Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology

This is a landmark work on the human institution of slavery. Entire conferences and world wide debates have centred round it since first publication in 1980.  Moses I. Finley ( works to gain an understanding of what slavery meant to the ancients. He locates the origins of ancient slavery in the need for cheap labour which arose in Athens when Solon’s reforms dissociated citizenship from subservience to others, thereby drying up the Athenian labour pool. Thus, paradoxically, slavery and democracy were bound up together in their origins. Tracing the history of slavery through Greece and Rome, Finley further elaborates the value of slaves within the context of large-scale Roman agriculture.


The ‘decline’ of slavery is complicated because of the proliferation of juridical terms in the late Roman period to cover various forms of subservience. But while slaves gradually became associated with the land they worked (akin to feudal serfs), Finley argues that slavery continued to be important to the total economy until the epoch of Charlemagne.  Ancient slavery did not directly issue into feudal relations, he argues.


Check if this landmark work of ancient history is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at


321 pages in Viking Press

First published 1980

ISBN 978-0670122776


BAR29 Osborne FigB Moses Finley portrait 300pix

Professor Moses I. Finlay

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