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Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery

Peter Hunt

ISBN: 978-1-119-42106-1 September 2017 Wiley-Blackwell 264 Pages



An exciting study of ancient slavery in Greece and Rome

This book provides an introduction to pivotal issues in the study of classical (Greek and Roman) slavery. The span of topics is broad—ranging from everyday resistance to slavery to philosophical justifications of slavery, and from the process of enslavement to the decline of slavery after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The book uses a wide spectrum of types of evidence, and relies on concrete and vivid examples whenever possible.

Introductory chapters provide historical context and a clear and concise discussion of the methodological difficulties of studying ancient slavery. The following chapters are organized around central topics in slave studies: enslavement, economics, politics, culture, sex and family life, manumission and ex-slaves, everyday conflict, revolts, representations, philosophy and law, and decline and legacy. Chapters open with general discussions of important scholarly controversies and the challenges of our ancient evidence, and case studies from the classical Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman periods provide detailed and concrete explorations of the issues.

  • Organized by key themes in slave studies with in-depth classical case studies
  • Emphasizes Greek/Roman comparisons and contrasts
  • Features helpful customized maps
  • Topics range from demography to philosophy, from Linear B through the fall of the empire in the west
  • Features myriad types of evidence: literary, historical, legal and philosophical texts, the bible, papyri, epitaphs, lead letters, curse tablets, art, manumission inscriptions, and more

Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery provides a general survey of classical slavery and is particularly appropriate for college courses on Greek and Roman slavery, on comparative slave societies, and on ancient social history. It will also be of great interest to history enthusiasts and scholars, especially those interested in slavery in different periods and societies. 

List of Illustrations vii

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xi

Modern and Ancient References: Abbreviations xiii

1 Introduction and Historical Context 1

2 Definitions and Evidence 17

3 Enslavement 31

4 Economics 49

5 Politics 67

6 Culture 83

7 Sex and Family Life 99

8 Manumission and Ex-Slaves 117

9 Everyday Conflict 137

10 Revolts 155

11 Representations 173

12 Philosophy and Law 191

13 Decline and Legacy 209

References 221

Index 239

"Ancient Greek and Roman Slavery is one of the first overviews of the lives of slaves in Greece and Rome aimed at a more general reader [...] an excellent book to use for an undergraduate course on the ancient world, either as a main text or as an adjunct to a more traditional textbook that focuses on the traditional narratives of these societies." - Christian Perring, PhD, Editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews

"Hunt delivers an introduction to classical slavery that will appeal to a wide range of readers. The book will function equally well as a textbook in courses on ancient slavery, social history, or comparative slavery, and as a reference work for historians working on slavery in other periods. It is difficult to produce a text that serves the needs of these distinct audiences, but Hunt does so successfully by using case studies that guide the reader through the methodology of studying ancient slavery. [...] The greatest compliment that I can pay Hunt is that he has convinced me that a thematic approach [for my course], using his text, will be much more interesting. - Katharine P.D. Huemoeller, University of British Columbia for Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“In this wide-ranging and thorough book, Hunt navigates complex and partial sources with great skill to produce a comprehensive account of how slavery operated, varied and changed throughout the ancient world […] Within each of these topics, Hunt is careful to present contrasting scholarly views of the evidence. […] [The book's] treatment of a huge subject is serious and well balanced, and also well written, an easy read. Highly recommended.” - Colin McDonald for Classics for All