the banks of the Eurotas River in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. Around 650 BCE, it rose to become the dominant military land-power in ancient Greece.
This article concerns the period 469 BC – 460 BC.
Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. This era was immediately followed by the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine period. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the age of Classical Greece, from the Greco-Persian Wars to the 5th to 4th centuries BC. The conquests of Alexander the Great of Macedon spread Hellenistic civilization from the western Mediterranean to Central Asia. The Hellenistic period ended with the conquest of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, and the annexation of the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.
In ancient Greece, a metic was a foreign resident of Athens, one who did not have citizen rights in their Greek city-state (polis) of residence.
Manumission, or enfranchisement, is the act of freeing slaves by their owners. Different approaches to manumission were developed, each specific to the time and place of a particular society. Jamaican historian Verene Shepherd states that the most widely used term is gratuitous manumission, "the conferment of freedom on the enslaved by enslavers before the end of the slave system".
Laurium or Lavrio is a town in southeastern part of Attica, Greece. It is part of Athens metropolitan area and the seat of the municipality of Lavreotiki. Laurium was famous in Classical antiquity for its silver mines, which was one of the chief sources of revenue of the Athenian state. The metallic silver was mainly used for coinage. The Archaeological Museum of Lavrion shows much of the story of these mines.
The helots were a subjugated population that constituted a majority of the population of Laconia and Messenia – the territories comprising Sparta. There has been controversy since antiquity as to their exact characteristics, such as whether they constituted an ethnic group, a social class, or both. For example, Critias described helots as "slaves to the utmost", whereas according to Pollux, they occupied a status "between free men and slaves". Tied to the land, they primarily worked in agriculture as a majority and economically supported the Spartan citizens.
The ancient Greek word oikos refers to three related but distinct concepts: the family, the family's property, and the house. Its meaning shifts even within texts, which can lead to confusion.
A democracy is a political system, or a system of decision-making within an institution or organization or a country, in which all members have an equal share of power. Modern democracies are characterized by two capabilities that differentiate them fundamentally from earlier forms of government: the capacity to intervene in their own societies and the recognition of their sovereignty by an international legalistic framework of similarly sovereign states. Democratic government is commonly juxtaposed with oligarchic and monarchic systems, which are ruled by a minority and a sole monarch respectively.
The penestai or penestae were a class of unfree labourers in Thessaly, Ancient Greece. These labourers were tied to the land they inhabited, comparable in status with the Spartan helots.
Slavery in ancient Rome played an important role in society and the economy. Besides manual labour, slaves performed many domestic services and might be employed at highly skilled jobs and professions. Accountants and physicians were often slaves. Slaves of Greek origin in particular might be highly educated. Unskilled slaves, or those sentenced to slavery as punishment, worked on farms, in mines, and at mills.
The economy of ancient Greece was defined largely by the region's dependence on imported goods. As a result of the poor quality of Greece's soil, agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greece's paramount location, as its position in the Mediterranean gave its provinces control over some of Egypt's most crucial seaports and trade routes. Beginning in the 6th century BC, trade craftsmanship and commerce, principally maritime, became pivotal aspects of Greek economic output.
A house slave was a slave who worked, and often lived, in the house of the slave-owner, performing domestic labor. House slaves had many duties such as cooking, cleaning, being used as a sexual slave, serving meals, and caring for children.
A freedman or freedwoman is a formerly enslaved person who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, enslaved people were freed by manumission, emancipation, or self-purchase. A fugitive slave is a person who escaped slavery by fleeing.
The Bible contains many references to slavery, which was a common practice in antiquity. Biblical texts outline sources and legal status of slaves, economic roles of slavery, types of slavery, and debt slavery, which thoroughly explain the institution of slavery in Israel in antiquity. The Bible stipulates the treatment of slaves, especially in the Old Testament. There are also references to slavery in the New Testament.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ancient Greece:
History of citizenship describes the changing relation between an individual and the state, commonly known as citizenship. Citizenship is generally identified not as an aspect of Eastern civilization but of Western civilization. There is a general view that citizenship in ancient times was a simpler relation than modern forms of citizenship, although this view has been challenged.
The mines of Laurion are ancient mines located in southern Attica between Thoricus and Cape Sounion, approximately 50 kilometers south of the center Athens, in Greece. The mines are best known for producing silver, but they were also a source of copper and lead. A number of remnants of these mines are still present in the region.
Slavery was an accepted practice in ancient Greece, as in other societies of the time. Some Ancient Greek writers described slavery as natural and even necessary. This paradigm was notably questioned in Socratic dialogues; the Stoics produced the first recorded condemnation of slavery.
Athenian democracy developed around the 6th century BC in the Greek city-state of Athens, comprising the city of Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica. Although Athens is the most famous ancient Greek democratic city-state, it was not the only one, nor was it the first; multiple other city-states adopted similar democratic constitutions before Athens.