Why Was Slavery So Common in Ancient Times?

Slavery has been a significant part of human history since ancient times. It was prevalent in many civilizations, including the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians.

But have you ever wondered why slavery was so common in ancient times? In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the widespread practice of slavery.

What is Slavery?

Slavery is a system where people are treated as property and forced to work without pay. They have no rights and are often subjected to physical abuse and mistreatment. Slavery has taken many forms throughout history, from chattel slavery to debt bondage.

Why Was Slavery So Common in Ancient Times?

Economic Reasons

One of the main reasons for the prevalence of slavery in ancient times was economic. Many civilizations relied on slave labor to build their economies.

For example, the Romans used slaves for mining, agriculture, and construction. The Greeks used slaves as domestic servants and laborers.

Slaves were cheap labor that could be bought and sold like any other commodity. The cost of owning a slave was often lower than hiring free workers or paying wages to employees. Thus, it made economic sense for people to buy slaves rather than hire free workers.

Social Hierarchy

The social hierarchy played a significant role in the practice of slavery in ancient times. People who were not citizens of a particular city-state or kingdom were considered inferior and often enslaved.

For instance, in ancient Greece, only free-born male citizens could participate in politics or own property. Women and foreign-born individuals were excluded from these privileges and were often treated as second-class citizens or slaves.

Similarly, the Romans had a complex social hierarchy where slaves occupied the lowest rung. They were considered property rather than people with rights.


Another reason for the prevalence of slavery in ancient times was warfare. Conquering armies often enslaved the defeated population as a way to control them. The Romans, for example, enslaved millions of people during their conquests.

The Abolition of Slavery

Despite its widespread practice in ancient times, slavery has been abolished in most parts of the world. The abolition movement gained momentum during the 18th and 19th centuries when people began to question the morality of owning other human beings.

In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States. However, slavery still exists in some parts of the world, albeit illegally.


Slavery was a prevalent practice in ancient times due to economic reasons, social hierarchy, and warfare. It was a cheap source of labor that allowed civilizations to build their economies and maintain social hierarchies. However, with the rise of abolitionist movements and changing attitudes towards human rights, slavery has been abolished in most parts of the world.