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Page 3

The Slave Trade in Greece

 

    There are two great sources of slave supply: the Asia Minor region (Lydia and Phrygia, with Syria in the background), and the Black Sea region, especially the northern shores, known as Scythia. It is known to innumerable heartless "traders" that human flesh commands a very high price in Athens or other Greek cities. Every little war or raid that vexes those barbarous countries so incessantly is followed by the sale of the unhappy captives to speculators who ship them on, stage by stage, to Athens. Perhaps there is no war; the supply is kept up then by deliberately kidnapping on a large scale, or by piracy.[3] In any case the arrival of a chain gang of fettered wretches at the Peiraeus is an everyday sight. Some of these creatures are submissive and tame (perhaps they understand some craft or trade); these can be sold at once for a high price. Others are still doltish and stubborn. They are good for only the rudest kind of labor, unless they are kept and trained at heavy expense. These brutish creatures are frequently sold off to the mines, to be worked to death by the contractors as promptly and brutally as one wears out a machine; or else they become public galley slaves, when their fate is practically the same. But we need not follow such horrors.

    The remainder are likely to be purchased either for use upon the farm, the factory, or in the home. There is a regular "circle" at or near the Agora for traffic in them. They are often sold at auction. The price of course varies with the good looks, age,[4] or dexterity of the article, or the abundance of supply. "Slaves will be high" in a year when there has been little warfare and raiding in Asia Minor. "Some slaves," says Xenophon, "are well worth two minæ [$36.00 (1914) or $640.80 (2000)] and others barely half a mina [$9.00 (1914) or $160.20 (2000)]; some sell up to five minæ [$90.00 (1914) or $1,602.00 (2000)] and even for ten [$180.00 (1914) or $3,204.00 (2000)]. Nicias, the son of Nicaretus, is said to have given a talent [over $1,000.00 (1914) or $17,800.00 (2000)] for an overseer in the mines."[5] The father of Demosthenes owned a considerable factory. He had thirty-two sword cutters worth about five minæ each, and twenty couch-makers (evidently less skilled) worth together 40 minæ [about $720.00 (1914) or $12,816.00 (2000)]. A girl who is handsome and a clever flute player, who will be readily hired for supper parties, may well command a very high price indeed, say even 30 minæ [about $540.00 (1914) or $9,612.00 (2000)].

 

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