The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870 (Simon & Schuster:New York), 1997

“Most settled societies at one time or another have employed forced labor; and most peoples, even the proud French, the effective Germans, the noble English, the dauntless Spaniards and, perhaps above all, the poetical Russians, have experienced years of servitude.

A Greek philosophyer, stated: “Humanity is divided into two: the masters and the slaves” – Aristotle, in Politics

“In the golden years of both Greece and Rome, slaves worked as domestic servants, in mines and in public works, in gangs, and individually, on farms, as well as in commerce and in cottage industries. They both managed and served in brothels, trading organizations, and workshops.

For example: “There were slaves in Mycenae (1600 B.C. -1100 B.C.); and Ulysses had fifty female slaves in his palace. ..”

“Athens (600 B.C.-100 B.C.) had in her heyday about 60,00 slaves. Her police force was a body of 300 Scythian archer slaves; her famous silver mines at Laurium employed over 10,000 slaves until a rebellion in 103 B.C.; and 20 slaves – perhaps a quarter of those so employed – helped to build the Parthenon. The Athenians used slaves to fight for them at Marathon, even though they freed them first.

“The Romans made use of slaves in all the categories employed by the Greeks, though they had many more domestic ones: a prefect in the days of the Emperor Nero might have 400 in his house alone. There may have been 2 million slaves in Italy at the end of the republic.

From the first century B.C. to the early third century A.D., the use of these captives was the customary way in which prosperity was created. That did not mean all these were equal: rural and urban domestic slaves lived different lives; a man working in a gang in the fields had a different life from one in a workshop in the city; some slaves practiced as doctors or lawyers, and others acted as majordomos to noblemen, or as shepherds in the hills.

“Cicero’s slave Tiro was a confidential secretary and was well educated; he even invented a shorthand called after himself.
Half a million captives seem to have been required every year in Rome during its most self-confident age – say, 50 B.C. TO 150 A.D. The Roman state itself possessed innumerable: – 700, for example, were responsible for maintaining the imperial city=s
aqueducts. Perhaps one out of three members of the population was a slave.”


About Harold L Carter

Bachelor of Science, Columbia University Masters degree, Ohio State University Undergraduate National Officer, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Eastern Asst Vice President, when a student at Columbia University Profile Photograph: Mom & Me, when I was a graduate student
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  1. Gerald Ritter says:

    A good start. It is always helpful to have the population figures for comparison to the number of slaves. I am gald you pointed out the fact that slaves could be overseers, doctors, masons, etc.

    To bad we do not know more about the Orient. The use of slaves there was extensive: for instance in building the Great Wall of China.

    • Thank you ! It appears that U.S. Southern Plantation Slavery was the harsher. Not only slaves building the Great Wall of China but also that feudal serfs (polite for “slaves”) and European peasants built the grand and magnificent cathedrals of France,, Italy, and England ! … There is historical data that provides the details about those constructions.

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