Slavery in Ancient GreeceBy: Sunnie Li
Slavery was very common in ancient Greece. Slaves had to do everything that their owners commanded them to do. They were found everywhere from household to the government. For example, domestic servants, factory workers, shopkeepers, mineworkers, farm workers, or ship members were jobs that slaves did. Thereby, historians “estimated that about everyone had a slave to help with family business in Athens during the fifth century”.

People could become a slave in many different ways. There could be “a prisoner of war”, kidnapped or born a child of a slave. Also, families could sell their children into slavery or newborn babies that were abandoned and claimed by a passerby. However, one could also choose to become a slave. The person might sell him or herself to slavery if she or he had too much in debt.

Women hairdressing slaves serving their owners

Unlike man slaves who took many jobs outside the household, women slaves had many everyday roles that free women took. They had to shop, fetch water, cook, serve food, clean, child-care, and make clothes. They also had more specialized roles like housekeeping, cooking or nursing. The treatments of these slaves were mostly decided upon “their status in their roles and temperament of their owners”. Rarely, they were allowed to attend religious events.

Athenian slaves were the more popular option all across Greece. Slaves in Athens were overall treated more kindly compared to other city-states in Greece. However, Athenian slaves were a part of the trading system that was very harsh where some were well treated and some were not. Some lucky Athenian slaves were “a part of the household servants, who enjoyed a softer life than other slaves”. They may be included in festivals and rituals. Domestic slaves were sometimes treated a member of the family and dined with their masters. Even if slaves belonged to their masters, they could still own their personal property. But, before slaves enter the household, they were suppose to have a ceremony for the slave. This ceremony is said to put the slave under the protection of the Hestia, or the goddess of the hearth.

All slaves in Sparta were owned by the city-state. These slaves were called helots at that time. The helots were treated harshly by the city-state because the helots outnumbered the citizens by about twenty to one. Thus, historians have guessed that one of the reasons that Sparta had a strong military was for controlling the helots. Because Sparta did not have its own fertilized land, they conquered others for their land and the people became helots in these city-states, Thus, helots “worked on a certain piece of land and were essential to food production” for Sparta.

Trading slaves while the slaves worked

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