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New Economies and Chattel Slavery in Fifth-Century Greece

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New Economies and Chattel Slavery in Fifth-Century Greece. Contributions of Sir Moses I. Finley. Slave Scene from Comedy. M.I. Finley on Greek Freedom and Greek Slavery.

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m i finley on greek freedom and greek slavery

M.I. Finley on Greek Freedom and Greek Slavery

“The Greeks…discovered both the idea of individual freedom and the institutional framework in which it could be realized. The pre-Greek world…was, in a very profound sense, a world without free men, in the sense in which the west has come to understand that concept. It was equally a world in which chattel slavery played no role of any consequence. That, too, was a Greek discovery. One aspect of Greek history, in short, is the advance, hand in hand, of freedom and slavery.”

sir moses finley
Sir Moses Finley
  • Syracuse University undergraduate
  • New Yorker influenced by Marxist economic theory and Weberian sociology
  • Researcher for the International Institute for Social Research (Columbia)
  • Rutgers>Victim of McCarthyism>Cambridge (1955); Fellow of Jesus College
  • Professor of Ancient History (1970-1980)
  • Fellow of British Academy (1971)
  • Sir Moses (1979)
dependent labor in pre classical greece
Dependent Labor in Pre-Classical Greece
  • Debt-Bondsmen and Serfs (Thessalian penestes)
  • The Evidence of Cretan Gortyn
    • Date of Inscription, 480-460 BCE, but probably preserves material going back to the 7th century BCE
    • Social Structure: ruling class, free without political rights, serfs and debt-bondsmen, chattel slaves
champion on the gortyn law code

Champion on the Gortyn Law Code

“The Code reveals a society in transition to a money economy. Production of exchange values led to the introduction of chattel slavery as an alternative source of dependent labor to patriarchal serfdom.”

Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery

fifth century bce athens empire and slavery
Fifth-Century BCE AthensEmpire and Slavery
  • The “Numbers Game”: Estimates of 100-150,000 Athenian slaves out of total population of 275-300,000
  • Economic Development >Greater Social Differentiation
    • “the more advanced the city-state, the more it will be found to have had true slavery rather than the ‘hybrid’ types like helotage. More bluntly put, the cities in which individual freedom reached its highest expression—most obviously Athens—were cities in which chattel slavery flourished” ~ M.I. Finley
  • Black Sea and Danubian Sources and the Northern Barbarian Stereotype
finley s views on greek slavery
Finley’s Views on Greek Slavery
  • “Spectrum of Statuses”: mining and agricultural slaves; domestic and commercial slaves; resident aliens (metics); debt-bondsmen and serfs; conditionally-manumitted slaves and freedmen; citizens
  • Social Function in Defining Social Hierarchies >Economic Function
  • Graeco-Roman Non-Productive Mentality (technological stagnation)
  • Chattel Slavery a Prerequisite for Greek Participatory Democracy
aristotle rhetoric 1367a32

Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1367a32

Freedom = “one who is in no way under the constraint of another.”

challenge of ellen meiksins wood peasant citizen and slave 1988
Challenge of Ellen Meiksins Wood, Peasant-Citizen and Slave (1988)
  • Peasant Agricultural Societies are not Labor-Intensive (Participation)
  • Most Athenian Males had to work (Socrates)
  • Anti-Banausic Sources; Aristocratic, Slave-Owning (e.g., Plato, Aristotle)