Who Were the Freedmen in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the term “freedmen” referred to individuals who had been enslaved but were later granted their freedom. This was a common practice in Greek society, and many freedmen went on to become successful and influential members of their communities.

The Process of Becoming a Freedman

The process of becoming a freedman was not an easy one. Typically, a slave could only be granted freedom if their owner agreed to release them or if they were able to purchase their own freedom. In some cases, slaves could earn their freedom through acts of bravery or exceptional service.

Once a slave was granted their freedom, they were no longer considered property and were free to live their lives as they chose. However, there were still limitations placed on them. For example, they were not allowed to hold public office or participate in certain religious ceremonies.

The Role of Freedmen in Ancient Greece

Despite these limitations, many freedmen went on to become successful members of Greek society. Some became wealthy merchants or traders, while others worked as artisans or craftsmen. In some cases, freedmen even became teachers or philosophers.

One notable example is Aesop, the famous storyteller and creator of Aesop’s Fables. Aesop is believed to have been a freedman who gained fame for his ability to craft engaging stories that conveyed important moral lessons.

Another example is Epictetus, a philosopher who lived during the 1st century AD. Epictetus was born into slavery but later gained his freedom and went on to become one of the most influential philosophers of his time.

  • Challenges Faced by Freedmen

Despite the success that some freedmen achieved, life was not always easy for them in ancient Greece. They faced discrimination and prejudice from those who believed that being born free was superior to gaining freedom later in life.

Freedmen were also often viewed with suspicion and distrust, as there was a belief that they may still hold loyalty to their former owners or have a hidden agenda.


In conclusion, the freedmen of ancient Greece played an important role in shaping the society and culture of their time. While they faced many challenges, they were able to overcome them and achieve success in a variety of fields. Today, we continue to look back on their contributions with admiration and respect.