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date: 08 December 2022



  • Michel Austin


‘It is a law established for all time among all men that when a city is taken in war, the persons and the property of its inhabitants belong to the captors’ (Xen.Cyr. 7. 5. 73). This universal ancient conception is reflected in the wide range of meanings of the ancient terminology for ‘booty’ (notably λεία, λάφυρα, and ὠφέλεια in Greek, praeda and spolia in Latin). It referred not just to movable and inanimate objects (e.g. precious metals), but could also include animals and livestock, human beings, and even whole cities and territory. War, for instance, was one of the major suppliers of the slave trade (see slavery). It was rare after *Homer for wars to be fought solely and openly for acquisitive purposes. But it was always assumed that success in war would lead to appropriation by the victor of the property and persons of the vanquished, and sometimes of territory as well. Hence the largest sudden transfers of wealth in the ancient world were the result of successful warfare: for example *Sparta's conquest of *Messenia and the Messenians in the late 8th cent.


  • Ancient Economy

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