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The Loss of Slaves

The war had hurt the Athenian state economically by giving a chance for escape to many of the slaves1 that worked in the silver mines2 in the Attic countryside, which had provided a substantial revenue to the public coffers. The output of the mines apparently never regained its previous heights, but it is not clear whether this decline in production3 of silver was the result of an enduring shortage of slaves to work in the mines or a petering out of the veins of precious metal, or perhaps a combination of these factors. The Peloponnesian War had given few opportunities for domestic slaves to escape their servitude4, and practically no privately owned slaves had tried to run away during the war. (Since runaway slaves were usually resold by those with whom they sought refuge in any case, escape was by no means a reliable route to freedom.) All but the poorest families, therefore, continued to have at least a slave or two to do chores around the house and look after the children. If a mother did not have a slave to serve as a wet nurse5 to suckle her infants, she would hire a poor free woman for the job, if her family could afford the expense.

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