The Populace of Athens - Slaves

The Populace of Athens - Slaves Vase - Agricultural scene circa 525 BC (Louvre, Paris)

Slaves were the lowest class in Athenian society, but according to many contemporary accounts they were far less harshly treated than in most other Greek cities. Indeed, one of the criticisms of Athens was that its slaves and freemen were difficult to tell apart.

A fundamental part of economy, the most prized slaves worked as tutors and police officials, and one group of elite slaves was even empowered to herd citizens to the assembly with a long rope dipped in paint! Next in status were domestic slaves who, under certain circumstances, might be allowed to buy their own freedom. Often looked upon as 'one of the family', during certain festivals they would be waited upon by their masters. Lowest of all slaves were those who worked in the nearby Laurium silver mines - where most quickly perished.

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Building of the Parthenon
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