University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Ancient History

Undergraduate Course: Ancient Greek Slavery (ANHI10057)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course looks at the role of slavery in ancient Greek society. Students will investigate a range of evidence, including law court speeches, tombstones, vase paintings, domestic architecture, philosophical treatises, manumission inscriptions, etc. to gain a varied understanding of the ways in which the peculiar institution manifested itself in Greek society. Students will explore the relationship between slavery and other forms of unfree labour as well as between slavery and freedom, slavery and citizenship, and slavery and democracy. Like its 'partner', the Honours course on 'Roman Slavery', this course springs directly from the course organiser's main research interest: the study of slavery in classical antiquity.
Course description The course offers focussed study of slavery in the ancient Greek world, covering a range of important topics that cover both thematic and conceptual issues, as well as questions concerning the source material.

A typical class schedule may look like this:

W1: Introduction: What is Greek slavery?
W2: Ideologies of slavery in ancient Greece
W3: Slaves in the home
W4: Slaves in the crafts
W5: Slaves on the land
W6: Slave numbers
W7: Slavery, freedom, citizenship, democracy
W8: Spartan helotage
W9: Slave revolt and rebellion
W10: Slave manumission
W11: Conclusion: The location of Greek slavery

In the course of the semester, the students should acquire familiarity with a) various types of slave labour exploited (e.g. agricultural, industrial and commercial), as well as the differences between public and private slavery; b) the various bodies of evidence available for the study of ancient slavery (i.e. archaeology, epigraphy, literary evidence and papyrology); and c) the various approaches taken by scholars towards the study of (ancient) slavery (e.g. comparatist, feminist, Marxist, quantitative).

Because of the significance of slave and forced labour in ancient societies, the topic offers itself as a valuable introduction to the study of the ancient world as a whole, as well as to issues of labour, labour rights and movements - or their absence. Likewise, the course is an ideal introduction to the study of slavery as a historical phenomenon, and the course is therefore explicitly comparatist.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Ancient History 2a: Past and Present in the Ancient World (ANHI08014) OR Ancient History 2b: Themes and Theories in Ancient History (ANHI08013)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in Ancient History 2A or 2B or at the discretion of the course organiser.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should usually have at least 3 courses in Classics related subject matter(at least 2 of which should be in Ancient History) at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of a variety of important evidence for the study of Greek slavery;
  2. demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the different types of questions asked by historians of this evidence;
  3. demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the relationship between slavery and freedom;
  4. demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the relationship between slavery and other forms of unfree labour;
  5. demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the differences between different Greek city states and their approaches to slavery and related forms of unfree labour.
Reading List
P. Cartledge, 'Rebels and Sambos in Classical Greece', in CRUX. Essays in Honour of G.E.M. de Ste. Croix (1985).
M. Finley, 'Problems of slave society: some reflections on the debate', Opus 1 (1982), 201-11.
M. Finley, Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology (1980).
M. Finley, 'Slavery and the historians', Social History 12.24 (1979), 247-61.
M. Finley (ed.), Slavery in Classical Antiquity (1968).
N. Fisher, Slavery in Classical Greece (1993).
Y. Garlan, Slavery in Ancient Greece (1988).
P.D.A. Garnsey, Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine (1996).
M.H. Jameson, 'Agriculture and slavery in Classical Athens', Classical Journal 73 (1977-8), 122-46.
W. Scheidel, 'Helot numbers: a simplified model', in N. Luraghi and S.E. Alcock (edd.), Helots and their Masters in Laconia and Messenia (2003), 240-7.
G.E.M. de Ste. Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World (1981).
W.L. Westermann, The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity (1955).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsAncient Greek Slavery
Course organiserDr David Lewis
Tel: (0131 6)50 3851
Course secretaryMs Elaine Hutchison
Tel: (0131 6)50 3582
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information