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date: 28 September 2022

slavery, Greeklocked

slavery, Greeklocked

  • Paul Cartledge


From Homer's claim that a man loses half his selfhood when ‘the day of slavery’ comes upon him (Il. 6. 463) to Aristotle's doctrine of ‘natural slavery’ (Pol. bk. 1, 1253b15–55b40), Greek life and thought were inextricably bound up with the ideology and practice of human servitude. Eventually, and incompletely, the notion became established that it was not right for Greeks to enslave their fellow-Greeks, and the correlative idea prevailed that non-Greek ‘barbarians’ were fitted for servitude by their very nature (not just social or political organization). See barbarian. But that did not prevent the continuing enslavement of Greeks by Greeks, and the language of slavery in the Greek New Testament was by no means a dead metaphor.‘Slavery’, however, covered a multitude of sins and life-chances. The ultimate, extreme form of the slave is the chattel, ‘socially dead’ (Patterson) in the sense of ripped forcibly from organic ties of kin and community, transported to an alien environment there to be treated as merely a piece of property or as a factor of production to be used and abused at will, an ‘animate tool’ (Arist. Pol.


  • Ancient Economy

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