Slavery In Ancient Greece

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Slavery enters human history with civilization. Primitive farmers and hunter-gathers had no use for slaves as they collected and grew food for only themselves. The extra person would only mean another person that would need to be fed. As civilization developed and people moved to towns and cities, it allowed a surplus of food from large estates in the countryside. Citizens in the town developed a wide range of crafts as not everyone needed to be a farmer. The large farms and workshops realized the benefit of cheap labor to assist with the work that they did. This was the condition needed for slavery to take effect. War was the main source of the supply of slaves, and in early civilizations, wars were frequent and brutal. If a small town was…show more content…
Information about slaves in early societies relates mainly to their legal status, which boils down to that of an object, part of the owner 's valuable property. Early 18th century BC provided us with the Code of Hammurabi from Babylon. It gives of grave details about the different rewards and penalties for surgeons operating on free men of slaves. It also reveals that the system is not one of unmitigated brutality. Surprisingly, Babylonian slaves are themselves allowed to own property. Ancient Greece is the first civilization in which we know a great deal about the role of slaves. Sparta and Athens, the leading states of Greece, required the forced labor in order to survive. Sparta’s system was described more as serfdom than slavery as the helots of Sparta are a conquered people, and they lived on their own hereditary land but were forced to work for the Spartan masters. They were able to retain certain rights as they lived a traditional rural life. The slaves of Athens had no conventional rights, and their condition of life varied based upon the work they were able to do. Miners of Athens were the most unfortunate slaves as they were often driven often to the point of death by their owners. By contrast other categories of slaves, particularly those owned directly by the state, such as the 300 Scythian archers who provided the police force of Athens, could acquire a certain prestige. Most slaves of Athens were domestic servants. Their fortune relied on how close the relationship was with their owners. It most cases it was close, with female slaves looking after children and male slaves running the household as a
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