Slavery during the Classical Civilizations

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Slavery during the Classical Civilizations were very similar, but they also had their differences. I am going to break down the “Big 3”. In Ancient Greece slavery dates as far back as 600-700BC, where the majority of the Greek population owned at least one slave. Greeks saw slaves as a source of revenue before anything else. (Slavery In Ancient Greece, n.d.) The Roman Empire was thought to have used slaves dating back to 200BC and existed in even the earliest times of their rein. Ancient China, who went through several different dynasties date their slave days all the way back to The Shang Dynasty in 1600BC and perhaps beyond.

Each empire had some different uses for slaves, ranging from personal care givers to farmers. The Roman Government would use slaves to build and maintain their innovative road system and slaves are primarily the people who built all the classic architecture that Ancient Rome is known for. The mighty aqueducts, public bathrooms and even the Pantheon, all built with at least some help from slaves. (Simpkin, 1997) In Ancient China young girls were often taken against their will and used for sexual purposes. There were many others who were forced to work in the fields. The slaves who had it the worst were the ones who worked directly for the emperor. They were the victims of extreme cruelty and had no freedoms, everything they did they were told to do. (Slavery, n.d.) In Ancient Greece, or the Athenians, slaves were prevalent in the mines. Laurium was a major silver mine in south east Athens, had over 20,000 slaves literally killing themselves. (Mining-Greece, n.d.)

The way these people were treated sometimes were downright barbaric, put aside the fact that they were being forced to do things against there will. In China, when a slaves master would die, they would bury that said slave alive so that they could serve their masters in the afterlife. During the Han Dynasty men would be castrated as a form of punishment. (Slavery in China, n.d.) In Rome, they would have “slave markets” which were completely degrading. The slave traders would bring their “property” to a place where the slave would parade around, fully nude with a placard around their neck. That placard contained all the information a potential buyer would want to know such as their strengths and weaknesses. In a more famous case of Ancient Roman punishment was the revolt of Spartacus. After Spartacus was killed in a somewhat lengthy battle with the Roman Army his remaining followers were taken prisoner and crucified to a cross and displayed along the Appian Way which was the main entrance to Rome. Said to be in excess of 6,000 people, their bodies were left on the crosses for several months to serve as a deterrent to other slaves. (Simpkin, 1997) So yes they all treated their slaves badly, but each had their own brutal way and sick reasons for doing these things.

During periods of time all three would loosen up their slave laws and made life somewhat easier. For instance, in Greece a slave could have a spouse and children, which was not permitted in Rome or China. Some Roman slave owners believed they could get more out of their slaves if they were treated better and they would actually pay their slaves and after a slave earned so much money, they could buy their freedom. It was found to make the slaves more obedient. In 319AD Roman emperor Constantine granted some rights to slaves making it illegal to kill them for frivolous reasons and also mandated that owners could no longer brand their slaves as it was deemed torturous.

Slavery is slavery no matter how different each empire was, they were all the same in that these poor people were taken against their will and forced to do many things. Many of these people were prisoners of war or simply victims of an emperors greed. During the Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar took over one million Gaelic people prisoner of war and they were forced to be slaves. At the height of slavery during the Roman Empire it was estimated the of the 6 million people that resided in Italy alone, 2 million of them were slaves. The Romans did not invent slavery, but of these civilizations, Rome was an empire literally built by slavery.

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Slavery during the Classical Civilizations. (2020, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/slavery-during-the-classical-civilizations/

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