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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

William Davis, A Day in Old Athens

 

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The Slaves

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Page 5

Cruel and Kind Masters

 

    Slavery in Athens, as everywhere else, is largely dependent upon the character of the master; and most Athenian masters would not regard crude brutality as consistent with that love of elegance, harmony, and genteel deliberation which characterizes a well-born citizen. There do not lack masters who have the whip continually in their hands, who add to the raw stripes fetters and branding, and who make their slaves unceasingly miserable; but such masters are the exception, and public opinion does not praise them. Between the best Athenians and their slaves there is a genial, friendly relation, and the master will put up with a good deal of real impertinence, knowing that behind this forwardness there is an honest zeal for his interests.

    Nevertheless the slave system of Athens is not commendable. It puts a stigma upon the glory of honest manual labor. It instills domineering, despotic habits into the owners, cringing subservience into the owned. Even if a slave becomes freed, he does not become an Athenian citizen; he is only a "metic," a resident foreigner, and his old master, or some other Athenian, must be his patron and representative in every kind of legal business. It is a notorious fact that the mere state of slavery robs the victim of his self-respect and manhood. Nevertheless nobody dreams of abolishing slavery as an institution, and the Athenians, comparing themselves with other communities, pride themselves on the extreme humanity of their slave system.

 

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-Greece/old-athens-slaves.asp?pg=5