Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/233

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

etymology, is generally acknowledged. But it is not so well understood that slavery discharged important offices in the later social evolution — first, by enabling military action to prevail with the degree of intensity and continuity requisite for the system of incorporation by conquest which was its final destination; and, secondly, by forcing the captives, who with their descendants came to form the majority of the population in the conquering community, to an industrial life, in spite of the antipathy to regular and sustained labour which is deeply rooted in human nature. As regards the latter consideration, it is enough to say that nowhere has productive industry developed itself in the form of voluntary effort; in every country of which we have any knowledge it was imposed by the strong upon the weak, and was wrought into the habits of the people only by the stern discipline of constraint. From the former point of view the free- man, then essentially a warrior, and the slave were mutual auxiliaries, simultaneously exercising different and comple- mentary functions — each necessary to the community. In modern slavery, on the other hand, where the occupations of both parties were industrial, the existence of a servile class only guaranteed for some of them the possibility of self-indulgent ease, whilst it imposed on others the necessity of indigent idleness. It was in the Roman state that military action — in Greece often purposeless and, except in the resistance to Persia, on the whole fruitless — worked out the social mission which formed its true justification. Hence at Rome slavery also most properly found its place, so long as that mission was in progress of accomplish- ment. As soon as the march of conquest had reached its natural limit, slavery began to be modified; and when the empire was divided into the several states which had grown up under it, and the system of defence characteristic of the middle ages was substituted for the aggressive system of antiquity, slavery gradually disappeared, and was replaced by serfdom.

We have so far dealt with the political results of ancient slavery, and have found it to have been in certain respects not only useful but indispensable. When we consider its moral effects, whilst endeavouring to avoid exaggeration, we must yet pro- nounce its influence to have been profoundly detrimental. In its action on the slave it marred in a great measure the happy effects of habitual industry by preventing the development of the sense of human dignity which lies at the foundation of morals. On the morality of the masters — whether personal, domestic, or social — the effects of the institution were disastrous. The habit of absolute rule, always dangerous, was peculiarly corrupting when it penetrated every department of daily life, and when no external interference checked individual caprice in its action on the feelings and fortunes of inferiors. It tended to destroy the power of self-command, and exposed the master to the baneful influences of flattery. As regards domestic morality, the system offered constant facilities £pr libertinism, and tended to subvert domestic peace by compromising the dignity and ruining the happiness of the wife. The sons of the family were familiarized with vice, and the general tone of the younger generation was lowered by their intimate association with a despised and de- graded class. These deplorable results were, of course, not uni- versally produced; there were admirable exceptions both among masters and among slaves — instances of benevolent protection on the one side and of unselfish devotion on the other; but the evil effects without doubt greatly preponderated.

Greece. — We find slavery fully established in the Homeric period. The prisoners taken in war are retained as slaves, or sold (27. xxiv. 752) or held at ransom (//. vi. 427) by the captor. Some- times the men of a conquered town or district are slain and the women carried off (Od. ix. 40). Not unfrequently free persons were kidnapped by pirates and sold in other regions, like Eumaeus in the Odyssey. The slave might thus be by birth of equal rank with his master, who knew that the same fate might befall himself or some of the members of his family. The institution does

Historic period — sources ot slavery.

Heroic times.

service, were put in possession of a house and property qf their own (Od. xiv. 64). Grote's idea that the women slaves were in a more pitiable condition than the males does not seem justified, except perhaps in the case cf the alelrides, who turned the household mills which ground the flour consumed in the family, and who were some- times overworked by unfeeling masters {Od. xx. 110-119). Homer marks in a celebrated couplet his sense of the moral deterioration commonly wrought by the condition of slavery (Od. xvii. 322).

It is, however, in historic Greece, where we have ample docu- mentary information, that it is most important to study the system. The sources of slavery in Greece were: (1) Birth, the condition being hereditary. This was not an abundant source, women slaves being less numerous than men, and wise masters making the union of the sexes rather a reward of good service than a matter of speculation (Xen. Oecon. 9. 5). It was in general cheaper to buy a slave than to rear one to the age of labour. (2) Sale of children by their free parents, which was tolerated, except in Attica, or their exposure, which was per- mitted, except at Thebes. The consequence of the latter was some- times to subject them to a servitude worse than death, as is seen in the plays of Plautus and Terence, which, as is well known, depict Greek, not Roman, manners. Freemen, through indigence, some- times sold themselves, and at Athens, up to the time of Solon, an insolvent debtor became the slave of his creditor. (3) Capture in war. Not only Asiatics and Thracians thus became slaves, but in the many wars between Grecian states, continental or colonial, Greeks were reduced to slavery by men of their own race. Cailicratidas pro- nounced against the enslavement of Greeks by Greeks, but violated his own principle, to which, however, Epaminondas and Pelopidas appear to have been faithful. (4) Piracy and kidnapping. The descents of pirates on the coasts were a perpetual source of danger; the pirate was a gainer either by the sale or by the redemption of his captives. If ransomed, the victim became by Athenian law the slave of his redeemer till he paid in money or labour the price which had been given for him. Kidnappers (andrapodistae) carried off children even in cities, and reared them as slaves. Whether from hostile forays or from piracy, any Greek was exposed to the risk of enslavement. (5) Commerce. Besides the sale of slaves which took place as a result of the capture of cities or other military operations, there was a systematic slave trade. Syria, Pontus, Lydia, Galatia, and above all Thrace were sources of supply. Egypt and Ethiopia also furnished a certain number, and Italy a few. Of foreigners, the Asiatics bore the greatest value, as most amenable to command, and most versed in the arts of luxurious refinement. But Greeks were highest of all in esteem, and they were much sought for foreign sale. Greece proper and Ionia supplied the petty Eastern princes with courtesans and female musicians and dancers. Athens was an important slave market, and the state profited by a tax on the sales ; but the principal marts were those of Cyprus, Samos, Ephesus and especially Chios.

The slaves were employed either in domestic service — as house- hold managers, attendants or personal escorts — or in work of other kinds, agricultural or urban. In early Attica, and even _ down to the time of Pericles, the landowners lived in the Employ- country. The Peloponnesian War introduced a change ; m . ea . s and after that time the proprietors resided at Athens, and s a » es «  the cultivation was in the hands of slaves. In manufactures and commerce, also, servile gradually displaced free labour. Speculators either directly employed slaves as artisans or commercial and banking agents, or hired them out, sometimes for work in mines or factories, sometimes for service in private houses, as cooks, flute-players, &C, or for viler uses. There were also public slaves; of these some belonged to temples, to which they were presented as offerings, amongst them being the courtesans who acted as hieroduli at Corinth and at Eryx in Sicily ; others were appropriated to the service of the magistrates or to public works; there were at Athens 1200 Scythian archers for the police of the city; slaves served, too, in the fleets, and were employed in the armies, — commonly as workmen, and exceptionally as soldiers.

The condition of slaves at Athens was not in general a wretched one. Demosthenes (In Mid. p. 530) says that, if the barbarians from whom the slaves were bought were informed of the condition mild treatment they received, they would entertain a great, esteem for the Athenians. Plautus in more than one place thinks it necessary to explain to the spectators of his plays that slaves at Athens enjoyed such privileges, and even licence, as must be surprising to a Roman audience. The slave was introduced with certain customary rites into his position in the family; he was in practice, though not by law, permitted to accumulate a private fund of his own; his marriage was also recognized by custom; though in general excluded from sacred ceremonies and public sacrifices, slaves were admissible to religious associations of a private kind ; there were some popular festivals in which they were allowed to participate; they had even special ones for themselves both at Athens and in nimsen or some 01 tne memDers 01 ms iamny. 1 ne institution ooes 1 tney naa even special ones tor tnemseives Dotn at Attiens ana uv VS3X. mesfcti vX^v VR. 3, \W} \vs.v^\. Ioto\sv Wawst, «a^eca8^ \\ ^e\ tAhet CrteeV cettaes. Ttievc temams >«ete deposited m the tamfty consider (as Grote suggests) that " aft dasses were much on a level in taste, sentiment and instruction." The male slaves were employed in the tillage of the land and the tending of cattle, and the females in domestic work and household manufactures. The principal slaves often enjoyed the confidence of their masters and had important duties entrusted to them; and, after lengthened and meritorious tomb of their master, who sometimes erected monuments in testimony of his affection and regret. They often lived on terms of intimacy either with the head of the house or its younger members; but it is to be feared that too often this intimacy was founded, not on mutual respect, as in the heroic example of Ulysses and Eumaeus, but on insolent self-assertion on the one side and a spirit of