|Home||Comparative Case Studies|
Slavery was an accepted part of life in both ancient Greece and Rome. Slavery was an integral part of Athenian life, and the number of slaves was fairly high. Some argue that the leisurely lifestyle of ancient Athens would have been impossible without a large slave workforce. Greek city slaves were typically allowed second jobs and could sometimes buy their freedom, though slaves who worked in agriculture or in the mines were usually treated as chattel and occasionally even worked to death (it was sometimes cheaper to buy a new slave than to feed the ones already owned). Slavery was even more common in the Roman Empire, and the Romans used slaves for all sorts of purposes, in both the city and the countryside. Wealthy Romans owned multiple slaves; the emperor Augustus' slave graveyard includes at least 6,000 slave burials.
Greek slavery is presented here by Aristotle, who wrote extensively on the natural world but did not avoid social and political issues. In this selection, Aristotle focuses on the slave as human property. The Roman documents that follow include excerpts from Gaius' Institutes, apparently written sometime in the late second century C.E. Nothing is known about the author, but the text became the most influential and useful legal textbook for Roman law students. The other source comes from the first systematic collection of Roman laws, put together in 438 C.E. by order of Emperor Theodosius II; hence, its title: the Code of Theodosius.