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The Synergy between Slavery and Freedom

The creation of citizenship as a category to define membership in the exclusive group of people constituting a polis inevitably highlighted the contrast between those included in the category of citizens and those outside it. Freedom from control by others was a necessary precondition to become a citizen with full political rights, which in the city-states meant being a free-born adult male. The strongest contrast citizenship produced, therefore, was that between free and unfree. In this way, the development of a clear idea of personal freedom in the formation of the city-state as a new political form may ironically have encouraged the complementary development of chattel slavery in the Archaic Age. The rise in economic activity in this period probably also encouraged the importation of slaves by increasing the demand for labor. In any case, slavery as it developed in the Archaic Age reduced unfree persons to a state of absolute dependence; they were the property of their owners. As Aristotle later categorized them, slaves1 were “living tools.”2

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