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Athenian Slaves

Updated October 13, 2020
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Athenian Slaves essay

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Enslaved males in Rome and Athens, Greece Athens held the largest population of slaves with around 80,000 in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. It was common for most households to have three or four slaves. Slaves lived a life of hardships and humiliation. Athenian slaves were often a means of labour, in which they were fundamentally used for agriculture and mining. Male slaves conducted the most dangerous tasks and were often up at daylight working till late into the evening. Working in the silver mines were the most dangerous forms of labour. Slaves were deprived from sunlight and often suffered from lead poisoning. These slaves often lived for two to three years before death as a result of harsh conditions and diseases.

Slaves working in agriculture often had less dangerous tasks however they were still overworked and malnourished. Their tasks consisted of plowing and planting seeds and harvesting wheat and barley and olives. The enslaved were reduced to a diet of bread and water with the occasional olives and cheeses. Domestic slaves were often treated much better. Even at their death they were often buried alongside their owners families. While commonly the enslaved lived in quarters seperate from their masters some may have the privilege of living in their masters quarters. The ability to eventually earn freedom was available. Often they were either set free from their owners or they had the potential to buy themselves out of slavery. Slavery in Ancient Rome was most extensive in 218-201 BC to the 4th Century AD. Around 350,000 slaves existed accounting for 30-40% of the entire population. In Ancient Rome their were a larger range of slaves when compared with Athens. Domestic slaves, manual labour and gladiator slaves were present. Educated slaves often lived a better life as they were seen as more important. When comparing the life of slaves in Ancient Rome.

Similarly in Ancient Rome the majority of slaves were present in agricultural plantations as well as the industrial sector (mining). Aristocrats owned large plantations where slaves would work. In these plantations slaves worked in exporting grain, wine and olive oil. Conditions of slaves working in the industrial sector were much harsher. Longer working hours were implemented and slaves often died as a result of disease and overworking. An example similar to Ancient Greece is that many slaves suffered from lead poisoning. The diet of slaves in Ancient Rome was very simple. Slaves would be reduced to mere wheat and bread parallel to those of the Athenian while supplementary relish and vegetables were a treat. Like the Athenians, those enslaved in Ancient Rome were able to gain freedom at the hands of their master or could buy their way out. In Rome and Athens when slaves became freedman, they weren’t full citizens and couldn’t take part in political life, however they were able to share the same privileges as common people.

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