There are many intriguing aspects to ancient Greece and one of them is slavery. Slavery, although looked down upon by most countries today but was an acceptable societal norm in ancient Greece. In fact, slavery was a continuum in ancient Greek society. The premise of having slaves was the fact that a civilized man aimed to attain a life of leisure to pursue higher things in life and this was not possible without slaves.
Number of Slaves in the Greek Society
Slaves in ancient Greece were brought to the marketplace. Most of the time, slaves were people who were captured in wars or pirate attacks. There are no reliable figures on the number of slaves in Greek society. However, an estimate states that during the 6th and the 5thcenturies BC, Greek had almost 80,000 slaves. Most of the rich households had an average of three to four slaves, while the poor household did not have any. In fact, almost 15 to 40 percent of the population was slaves in different regions and parts of Greece.
Types of Slaves
In ancient Greek society, slaves were mainly categorized into two types- slaves and slaves of gods. The slaves of gods were those who were allowed to own land and their legal status was more of a freeman. On the other hand, slaves referred to those who engaged in physical labor. People indulging in occupations like craftsmen, teachers, doctors as well as merchants were looked down upon and considered to serve society. The only respectable occupations were that of farming, philosophizing, and politics.
The slaves performed a wide range of jobs in ancient Greek society. They manned ships, rowed boats, worked as waged labor, and much more. A great reason for widespread slavery in society was the fact that most free citizens avoided wage labor and did not want to work on everyday wages and so the slaves were hired to fill in these positions.
The Lifestyle of Slaves and Work done by Slaves
Slaves in ancient Greece did not have any human or civil rights. They were tortured for varied reasons and the owners could beat them whenever they wanted. Until the 4th century AD, slaves were also branded on their faces. However, this practice was later on abolished. In case of some lawsuits, the slaves were tortured to confess their guilt and were sent to prison.
Slaves were required to do different types of works. They were involved in agriculture, construction as well as household chores. How slaves were treated and their lifestyle was depended on the type of work they were indulged in. The slaves who were involved in mining were forced to lead miserable life in mines. On the other hand, slaves who were craftsmen were allowed to work and live separately from their masters. They could even indulge in trade and commerce, but a portion of their earnings went to their masters. The slaves who served in households were treated in different ways depending on how good or bad their masters were.