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Slavery in the Ancient Greek World

2. The Slave Trade

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In this module, we think about how slaves were supplied to the markets that required them, e.g. Athens. In particular, we focus on how people became slaves and where in the Mediterranean world they came from, the process by which slaves were transported to these markets, how the slave auction worked, and the rituals by which slaves would be incorporated into their new households.


In this course, Dr David Lewis (University of Edinburgh) explores slavery in ancient Greece. We begin by looking at the earliest evidence for slavery in the Greek world, focusing in particular on the descriptions of slavery in the Linear B tablets of Mycenaean Greece (c. 1400 BC) as well as in the poetry of Homer and Hesiod – the Iliad, Odyssey, and the Works and Days. After that, we think about where slaves actually came from, and how they were delivered from the places that supplied them to the places that needed them. In the third module, we think about the role of slavery in Classical Athens, before turning in the fourth module to see how different the situation for slaves (or helots) in Sparta. In the fifth module, we think further about the diversity of the slave experience, and look at what slavery was like in other areas of the Greek world: Chios, Thessaly, Crete and Rhodes. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about manumission. Why did slave-owners sometimes free their slaves? How often did this happen? And what was the process involved?


David Lewis is a Lecturer in Greek History and Culture at the Department of Classics at the University of Edinburgh. He works on ancient Greek social, economic, and legal history in a broader Eastern Mediterranean context; to date most of his work has focused on slavery. He co-edited The Ancient Greek Economy: Markets, Households and City-States (Cambridge: CUP 2015), and his monograph Greek Slave Systems in their Eastern Mediterannean Context, c. 800-146 BC was published by OUP in 2018. His next monograph project will focus on urban labour in Athens and Piraeus, c. 450-250 BC.

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Lewis, D. (2019, January 19). Slavery in the Ancient Greek World - The Slave Trade [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lewis, D. "Slavery in the Ancient Greek World – The Slave Trade." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 19 Jan 2019,

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