Slavery in ancient Greece was commonly practiced with most wealthy household employing 12 to 20 slaves for doing various kinds of jobs. But, it was not merely the rich and business class people that had the luxury of enjoying the services of slaves. The middle class households of ancient Greece too utilized the services of slaves. Some families kept two to three slaves, while others employed 15 or more for various odd jobs.
Slaves were employed by the state too in police force as well as the army. State run mines also took slaves as employees. Likewise, there were other public jobs that slaves did and got an income in return.
7. A few fraction of slaves could regain their freedom
Though, in most cases it was difficult for a slave to come out of slavery, yet there were a few categories of slaves that could always go back to a life of freedom. These slaves were those people, like the wage earners that could earn their freedom back. Only such slaves that could save income and pay back a certain fraction of their income to the owners could gain their freedom. Others that worked in the police or army could get back to a free life once they had contributed their services to the nation. One can confidently claim the authenticity of this fact, courtesy, the many inscriptions seen at Delphi.
8. The Helots’s plight was worse than other Greek slaves
The Spartans employed Greek slaves known as Helots that originated from Helos. These slaves bore the biggest brunt of all and had to live a life of misery. It was a daily routine for the Helots to get ill treated at the hands of Spartans who lashed them repeatedly every year as a quota was fixed. This was done to remind that Helots were lowly slaves. The Spartans also had these slaves wear a certain dress that included a tunic made of leather and a head cap made of dog skin.
Such was the condition that the Crypteia, the secret police force of Sparta had the orders to kill any Helot that was found wandering the outskirts at night. Also, these slaves were subjugated to humiliation on a daily basis.
Slavery in ancient Greece wasn’t just restricted to fields like nursing, agriculture, crafts but mining too. Since mining of silver ensued lots of profit for the state, it was a legal thing to employ slaves to work. Athens’s economy was largely based on mining and as such slaves were made to work in various mines under harsh conditions.
There were a lot of health hazards associated with mining and lots of slaves were diagnosed with various life threatening diseases that resulted from lack of sunlight and fresh air. In one account that testifies to slaves working in mines, it is reported that of all the 7000 soldiers that fought in the 413 BC expedition to Sicily, none made it to live full lives as all of them perished under harsh conditions of working in the mines of Syracuse.
Keeping women slaves as concubines wasn’t much mentioned in records dating back to ancient Greece, but, its known that such a practice was in vogue even in Greece. Other than Arabs and Chinese, the Greeks too employed women slaves to serve in a concubinage. The relationship between the man and his concubine was considered legal in ancient times. However, a concubine had no rights whatsoever. Sometimes, the concubine would stay with the man in his house along with his wife. At other times, she would be given a separate house to live and bear children too.