Agriculture in Ancient Greece features sustenance farming (growing just enough to survive) and cash crops. There are a couple regions with yearly crop surplus due to favorable soil conditions but they are the exception. The focus of this story is on olive and vine plantations, which are common around Athens. The city-state is a net importer of food – they export cash crops, raw and refined (chiefly olive oil and wine), plus silver from nearby mines.
The Athenians perceive slaves as chattel and tools with soul due to their use in the local economy. They do not represent entire Greece – serfdom, debt-bondage, and other variations exist. It is be more accurate to say that each polis (city-state) has a unique approach and definition of slavery.
It helps to roughly break the slaves down by function: public slaves in civil service, private slaves in domestic and small business use, and privately owned, large commercial operations. The tale focuses on the last. There is a rebellion, a bloody battle, destroyed estate, and few survivors on one side.
The owner wants his property back, if only to kill the slaves because they belong to him and he can do whatever he wants with them. The law is with him and so is the public sentiment. The slaves did not just run away in the dark of the night – they started slaughtering free Athenians.
Compounding the ethical dilemma, one half of the couple that supplicates Aphrodite has innocent blood on his hands. At a certain point the revolt stops being about freedom and turns into revenge and cold-blooded murder. Yes, Sarpedon is a father protecting his family. However, he knows relationships and children are forbidden among slaves and this is trouble waiting to happen from the beginning.
There are no good answers here; lots of people lose their lives and nothing changes. It is an ugly mess from the beginning to end. Does that mean it should not exist? I think the answer comes in the form of the baby and a twist on the greater good: sacrifice the many for the life of one. Sometimes you can’t save everyone; sometimes you can only save little Pinullus. Discuss in FORUMS.
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