Slavery: antiquity and its legacy
"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is perhaps the most famous phrase of all in the American Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson's momentous words are closely related to the French concept of "liberte, egalite, fraternitye"; and both ideas incarnate a notion of freedom as inalienable human right that in the modern world we expect to take for granted. In the ancient world, by contrast, the concepts of freedom and equality had little purchase. Athenians, Spartans and Romans all possessed slaves or helots (unfree bondsmen), and society was unequal at every stratum. Why, then, if modern society abominates slavery, does what antiquity thought about serfdom matter today?
Page duBois shows that slavery, far from being extinct, is alive and well in the contemporary era. Slaves are associated not just with the Colosseum of ancient Rome, and films depicting ancient slaves, but also with Californian labor factories and south Asian sweatshops, while young women and children appear increasingly vulnerable to sexual trafficking. Juxtaposing such modern experiences of bondage (economic or sexual) with slavery in antiquity, the author explores the writings on the subject of Aristotle, Plautus, Terence and Aristophanes. She also examines the case of Spartacus, famous leader of a Roman slave rebellion, and relates ancient notions of liberation to the all-too-common immigrant experience of enslavement to a globalized world of rampant corporatism and exploitative capitalism.
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abolitionist African Americans ancient Greece ancient slavery antiquity Aram Khachaturian argues Aristotle Athenian Athens barbarians bondage born called captives century BCE chapter Christian Cicero cites citizens civilization classical colonies colour Commandments Commodus concerning Crassus culture domination Douglass earlier early modern Egypt Egyptian emperor enslavement epic Equiano escape everyday example father film freed freedom Gladiator global Greek Hebrew Bible Helots hero household human ideologies Israelites Jacques Ranciere Jesus Kevin Bales killed labour land legacy living master Maximus Moses movie natural slavery North America novel numbers of slaves Olaudah Equiano past period Persian Pherecles plantations political Portugese presence of slaves present racial racialised slavery resistance Robin Blackburn Roman Empire scenes servants sexual slave and free slave narratives slave owners slave revolt social death societies sold South Spartacus Spartans status Stoic story suffering Testament tion torture violence Western woman women XANTHIAS