How Did Slavery Work in Ancient Greece?

Slavery was a common practice in ancient Greece, and it played a significant role in the economy and social structure of the society. The practice of slavery was an integral part of the Greek way of life, and it was accepted as a normal practice.

Origins of Slavery in Ancient Greece

Slavery in ancient Greece can be traced back to the Mycenaean civilization, which flourished between 1600 BCE and 1100 BCE. However, it was during the Archaic period (8th century BCE – 6th century BCE) that slavery became an important part of Greek society.

How Did Slavery Work?

In ancient Greece, slaves were considered property and were owned by their masters. They were bought and sold like any other commodity. Slaves were acquired through various means such as warfare, piracy, or purchase from slave traders.

Types of Slaves

There were different types of slaves in ancient Greece, each with their own roles and responsibilities.

  • Household slaves: These slaves worked in the homes of their masters as cooks, cleaners, or nurses.
  • Agricultural slaves: These slaves worked on farms and plantations.
  • Mining slaves: These slaves worked in mines and were often subjected to dangerous working conditions.
  • Public slaves: These slaves worked for the government or public institutions such as temples or theaters.

Treatment of Slaves

The treatment of slaves varied depending on their owner’s attitude towards them. Some owners treated their slaves well while others treated them harshly. Slaves were often subjected to physical punishment for disobedience or for not meeting work expectations.

The Role of Slaves in the Economy

Slavery was an essential part of the economy in ancient Greece. Slaves were used to produce goods and provide services that were vital to the functioning of society. The use of slaves allowed wealthy Greeks to accumulate more wealth by exploiting their labor.

The End of Slavery in Ancient Greece

The practice of slavery in ancient Greece came to an end during the Hellenistic period (323 BCE – 31 BCE) when slavery was gradually phased out. This was due to a combination of factors such as economic changes, philosophical ideas, and political reforms.


In conclusion, slavery played a significant role in ancient Greece’s economy and social structure. It was a common practice that was accepted as normal, and it allowed wealthy Greeks to accumulate more wealth by exploiting the labor of others. However, the end of slavery marked a significant change in Greek society and paved the way for new economic and social structures to emerge.