How Do You Become A Slave In Ancient Greece

How do you become a slave in Ancient Greece

How do you become a slave in Ancient Greece


Ancient Greece, known for its rich history and contributions to philosophy, art, and democracy, also had the institution of slavery deeply embedded in its society. In this article, we will explore the various ways individuals could become slaves in Ancient Greece. By examining the different avenues through which a person could be enslaved, we can gain a better understanding of the socio-economic structure and the treatment of slaves in this ancient civilization.

Avenues to Enslavement

1. Warfare and Conquest

One of the most common ways to become a slave in Ancient Greece was through warfare and conquest. In times of conflict, the victorious side would often enslave captured individuals, either as spoils of war or as a means to fund further military endeavors. These captives would be brought back to Greece and sold as slaves in the marketplace.

Aniopis, a renowned historian of the time, highlights the systematic enslavement of enemies in his work, “The Conquest Chronicles.” He describes how the enslaved individuals would be categorized based on their skills, strength, and social status. The wealthier individuals would often be bought by aristocrats to serve as domestic servants, while those with specialized skills might be utilized in trades or agriculture.

2. Debt Bondage

Another avenue to enslavement in Ancient Greece was through debt bondage. If an individual found themselves unable to pay off their debts, they could be compelled into servitude to repay what they owed. This form of slavery was not permanent and typically lasted until the debtor could settle their dues.

Debtor enslavement was regulated by the state, ensuring that individuals were not subjected to extreme exploitation. However, the conditions under which debt slaves lived varied greatly. Some might find themselves working in households, while others could be assigned to public works projects or as laborers on private estates.

3. Birth into Slavery

For some individuals, slavery was not a result of external circumstances but rather a result of their birth. Children born to enslaved parents were automatically considered slaves themselves. This form of enslavement was intergenerational and could create a vicious cycle, where individuals were born into servitude and had little opportunity to escape their fate.

In his sociological study “Kinship and Hierarchy in Ancient Greece,” Dr. Philomena Jones explains that children born into slavery were considered the property of their masters. They would often be trained from a young age to fulfill specific roles within the household or community.

4. Criminal Punishment

In Ancient Greece, some individuals became slaves as a result of criminal punishment. This primarily occurred when individuals committed serious offenses against the state or society. Rather than being imprisoned, these individuals would be sold into slavery as a means of both punishment and removing them from the community.

Dr. Alexios Xenophontos, a criminologist specializing in ancient legal systems, suggests that this form of enslavement served as both a deterrent for potential criminals and a means to provide labor for the state or private citizens. The enslaved individuals would often work in mining, construction, or other physically demanding tasks.

Life as a Slave

Life as a slave in Ancient Greece was arduous and often brutal. Slaves were considered property and lacked most rights granted to free individuals. They were subject to exploitation and could be bought, sold, or inherited at the discretion of their masters.

Plato, a well-known philosopher of the time, in his treatise “On Justice and Inequality,” posits that slavery was a necessary institution to maintain order in society. He argued that slaves, being of a different nature, were designed to serve and lacked the intellectual capacity for self-governance. This view, however, has been widely challenged and criticized throughout history.

Despite their status, some slaves managed to find ways to improve their conditions. Some masters would grant certain privileges to trusted slaves, allowing them to engage in trade or accumulate wealth. Others might become skilled in a particular craft, eventually earning enough to buy their freedom.


In Ancient Greece, becoming a slave could happen through a variety of avenues such as warfare, debt bondage, birth into slavery, or criminal punishment. While slavery was a prevalent institution, its existence was not without criticism. Over time, philosophers, scholars, and activists’ voices rose, questioning the morality and ethics of slavery, ultimately contributing to its decline in later centuries.

Velma Lee

Velma E. Lee is an acclaimed writer and historian. She has a deep passion for studying ancient civilizations, which is reflected in her writing. She has authored numerous articles, essays, and books on the subject which have been featured in leading publications. In addition to her writing, she has also appeared on television and radio programs to discuss her work. Velma has earned a distinguished reputation as an expert in her field and continues to explore the mysteries of ancient civilizations.

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