Articles from the
Oxford Classical Dictionary
slavery | peasants | helots | thetes | metics | perioikoi | artisans & craftsmen | mercenaries | piracy | brigandage | booty | freed(wo)men | mines & mining | silver | Laurium | Greek agriculture | Greek economy | labour | wages | debt | class struggle | Marxism & classical antiquity
This is an authoritative and clearly written account of the main issues involved in the study of Greek slavery from Homeric times to the fourth century BC. It provides valuable insights into the fundamental place of slavery in the economies and social life of classical Greece, and includes penetrating analyses of the widely-held ancient ideological justifications of slavery. A wide range of topics is covered, including the development of slavery from Homer to the classical period, the peculiar form of community slaves (the helots) found in Sparta, economic functions and the treatment of slaves in Athens, and the evidence for slaves' resistance. Throughout the author shows how political and economic systems, ideas of national identity, work and gender, and indeed the fundamental nature of Greek civilisation itself, were all profoundly affected by the fact that many of the Greek city-states were slave societies.
A pathbreaking study of the role played by ancient Greek and Roman sources and voices in the struggle to abolish transatlantic slavery and in representations of that struggle in the twentieth century. Thirteen essays by an interdisciplinary team of specialists from three continents, led by the Centre for the Reception of Greece and Rome at Royal Holloway University of London, ask how both critics and defenders of slavery in media ranging from parliamentary speeches to poetry, fiction, drama, and cinema have summoned the ghosts of the ancient Spartans, Homer, Aristotle, Aeschylus, Pliny, Spartacus, and Prometheus to support their arguments.
The name "Helots" evokes one of the most famous peculiarities of ancient Sparta, the system of dependent labor that guaranteed the livelihood of the free citizens. The Helots fulfilled all the functions that slaves carried out elsewhere in the Greek world, allowing their masters the leisure to be full-time warriors. Yet, despite their crucial role, Helots remain essentially invisible in our ancient sources and peripheral and enigmatic in modern scholarship. This book is devoted to a much-needed reassessment of Helotry and of its place in the history and sociology of unfree labor. The essays deal with the origins and historical development of Helotry, with its sociological, economic, and demographic aspects, with its ideological construction and negotiation.
Slavery was a fundamental institution in the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, but little agreement. The modern debate has sometimes been bitter - unsurprisingly, given its background in the abolitionist atmosphere of the 19th century. As we enter the 21st century the battleground has started to shift: can the historian hope to reconstruct the life of ancient slaves, or just fragments of their image in Greek and Roman literature? More than most topics, the ancient slave has therefore attracted constant modern redefinition. But how far do we see the slave better, and how far do we, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, use the idea of the slave to offer a refracted image of ourselves?
Although the importance of slavery to Greek society has long been recognised, most studies have primarily drawn upon representations of slaves as sources of evidence for the historical institution, while there has been little consideration of what the representations can tell us about how the Greeks perceived slaves and why. Although historical reality clearly played a part in the way slaves were represented, Reconstructing the Slave stresses that this was not the primary purpose of these images, which reveal more about how slave-owners perceived or wanted to perceive slaves than the reality of slavery. Through an examination of lexical, visual and literary representations of slaves, the book considers how the image of the slave was used to justify, reinforce and naturalize slavery in ancient Greece.