Were There Slaves in Ancient Greece?

The ancient Greek civilization is known for its contributions to philosophy, mathematics, science, and the arts. However, it was also a society that relied heavily on slaves for labor. In this article, we will explore the role of slavery in ancient Greece and its impact on society.

The Institution of Slavery in Ancient Greece

Slavery was an important institution in ancient Greek society. It is estimated that at its peak, between a third and a half of the population in Athens were slaves. These individuals were owned by citizens and were considered property rather than people.

Types of Slaves

There were different types of slaves in ancient Greece. Some were domestic servants who worked in households, while others worked in mines or on farms. The conditions under which they worked varied greatly depending on their owners.

How Were People Enslaved

There were several ways that people became enslaved in ancient Greece. Some were born into slavery if their parents were slaves.

Others became slaves as a result of being captured during wars or raids. Debtors who could not repay their loans could also be sold into slavery.

The Role of Slaves in Society

Slaves played an essential role in ancient Greek society as they provided cheap labor for various occupations. They worked as cooks, cleaners, farm laborers, and even teachers or doctors. However, they had no rights and could be mistreated by their owners without any consequences.

Treatment of Slaves

The treatment of slaves varied widely depending on their owners’ attitudes towards them. While some slave owners treated their slaves well and even granted them freedom after years of service, others treated them cruelly and punished them severely for minor mistakes.

The Impact of Slavery on Society

The reliance on slave labor had a significant impact on ancient Greek society. Slavery created a stark social divide between the free citizens who owned slaves and the enslaved individuals who had no rights. The slave trade also created economic inequalities, as wealthy citizens could purchase more slaves to work on their land or in their households.

The Abolition of Slavery

Although slavery was an integral part of ancient Greek society, it eventually came to an end. The institution of slavery was abolished in Greece during the 19th century after a long struggle for freedom and equality.


In conclusion, slavery was a crucial institution that shaped ancient Greek society. While it provided cheap labor for various occupations, it also created significant social and economic inequalities. Today, we can look back at this period of history and learn from it while acknowledging the contributions of those who were enslaved and fought for their freedom.