Slavery in Athens.

Essay by jumping_bugCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2003

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Slavery in Athens was crucial to the political fabric of Athens, allowing the Athenian masters to devote their time to a political career. Socially, slavery allowed the rich to fraternize more, giving them more leisure time. They were also often comic heroes of Athenian plays and this perhaps shows some fondness towards slaves. Economically, their roles are harder to judge, however, Athenian economy was somewhat reliant on their slaves but slavery was not the most crucial part, though many would have been inconvenienced.

The Greeks considered it normal and right to keep non-Greeks as slaves. This idea was questioned by a few individuals at the end of the fifth century, but in the fourth century the philosopher Aristotle answered them with his theory of "natural slavery": "Well it is clear that there are some who are naturally free or naturally slaves" [Aristotle, Politics I.5]. For them, slavery is both a necessary system and a moral one.

Slaves were on the very margins of human society, classed among "living tools".

Women did the work inside the house. Apart from domestic work, which was the largest category of all, female slaves provided all forms of entertainment. Some females worked as prostitutes or dancing girls. Male slaves worked alongside free men in most forms of work--crafts, trade and mining, though there, the workforce was largely made up of slaves. Mining was an especially dangerous field of work, and without slaves, many citizens would have perished, perhaps raising the price of silver at silver mines in Laurion.

Socially, slaves were often the comic heroes of the Athenian comedies. Slavery however had no real great contribution to social circumstances in Athens except in giving leisure time to the wealthy owners. Slaves were mixed racially and too disorganized to revolt, though much was done by the...