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Slavery in Dark-Age Greece

The only evidence for slavery in the Dark Age—the language of the poetry of Homer and Hesiod—reveals complex relationships of dependency among free and unfree people. Some people taken prisoner in war seem to be chattel slaves (slaves1 regarded as property, like cattle—hence the term), wholly under the domination of others, who benefit from the captives' labor. Other dependent people in the poems seem more like inferior members of the owners' households. They live under virtually the same conditions as their superiors and enjoy a family life of their own. If the language of this poetry reflects actual conditions in the Dark Age, chattel slavery was not the primary form of dependency in Greece during that period.

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  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
    • Thomas R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander, The Archaic Age
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