What Do You Understand by Slavery in Ancient Greece and Rome?

Slavery in Ancient Greece and Rome was a prevalent practice that had significant cultural, economic, and social impacts. Enslaved individuals were considered property and were owned by their masters who controlled every aspect of their lives. In this article, we’ll explore the history of slavery in Ancient Greece and Rome, the types of slaves, and the role they played in society.

Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, slaves were known as doulos. They were primarily prisoners of war or individuals who could not pay off their debts.

Slaves were bought and sold in markets known as agora. Their value varied depending on their skills, strength, age, and gender. Male slaves were often used for manual labor while female slaves worked as domestic servants.

Types of Slaves

There were different types of slaves in Ancient Greece. The helots were a group of enslaved people who belonged to the city-state of Sparta.

They worked on farms and as domestic servants for Spartan citizens. The penestai were enslaved people in Thessaly who worked on farms owned by aristocrats.

Role in Society

Slaves played a crucial role in Ancient Greek society. They worked as farmers, craftsmen, builders, and even teachers. Some wealthy Greeks would buy educated slaves to tutor their children or compose poetry for them.

Ancient Rome

Slavery was also a fundamental institution in Ancient Rome. Slaves made up around one-third of the Roman Empire’s population at its peak. Romans acquired slaves through conquests or by purchasing them from slave traders.

There were two main types of slaves in Ancient Rome – publici and privati. Publici slaves belonged to the state and worked on public projects like roads or aqueducts. Privati slaves belonged to private citizens who used them for domestic work, agriculture, or as gladiators in the arenas.

Slaves were an essential part of Ancient Roman society. They worked as laborers, craftsmen, household servants, and even teachers.

Wealthy Romans would often have many slaves who would cater to their every need. Some slaves were highly educated and served as secretaries or advisors to their masters.


In conclusion, slavery was a crucial institution in Ancient Greece and Rome. It played a significant role in their economies and societies.

Slaves were considered property and had no rights or freedoms. They were subjected to harsh treatment and punishment by their masters. Understanding the history of slavery in Ancient Greece and Rome is essential to comprehend the development of Western civilization.