1902 Encyclopedia > Slavery > Slavery in Ancient Greece: Employment of Slaves. Number of Slaves.

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Slavery in Ancient Greece: Employment of Slaves. Number of Slaves.

The slaves were employed either in domestic service—as house hold managers, attendants, or personal escorts—or in work of other kinds, agricultural or urban. In early Attica, and even down to the time of Pericles, the landowners lived in the country. The Peloponnesian War introduced a change ; and after that time the proprietors resided at Athens, and the cultivation was in the hands of slaves. In manufactures and commerce, also, servile gradually displaced free labour. Speculators either directly employed slaves as artisans or commercial and banking agents, or hired them out, sometimes for work in mines or factories, sometimes for service in private houses, as cooks, flute-players, &c., or for viler uses. There were also public slaves ; of these some belonged to temples, to which they were presented as offerings, amongst them being the courtesans who acted as hierodules at Corinth and at Eryx in Sicily; others were appropriated to the service of the magistrates or to public works ; there were at Athens 1200 Scythian archers for the police of the city; slaves served, too, in the fleets, and were employed in the armies,—commonly as workmen, and exceptionally as soldiers.

The number of slaves in Greece, or even at Athens, can scarcely be determined with any tolerable approach to certainty. It is stated by Athenaeus (vi. 20), on the authority of Ctesicles, that the census of Demetrius Phalereus gave for Athens 21,000 citizens, 10,000 metics (resident foreigners), and 400,000 slaves. It is also stated by the same author that Corinth had possessed 460,000 slaves and Aegina 470,000. Hume, in his Essay "On the Populousness of Ancient Nations," maintained that the assertion of Athenaeus respecting Athens is quite incredible,—that the number of Athenian slaves "is at least augmented by a whole cipher, and ought not to be regarded as more than 40,000." Boeckh and Letronne have since made the question the subject of fresh studies. The former has fixed the number of Attic slaves at about 365,000, the latter at 100,000 or 120,000. M. Wallon has revised the labours of these scholars, and adduced further considerations of his own. [130-1] He estimates the number of slaves employed in all Attica in domestic service at 40,000; in agriculture at 35,000; in the mines at 10,000 ; in manufactures and commerce, at 90,000. To these must be added, for old people and children under twelve years of age, 6000 and 20,000 respectively, and also the public slaves, of whom, as we have said, 1200 were Scythian archers. He thus arrives at the conclusion that the servile population of Attica was comprised between the limits of 188,000 and 203,000 souls, the free population being about 67,000, and the metics amounting to 40,000. The slaves thus bore to the free native population the ratio of 3 to 1. The numbers given by Athenaeus for Corinth and Aegina, though accepted by Boeckh, appear to be excessive, and are rejected by Clinton and by M. Wallon; the true numbers were no doubt large, but we have no means of determining them even approximately. Next after these cities in the magnitude of their slave population came, on the mainland, Alegara, and, amongst the insular states, Chios and Rhodes. Miletus, Phocfea, Tarentum, Sybaris, and Cyrene also had numerous bodies of slaves.

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130-1 Dr W. Richter (Die Sklaverei im Griechischen Altertum, 1886) maintains the correctness of the statement in Athenaeus.

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