Ancient Greek Slavery

Ancient Greek Slavery is the most primitive form of social stratification. Exploitation manifested its extreme form in ancient Greece through the practice of slavery. According to records, about one-third or more of the Greek population consisted of slaves. Slaves were owned and controlled by other people and had no rights of their own.

Ancient Greek Slavery

Ancient Greek Slavery

Ancient Greek Slavery were mostly prisoners of war or war captives. Slaves were also those who were sold by their parents owing to economic backwardness and poverty. In this way, female children were sold than the male ones because the latter has more chances of finding a source of income to sustain the family. The child of a slave naturally became a slave. Kidnapping too occurred by which one was sold into slavery.

Ancient Greek Slavery

what type of occupations did “aliens” have in ancient Greece?

Slaves were treated differently depending on the work they did. I.e. there was differentiation within the group of slaves. Most of the slaves in ancient Greece engaged in agricultural occupations; plowing and harvesting.

There were farms both big and small which employed slaves, mostly males. Slaves also worked in factories and shops. Those who were literate became teachers or accountants. They also worked as clerks in offices. Slaves worked in public baths and barber shops. Skilled slaves could become dancers of musicians.

Slaves who worked in ships and mines led a miserable life. Those who worked in trading ships were whipped to make them pull the oars harder. They were not given enough food and were not allowed to go outside. Working in ships was deadly because the slaves were placed at the bottom of the ship and they could not escape when the boat sank.

They were drowned along with the ships. In silver mines, workers often died of lead poisoning because silver was mixed with lead in these mines. They did not live more than two or three years.

Ancient Greek Slavery

Price of a Slave

However, it may appear a little paradoxical that the police force comprised mostly of slaves. They were the freed slaves. The price of a slave depended on age, ability, and appearance. The healthy, young slaves were priced high. The old and the less capable slaves were priced as low as a mina.

Female slaves were definitely at a disadvantage. However, Slaves who worked as household assistants were comparatively better off. They helped in looking after babies, housekeeping, and cooking. Domestic duties included shopping, fetching water, serving food and so on. They accompanied their mistresses outside a home.

Ancient Greek Slavery

Although these slaves were often treated as part of the family, lines of restriction were also drawn. Slaves could not have their own names but could use only those names assigned by their masters. Some of them were sexually exploited by their workers. Female slaves could not marry or rear children. Some female slaves worked as prostitutes.

In fact, slaves had no rights. Education was denied for them. They could neither take an independent occupation nor could own property. They were persecuted if they refused to do a work or if they tried to run away from the workplace. Whipping and other modes of punishment were adopted.