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Origins of Slavery

Forum Answers to the Question:
Did Slavery or Indentured Servitude Come First?

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"I was wondering if anyone could give me a good idea on what the original origin of slavery was. My husband and I had a disagreement about it and I'm looking to find out for certain one way or the other. It's his belief that slavery started out as a form of indentured servitude, where as it's my belief that it was more along the lines of 'I'm stronger than you, so I'm going to capture a bunch of your people and make them work for me.'"
Related Resources
Roman Slavery
Slave Revolts - Spartacus and the Slave Wars
Spartacus Links

In response to a question about the origins of slavery, forum members have made interesting points worth further study. You may read the forum members' contributions to the slavery question below.
Spartacus and the Slave Wars

  1. Yeah. When the Romans conquered people they murdered the inhabitants too, and those they didn't murder they took as slaves. The slaves were supposed to be happy because they were spared:P I mean, it's fitting that they had no rights because at least they were allowed to live.

    Or on the other hand, maybe they got some slaves by kidnapping....@o

  2. Actually slavery is much older indentured servitude. Indentured servitude was a form in Europe, where one was sometimes even sell himself/herself to pay off debts. This was from about 1100 to about 1750, give or take. Before that Romans had slaves. Before that the Greek city states had slavery, mostly of (as you put it, "stronger than you are" conquests), but there is evidence of it even before that. You ever read about Abraham in the Bible? His wife wanted him to take a slave to mate with. So slavery, as unfortunate a scar on humanity as it is, traces it origins to very near the beginning of man. Funny thing, until only a few hundred years ago, people enslaved like people: Greeks enslaved Greeks; Romans enslaved Romans, Greeks, Nubians, etc., but they were all part of the greater Roman empire, and even Nubians, Greeks, or Egyptians could become Romans, so in a sense they were all Romans; Africans enslaved Africans.
  3. Judging from what I know about primitive societies, I think slavery had its origins in family relationships. Slaves were substitutes for children. Like children, they had obligations to their owners, especially to help them survive as they grew old. A person could become a slave by way of one family or village having a debt or obligation to make restitution for a crime. The person who became the slave was not necessarily the one who committed the crime.

    Also, the distinction between a wife and a slave wasn't always a very large one. Villagers often found wives by kidnapping women from their neighbors. The practice helped them avoid incest, and besides, virtually nobody wants to have sex with somebody they grew up with.

    I saw a comment in this thread that enslavement of other ethnic groups didn't appear until recently. The ancient Sumerians' glyph for a slave literally meant "mountain man". The Greeks thought Asians were natural-born slaves. Romans got their slaves mostly among those they conquered. Muslims enslaved their neighbors who were not Islamic.

Greek and Roman Slavery - A Sourcebook
Spartacus and the Slave Wars
Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World, 140 B. C.-70 B. C.
Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire : A Study in Social Control

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