Slavery in ancient Greece  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Slavery was common practice and an integral component of ancient Greece throughout its history, as it was in other societies of the time including ancient Israel and early Christian societies. It is estimated that in Athens, the majority of citizens owned at least one slave. Most ancient writers considered slavery not only natural but necessary, but some isolated debate began to appear, notably in Socratic dialogues while the Stoics produced the first condemnation of slavery recorded in history.

In conformity with modern historiographical practice, this article will discuss only chattel (personal possession) slavery, as opposed to dependent groups such as the penestae of Thessaly or the Spartan helots, who were more like medieval serfs (an enhancement to real estate). The chattel slave is an individual deprived of liberty and forced to submit to an owner who may buy, sell, or lease him or her like any other chattel.

The study of slavery in ancient Greece poses a number of significant methodological problems. Documentation is disjointed and very fragmented, focusing on the city of Athens. No treatise is specifically devoted to the subject. Judicial pleadings of the 4th century BC were interested in slavery only as a source of revenue. Comedy and tragedy represented stereotypes. Iconography made no substantial differentiation between slave and craftsman.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Slavery in ancient Greece" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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