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Slavery was a widespread practice in the ancient world but ancient Greece and Rome were the only true "slave societies." Slavery has continued to exist as an institution throughout human history and still exists, even today, in numerous parts of the world. The institution of Gorean slavery most closely resembles the slavery practiced by the ancient Romans though there are some important differences as well. This scroll will discuss the institutions of ancient Greek and Roman slavery. It will compare and contrast them to Gorean slavery.
By most definitions, Gor would not be considered an actual "slave society." It would only be considered a slave owning society. There have only been five societies in history that most scholars agree were true slave societies. These include Athens, Roman Italy, Brazil, the Caribbean and the United States. The latter three were those societies that existed during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Different scholars have their own ways of defining a "slave society" though there are three primary definitions. First, a slave society is one in which slaves play a significant role in production and also form a significant portion of the population. Such a portion must usually be at least 20%. Second, is a more qualitative approach, ascertaining whether slaves play a significant role within a society's economy and production. Third, relies upon the second definition as well but expands the definition of "slave" to include other forms of dependent labor.
One example of an ancient society that does not meet these definitions, though it owned slaves, was Egypt. The evidence suggests that the number of slaves in Egypt was only 10% or less of the population. If we examine Gorean society, we find that less than 2% of the population are slaves. About 90% of those slaves are women. Though some Gorean slaves work in areas of production, especially the male slaves, they do not contribute significantly to such production. Most production on Gor is performed by free persons, members of different Castes. For example, the Peasant Caste is responsible for most of the agricultural production on Gor. Slaves on Gor are more a luxury than a necessity. Thus, Gor is a slave owning society rather than an actual slave society.
When we discuss ancient slavery, there are some problems in obtaining accurate information. First, there are no existing documents written from the viewpoint of a slave. The existing documents are all from the viewpoints of owners. That does lead to a certain slant in the information. Second, we do not possess full documentation even from the owners concerning many slavery issues, especially matters such as the numbers of slaves or where all of the slaves came from. In such areas, scholars speculate using what information does exist.
Ancient Greece practiced slavery and Athens was considered in many ways to be the model for other city-states. During the 5th century B.C., Athens contained approximately 100,000 slaves and this constituted from 1/3 to ½ of the total population. Most Athenians, except for the very poor, owned at least one slave. These proportions were common throughout ancient Greece except in Sparta. Sparta enslaved the entire population of the city-state of Messenia. These slaves were called "helots" and they worked the land of the Spartans, performing all of the agricultural duties. The helots outnumbered the Spartans possibly by as much as ten times. Thus, the outnumbered Spartans had to work hard to suppress the helots from revolting.
Athens treated slaves more humanely than the Romans, and more humanely than Goreans, and even allowed their slaves certain rights. Slaves could bring a civil suit to trial or even receive income. Slaves worked in many different fields and could even run a merchant shop, most of the profits going to the owner. Goreans do not allow slaves to work in numerous fields that are limited to Caste members. Slaves were not often beaten and they could not be killed by their owner, except with the specific permission of the state. This varies greatly from Gorean society. Oddly enough, slaves could be tortured to obtain their legal testimony, similar to Gor.
Slaves could be freed in Athens but they could not attain the status of a "free person." They could only become a "freed person" which came with lesser rights than a free person. A freed person bore the same status as a resident alien, also known as a metic. A freed person's children remained freed persons. Freed persons could not obtain governmental positions and they also had to pay a special tax. This may have been done in part because most Greek slaves were non-Greeks, acquired in wars or through trade. Athens even had laws prohibiting the enslavement of its citizens.
Natural Slave Theory
The greatest contribution of Greece to the institution of slavery is most likely the theory of natural slavery. A natural slave theory essentially states that slavery is a fact of biology, a natural condition of some people. This theory was discussed by a number of Greeks including the philosopher Plato but it was his student, Aristotle, who gained fame by codifying this theory. Interestingly enough, Aristotle did not devote much of his writings to the issue of slavery. His slavery materials consist of a few pages in the first book of his Politics and a few scattered paragraphs in some of his other books.
Here are some quotes from Aristotle's works dealing with natural slavery:
"In every composite thing…there is always found a ruling and a subject factor, and this characteristics of living things is present in them as an outcome of the whole of nature."
"From the hour of their birth some are marked out for subjugation, others for rule."
"One who is a human being belonging by nature not to himself but to another is by nature a slave; and a person is a human being belonging to another if being a man he is an article of property, and an article of property is an instrument for action separable from its owner."
"For he is by nature a slave who is capable of belonging to another (and that is why he does so belong), and who participates in reason so far as to apprehend it but not to possess it; for the animals other than man are subservient not to reason, by apprehending it, but to feelings."
"Hence there are by nature various classes of rulers and ruled. For the free rules the slave, the male the female, and the man the child in a different way. And all possess the various parts of the soul, but possess them in different ways; for the slave has not got the deliberative part at all, and the female has it, but without full authority, while the child has it, but in an undeveloped form."
Aristotle believed that there were natural slaves and natural masters, dictated by their biology. He felt that the best hope for fulfillment for a natural slave was to serve a natural master. Natural slaves were possessed of inferior intellects and this was an indication of what their proper status should be. Aristotle's theory would be popular throughout much of history, even used by Americans who enslaved blacks during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.
On the surface, some might believe that Norman adopted Aristotle's theory for Gor, though that is not quite correct. Yes, Gorean society believes that women are natural slaves but the Gorean viewpoint differs from Aristotle in two key aspects. First, Aristotle's theory did not differentiate by sex. Both men and women could be natural slaves or natural masters. On Gor, it is the men who are natural masters. Even though men on Gor can become enslaved, it is primarily done for economic reasons. It is not thought to be natural to enslave a man. Second, Aristotle stated that natural slaves were deficient in reason. They were intellectual and moral inferiors and thus subject to their natural superiors. On Gor, female slaves are not seen as intellectual or moral inferiors. They are not seen as deficient in reason. They are considered natural slaves due to their submissive, not inferior, nature.
Some Gorean philosophy is also derived from the Greek Stoics. What did the Stoics say about slavery? In general, the Stoics did not support a theory of natural slavery but they also did little to openly oppose the idea of slavery. Most Stoics accepted slavery as a valid legal institution. They believed that a man's soul though could not be enslaved by another and that was more important than the enslavement of the body. Stoicism was also deterministic, believing that one's role was often fated. It is one's moral responsibility to follow that role, even if you are a slave. Thus, a slave should work well for his owner to reach a greater happiness. Stoics did advise slave owners to treat their slaves well. This may have had some effect later in the Roman Empire.
During the 1st century A.D., as the Roman Empire began with the reign of Augustus, the slave population of Rome was approximately 35% of the total population. A good estimate would be 300,000 to 350,000 slaves out of a population of about 900,000 to 950,000. Throughout Italy, there were about two million slaves out of a population of six million. Gor cannot even compare with these percentages, having an average of less than a 2% slave population. A couple Gorean cities are exception to this average such as Tharna and Ar. Tharna, after its revolution, has a slave population of close to 50% of its population as nearly all of its women have been enslaved. Ar contains about 250,000 slaves, but that is less than 10% of its population.
Though the statistics are not fully accurate, it seems most likely that the vast majority of Roman slaves were male. Males were obviously in the majority in the laborious tasks such as construction, mining, agriculture, and loading/unloading. But, even domestic staff, within Roman households, were predominantly male. The evidence suggests that from 65% to 80% of these domestic slaves were males. This is a major difference from the Gorean slave population where 90% of all slaves are female.
Types of Slaves
The general Roman term for a slave was 'servus' (the plural form being 'servi') though there are other terms as well. Slaves were divided into two main categories: public, owned by the state, or private. In general, public slaves had greater personal freedom than private slaves. If a private person owned three or more slaves, then those slaves were referred to collectively as a 'familia.' If the slaves worked at their owner's city home or country villa, they were referred to as a 'familia urbana.' Those slaves who worked in the fields were referred to as 'familia rustica.' The average life expectancy of a slave during the Roman Empire was unlikely to be more than twenty years, especially those slaves in laborious endeavors.
Slaves worked in nearly every type of possible occupation, except the military. They were also prohibited from certain governmental posts. They might possess great responsibilities and be in charge of vast finances. In general, there was little discrimination against slaves performing their jobs. Their skills were valued as much as any free person. This is radically different from Gorean slavery where slaves are muchly restricted in the types of work they can do. Gorean society, with its Caste system, is fiercely protective of its occupations. Many slaves perform the unpleasant jobs that most free people would disdain to do. Roman slaves could also act as teachers, something Gorean slaves are not permitted to do.
Where did all these slaves come from? The Romans had a saying that: 'servi aut nascuntur, aut fiunt. That means that slaves are either born or made. There were various means by which people became slaves, just as it is on Gor. Unlike the Greeks, Roman citizens could end up as slaves. Roman slaves were not limited to barbarians and foreigners.
During the Roman Republic, the primary source of acquiring slaves was through warfare. The enslavement of prisoners of war was very common in the ancient world. As Rome expanded its borders, it was constantly engaged in wars and this provided a steady stream of slaves into their society. This did lead to a significant population of foreign slaves. But, with the coming of the empire and the 'Pax Romana,' the Roman peace, there were less and smaller wars. Thus, this source of slavery began to provide a much reduced supply than previously. This shortfall was made up through other means. Gor has long acquired slaves through raids and warfare. The Gorean spoils of war denote the common percentages of free women and men that are often claimed as slaves.
Children who were born to slave women became slaves themselves. Such children are called 'vernae.' The status of the father was irrelevant in such matters. This is exactly as in many Gorean cities. On Gor, the status of the mother is generally the determining factor in whether a child will be born as a slave or not. Some owners encouraged their female slaves to have children and thus create more slaves. This was likely never a significant means of increasing the Roman slave supply, especially as most slaves were male.
Some free parents, who could not raise their own children, might sell the infants into slavery. Some Gorean free women did this as well. Other parents might abandon their infants to the elements, exposing them ostensibly to the deaths. Such infant exposure was common in the ancient world and was not made illegal in Rome until 374 A.D. Some of these abandoned infants would be found, claimed and then made into slaves. Exposure of infants also occurs on Gor and it is likely that some may be also claimed by Slavers.
A person could sell themselves into slavery though Roman law never acknowledged this as valid. But, this is recognized by Gorean law, and once the transaction is completed, it cannot be invalidated by the seller. Certain serious crimes, such as theft, tax evasion, evasion of military service, and murder, may also lead to one's enslavement. Debtors, unable to pay their bills, might be sold as a slave to their creditor. Certain Gorean crimes can lead to one's enslavement. Debtors can end up enslaved or their family might suffer the enslavement. For example, a Gorean father who cannot pay his debts may find that his daughter has been enslaved due to his debts.
A slave trade also existed in the ancient world and Rome obtained a number of slaves through commerce with other nations. Slaves were treated as any other commodity and fell under similar laws. Within Rome itself, there were merchants who specialized in selling slaves. This is akin to the Slaver Caste on Gor. There would be slave markets and auction blocks to sell slaves. Such sales were akin to the sale of livestock, just as on Gor.
When a slave was sold, certain procedures were required by the law. For example, the slaver had to that the slave did not possess any diseases or defects and was not in the possession of another person. The courts sometimes had to determine what constituted a "defect" and this could lead to some interesting findings. In one such case, the court had to decide whether a slave whose tongue had been removed was defective. The court made an analogy in this matter to the sale of a horse. The court thus ruled that this slave was still considered to be healthy, the severed tongue not constituting a "defect."
By Roman law, a slave was considered property. A slave owner could do anything he wished to that slave, even killing the slave, with impunity. This is exactly like Gorean slave law. In the later period of the Roman Empire, they did try to limit cruelty to slaves but it was not too effective. It came much too late to have a major impact. The sexual use of slaves, male and female, was common in Rome. This is similar in many respects to Gorean slaves. The major difference here would be that a number of male slave owners in Rome would sexually use their male slaves. This would be very rare on Gor.
As a slave was considered the property of his owner, then if a third party harmed that slave, the owner could seek legal redress. This would include if a third person sexually used that slave. The owner could seek civil compensation for the harm done to the slave. This is essentially the same as in Gorean slave law.
By law, slaves could not own anything. Anything they possessed was considered the property of their master. Again, this is exactly like Gorean slave law. A slave might be "given" the use of his or her own slaves but all of the slaves remained the property of the owner. The slave might be able to treat his slaves, to a significant degree, as if he owned them. This would be similar in some ways to the slave hierarchies that exist in some Gorean households with first girls and such. Some Roman slaves might be permitted to "own" a 'peculium' which consisted of money they had earned and saved. The owner though could claim the peculium at any time as the slave legally did not actually own it. The slave could use the peculium to enter into contracts but they required the consent of his owner. The peculium might also be used to purchase a slave's freedom if it increased to be greater than the value of the slave. Some Gorean slaves might be given spending money but it was a rarity. They would rarely, if ever, accumulate a savings.
Roman slaves were also considered to be kinless and could not have any legal family bonds. There was a type of slave marriage permitted, called 'contubernium,' but it had no legal effect. It would last only as long as permitted by the slave owner. Gorean slaves are also legally kinless but there is no type of slave marriage on Gor.
Slave did have one legal right, known as the 'ius sacrum,' that was rarely interfered with by their owners. This right allowed slaves to practice certain aspects of their religion, to be properly buried and to join certain religious associations . This right does not exist for Gorean slaves. But, Gorean society does allow slaves one basic right, the right to receive the stabilization serums.
Manumission is the process of freeing a slave and Roman slaves could be freed in several different manners. This is similar to Gorean slave law. First, if a Roman slave's peculium was worth more than his value as a slave, then he might be able to purchase his freedom. This does not occur on Gor as slaves do not accumulate a peculium. Second, if a slave has grown too old to be of much value anymore, he might be freed by his owner. With the stabilization serums, Gorean slaves are not going to grow old and useless so this reason would be irrelevant. Third, an owner might free his slaves in his will. Interestingly enough, a Roman law was eventually enacted that limited the amount of slaves that someone could free through a will. The objective of this law was to ensure that the only slaves who were freed truly deserved to be freed. Though something similar to this is not mentioned in the Gorean books, it seems a definite possibility that slave owners could free their slaves in their wills. There is some evidence to suggest that Roman female slaves were freed more often than male slaves. The principal reason for this is thought to be owners wanting to marry their slaves and have them bear their children. This also reflects Gorean society as some masters did free their female slaves to Free Companion them and have children together.
Once freed, a slave became a freedperson, not a freeperson, similar to the Greek ideas on freedom of their slaves. Freedpersons have less rights than a freeperson. The freedperson can only vote in the city assemblies, cannot become a magistrate and cannot enter a legion. However, unlike in Greece, the children born to a freedperson become freepersons. On Gor, a freed slave is a free person though they would have a lesser status than most because they would not have a Caste or Home Stone. The freed slave would have to apply for citizenship and a Caste and thus could eventually attain a normal free person status.
Unlike most of Greece, Rome did have some serious problems with revolts by their slaves. The most famous revolt was in 73 B.C., when the gladiator Spartacus led a major revolt. For almost two years, Spartacus and his slave army roamed free, often defeating Roman legions sent to capture Spartacus. Most of the major slave revolts occurred during the Roman Republic. During the time of the Empire, any such revolts were smaller and less violent. A far greater problem was the revolt of individual slaves or small groups. Some might kill their owners and flee to the countryside. Gorean society does worry about slave revolts, primarily from the male slaves. The slave revolt in Tharna was one of the major revolts in the books.