Slavery in the ancient world

Module code: AH2701

Slavery was ever-present and deep rooted in the ancient world. In this level 2 module we will explore how the models of slavery in the ancient Mediterranean varied considerably, as did attitudes towards it. We are fortunate to possess a wide variety of extant sources from Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome that provide various voices to both slave owners and (sometimes) to the slaves themselves; we also have different positions on the concept (and ethics) of owning human beings, which historians and philosophers have been grappling with ever since. 

We will explore the different origins of slavery, from prisoners of war, piracy and slave trade to simply being born as a child of a slave. We’ll examine how slaves were used in family homes, agriculture, the construction industry and even to perform tasks in cult rituals. We will look at the political and economic environments that made for the development and continuation of slavery in ancient Mesopotamian, Greek, and Roman societies.

This module is assessed by a Source Study, where you work closely with a set dossier of ancient evidence, and a research essay.

Topics covered in this module include:

  • defining slavery
  • routes to enslavement
  • slavery and industry
  • slavery and religious practices
  • manumission and freedom
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