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Slavery in the Ancient World and the US Term Paper


In as much as slavery was used for the benefit of economies, it was dehumanizing, humiliating, and abhor able.


A slave refers to an individual who is taken to be the property of another and incorporated into forced labor usually against their will. This form of detention of persons for this purpose may take place from the time they are captured, bought, or at the time of their birth. Usually, they will not be allowed to disengage themselves from the responsibilities accorded to them; neither can they refuse to work nor demand wages. Depending on the society, slaves were to be killed at the will of the owner yet in other communities this was illegal.

According to the Antislavery organization (2010), there are currently over 27 million slaves in the whole globe. Slaves here are considered to include any persons engaged in forced labor by their owners. This figure does exceed the number of African slaves that were brought to America totaled. The International labor organization does not, however, view forced labor to be slavery. Most of slavery takes the form of debt slaves and children incorporated in the sex trade.


A captive is used to refer to a person who is usually held against their will. Such persons are normally confined and later incorporated to become slaves usually of war. At the time when the person has been taken and restrained before being given tasks to handle, he or she remains to be a captive. What is common is that most captives end up serving as slaves for their owners.

Slavery in Ancient Greece

In Greece, slavery did play a major role in the attainment of civilization. They were utilized in shops, mines, ships, factories, and homes. Not much difference was noted between the slaves and the poor people in Greece. People found themselves in slavery basically by being born into slavery as children of slaves. Equally, cities that Greece would attack and conquer would also form a harbor for slaves. Abandoned children were also taken as slaves. Alternatively, families would sell a member of their family into slavery just to stabilize themselves financially.

There was the differential treatment of slaves here, depending on the work they carried out. Household servants were treated best with many privileges following. Supervision for them was by the woman of the home, and she ensured all the slaves were busy. Wealthy persons held ten to twenty slaves in their homes. Limits were placed on what slaves could do. None of them was to enter a public assembly or gym and the names they used were assigned by their masters.

Slaves working as ship crewmembers and mineworkers faced a lot of danger with huge chunks of workload. Those used in these areas were mostly death row convicts since such conditions did not assure them long life either. Ancient Athens had their police force made basically of slaves. It was also the case at the treasury office. Appearance age and attitude of the slaves acted as the determinants to the wage that they were to be paid for their services.

Varied rights existed albeit little they produced a sense of identity for the slaves (Murray 241). The healthier, younger and, more submissive one was, the higher the wages up to 10 minae an equivalent of 180 dollars. The payment was mostly after winning the war. Women slaves were more disadvantaged with a lower status. They mostly carried out domestic chores like cooking and serving food, child care, and wool working. In households that were well to do, the women slaves were nurses, housekeepers, and cooks.

Female slaves faced much exploitation sexually and physically abuse. Children born from such abuse acts were disposed of since slaves were prohibited from raising children. Equally, they were not allowed to marry since marriage was to be a social privilege. Close relationships cropped up between the female slaves and their mistresses where the former acted as major confidantes. Finally, slave women were involved mostly in religious affairs like the Eleusinian mysteries meant to celebrate the myth of Persephone. Slave women mostly carried out some religious practices and could be introduced to the Eleusinian mysteries, which celebrated the myth of Persephone.

Slavery in Ancient Rome

The Romans, by far, held the highest number of slaves and depended on them tremendously. It was a well-established institution (Cornell, 280). The slaves did mostly hard and dirty work. The slaves were traded in the slave market yet some were those captured during the war. Slaves trying to escape were hit, burned with a heated iron, and even killed. It was accepted as a way of life, although it turned out to be beneficial and disastrous to Rome. They were used in farms, businesses, and buildings. The treatment of slaves in Rome is highly praised. Several privileges, comforts, and superb treatment were accorded to slaves. Some were treated like children of their masters. Some slaves were even given full charge and control over the money that the masters owned.

A ceremony called Saturnalia only depicts the fair treatment of slaves. Slaves would pick up the role of their masters and vice versa. They were thankful and celebrated peaceful moments together. Slavery equally contributed to the fall of Rome. It is because of the overdependence on slaves by the Romans, which got to a point where it stopped. Slaves would continually be captured, brought into the auction yards, and stripped naked thus, facing a lot of humiliation. Females would also be sold out into prostitution. Sexual abuse by the masters was also something common. Some schools trained slaves to be killed or to kill for entertainment purposes.

The slaves caused the fall of the Roman Empire. A wealthy man could own up to 400 slaves and, in other cases, 10000 slaves. The simplest of tasks like getting dressed would call for the services of a slave. The lower class Romans, therefore, lacked work and solely depended on the government to support them this strain on the government was one of the causes of the fall of this empire.

Slavery in Ancient Syria

Slaves were a common feature. They usually were obtained by way of war, and others were criminals turned slaves. Crimes like beating up a family member would earn one an opportunity to become a slave. Slavery contributed to a lot of the devastation that was experienced during those times (Gurowski 57). Equally, if one had debts, they would clear them by selling their children or wives for a specific duration of time. Simply by getting into debt, one would still become a slave. The slaves were important in temples and public buildings, although they also had roles to play in homes of private persons.

Royal slaves, for example, served vital roles in the construction of fortifications and buildings. Those owned by private individuals mostly carried out household chores. Slaves trying to escape or that manifesting disobedience faced very harsh laws. It extended to as far as having their ears cut off and other ruthless treatment. Still, the slaves had an opportunity to own wealth and participate in businesses. They could also marry free men or women, and eventually, they had an opportunity to purchase their freedom.

Slavery in Ancient India

Very little is known about the slavery that occurred in India. Slavery in India is, however, considered to have been used mainly in domestic than industrial production (Thapar 149). Differences between people in the lower caste and the slaves were not substantial as such, and in some circumstances, slaves received better treatment compared to persons in the lower caste. A lower caste person was mandated to work all the time before they could get food and other basics, while slaves were allowed time off work for a while. Laws were put in place as to the treatment that was to be accorded to slaves. An example is, slaves could receive a beating on the back but not on the head. Any woman slave made pregnant by her master would become free together with her child at the time of giving birth.

Many masters it has to be said did disregard these rules. Nevertheless, some structure of protection was accorded. Indian and Buddhist principles also did affect the behavior of some persons. Most of the slaves were got from Greece and the colony cities of Greece. There existed Ionians who were female slave armies that protected the King’s harem. They worked hard to maintain the tradition’s names and language of where they had been sourced from.

Still, though, other slaves came from the west, Africa as well as the European land. There were equal chances to have Indians who were born free to become slaves. It was on their commission of serious crimes, by way of trafficking, by gambling, among other ways. The enslavement did not have to be permanent in all these cases. At times, financial arrangements would be made to accord freedom to the slaves.

Status of early Africans and their rights

Jordan (26) insinuates that the English settlement in America brought along the influence of slavery, which was not there previously. The first African slaves in America are not known exactly which part of Africans they came from. However, speculation is that it was central Africa. They settled around present-day South Carolina in 1526. In the initial colony they were living, a war broke out, and the Africans fled to seek refuge amongst the Native Americans. The colony of St Augustine in 1565 took up many African slaves. English north amerce had its first African slaves in 1619. Converting to Christianity or fulfilling their work contract earned them freedom.

The dark skin color of Africans was a major sell out for them. They faced a lot of discrimination and segregation because of that. There was no equal protection that was accorded to blacks as it was to the whites.

Equally, the blacks were taken into slavery, did not have time for recreation, and had to suffer, including being whipped by their masters. Funny as it may seem, Africans were not allowed to sit at the front of a bus and, at times, would not be allowed to share the same bus with whites. Public functions that had whites attending meant that automatically Africans were excluded. They were not to receive any education, but rather, they were just to serve their white masters. Africans were also discouraged from voting.

Original American vs. Free Americans after Slavery

The original white Americans consisted of the high-class members and the lower class members. With this, the lower class Americans would mostly be employed by the higher class Americans. It would be in the farms, businesses, and industries. Upon the onslaught of slavery, many of the lower class Americans had to lose their jobs since the same work could be done cheaply and, in other cases, freely by the African slaves that had been bought. Einhorn (1) thinks that slavery was one of the major causes of poor democracy during that time since African Americans could not vote.

The lower class Americans would then find more technical jobs or supervision of the Africans. The higher class Americans, on the other hand, did a lot of traveling, partnering, and dealing trades to increase their wealth. In as much as there were free blacks at that time, they could not freely intermingle with the free whites. They were not to vote and faced a lot of abuses along the way. There were special places for free white Americans and free black Americans. With the work of many activists and of course the passing into law the bill against slavery, to some extent the segregation reduced. To date though, we still have problems of racism haunting us.

Work cited

Murray, O. Early Greece. New York: Harvard university press, 1978. Print.

Cornell, T. The beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age. New York: Routledge, 1995. Print.

Gurowski, A. Slavery in history. California: University of Carlifornia Press, 2000. Print.

Thapar, R. Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. California: university of California Press, 2002. Print.

Winthrop, D. The white man’s burden: historical origins of racism in the United States. New York: oxford University Press, 1974. Print.

Einhorn, R. American taxation, American slavery. Chicago: University of Chicago press, 2006. Print.

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