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Slavery In The Ancient Civilizations

A slave is a human being who is owned by another human being through birth, purchase, or capture. A slave can be bought, sold, hired out, exchanged, given as a gift, or inherited. They dont have rights, the law doesnt protect them, and their masters rule over them. Their masters can treat them as they wish, and the slaves work with no pays what so ever. Since ancient times, people of all cultures were deprived of their rights through slavery. Many people may wonder about when slavery began or how it started.

Well, about 10,000 years ago, people developed farming which gave them more food than they desired. Therefore, they came up with a theory, instead of killing their enemies, why cant they hold their enemies as prisoners, feed them with the extra food, and make them work for their owners. That is the main reason why slavery began. Ever since then, slavery in ancient times became a part of common life. Slavery was an accepted feature, often essential to the economy and society, of all ancient civilizations.

The ancient Mesopotamian, Indian, and Chinese civilizations employed slaves, either domestically in homes and shops or in gangs for large-scale construction or agriculture. The ancient Egyptians used slaves on a mass scale to build the royal palaces and monuments. The ancient Hebrews also used slaves, but they were required by religious law to free slaves of their own nationality at certain fixed times. In the more advanced civilizations of pre-Columbian America, for example, those of the Aztec, Inca, and Maya, slave labor was also used on a large scale in both agriculture and warfare.

In the Homeric epics, slavery is the ordinary destiny of prisoners of war. The later Greek philosophers did not consider the condition of slavery as morally objectionable, although Aristotle went so far as to suggest that faithful slaves might be freed in reward for loyal service. With few exceptions, slaves in ancient Greece were humanely treated. However, the Helots of Sparta conquered race of inhabitants who were forced to labor on large estates. The Spartan armies were severely treated, mainly because they far outnumbered their dependent masters.

More typically, slaves were employed in domestic service, in trades, as laborers on country estates, and as seamen and oarsmen. Where they were employed in private domestic service, it was not uncommon to find them on friendly terms with their masters. Roman slavery differed in several important aspects from that of ancient Greece. Roman masters had more power over their slaves, including the power of life and death. Slavery was also far more necessary to the economy and social system of Rome, especially during the empire.

Wealthy Romans, often maintaining large city and country homes, depended on numerous slaves for the efficient operation of these households. Imperial conquests and expansion eventually strained the native Roman work force, so great numbers of foreign slaves had to be imported to fill agricultural labor needs. The primary way of acquiring slaves was through war; tens of thousands of captured prisoners of war were brought to Rome as slaves. Other sources of slaves were debtors and persons convicted of serious crimes. Ultimately, dependence on slavery contributed significantly to Rome’s downfall.

The introduction of Christianity, its adoption as the official religion of the Roman Empire, and its subsequent spread over Europe and parts of the Middle East during the Middle Ages tended to improve the conditions but did not eliminate the practice of slavery. After the fall of Rome, the ancient institution of slavery was transformed into the generally less binding system known as serfdom. In Rome, slaves were put up for sale like sheep. Roman slaves were from dozens of diverse cultures. Even enslaving children became common in Rome!

Many poor people were forced to sell their children into slavery. This way, they made extra money, but some were also forced into slavery. Islam, established in the 7th century, recognized the institution of slavery from the beginning. The Prophet Muhammad urged his followers to use slaves kindly. Slaves owned by Muslims were comparatively well treated. Most were employed as domestic servants. In the Near East kingdoms of Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria, people were divided into two basic classes. The first class consisted of free people.

The other consisted of slaves. The class of the free people were particularly princes, priests, soldiers, craftsmen, tradesmen, and professionals. The others were slaves. All slaves knew that if war had gone the opposite way, everything would have been reversed. Because of this, slaves accepted slavery as a part of life. Unlike the majority of slavery today, back then, enslavement had nothing to do with race or color. Instead, all slaves were alike, and were treated equal. Around 4,000 years ago, Hebrews moved to the Nile Delta and prospered.

Later, when Egyptians started to enslave foreigners, Hebrews were enslaved for centuries. Moses later led the Hebrews to their escape from Egypt. After 40 years in the desert, they finally found the Promised Land, Canaan. They then found what became the Hebrew kingdom, a free land. Rulers of Egypt were called pharaohs and were considered godlike and powerful. Most slaves of Egypt worked in palaces or temples. The slaves built pyramids for the pharaohs tombs. These slaves were private, meaning nobody could buy them. The pharaohs were their only owners.

Small nations thrived when the Egyptian Empire began to weaken. Hebrews, or Israelites, were among the thriving people. Even though Hebrews were enslaved, they also made slaves of others. Most of the slaves were prisoners. Some of the slaves were purchased from traders. Fellow Hebrews were also enslaved for not paying debts. They worked for landowners, merchants, and moneylenders. Slavery for Hebrews was not permanent according to law. To free slaves was an act of good merit. Another nation that possessed slavery was China. The first version of the Great Wall of China was built by slave labor.

Poor peasants even sold their children and/or themselves into slavery. Many criminals who committed severe crimes in China also became slaves. Instead of serving time in prisons, the people of China put them to work in slavery. About 3,000 years ago, Greek slavery began to develop into the world. The Greek people made prisoners of war slaves. Other peoples that they made slaves of were people in debt and people from foreign lands. Slaves were also bought with businessmens money. The Greek slaves produced textiles, pottery, armor, and weapons.

Every corner of the earth was involved in slavery at one time or another. Every people on earth had been its victim. Even rich and famous people such as princes and millionaires were made slaves! Slaves were among the first articles of trade. They were traded all over the world. Slaves were among the first articles of trade between the primitive Celts and Germans, also including their southern neighbors. It was also well established in Homeric Greece, in preliterate China and Japan, and in the prehistoric Near East. Heredity slavery dated from earliest times in every Old World civilization.

In ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, slaves were mainly captured aliens who were rarely used productively except in the households of the upper-classes. As for Neo-Babylonian times (612-539B. C. ), only foreign slaves might have done significant amounts of cultural work. In Egypt, slavery existed from the dawn of recorded history right down to the end of the 19th century. Most of Egypts slaves were foreigners and Hebrews. Some of them were used to build royal palaces and monuments. Most of the slaves were used in households as maids. Apart from Hellenistic times (332-31B. C. ), they were rarely used for other activities.

The coastal exploration of Africa, the invasion of North and South America by Europeans in the 15th century, and the subsequent colonization of the Americas during the next three centuries provided the impetus for the modern slave trade. Portugal, lacking in agricultural workers, was the first modern European nation to meet its labor needs by importing slaves. The Portuguese began the practice in 1444. By 1460, they were annually importing 700 to 800 slaves to Portugal from trading posts and forts established on the African coast. These were African people captured by other Africans and transported to the western coast of Africa.

Spain soon followed, but for more than a century Portugal virtually monopolized the African traffic. Throughout the 15th century, Arab traders in northern Africa shipped African people taken from central Africa to markets in Arabia, Iran, and India. In tropical Latin America during the 16th century, Spanish colonists first forced the native populations to work the land. The indigenous people, however, could not survive under conditions of slavery and were nearly exterminated. Some of the extermination was by exposure to European disease and excruciating labor.

Africans were then brought to the Spanish colonies, primarily because it was believed that they could endure forced labor in the generally more enervating Caribbean and mainland Latin American climates. England entered the slave trade in the later half of the 16th century, contesting the right to supply the Spanish colonies held until then by Portugal. France, Holland, Denmark, and the American colonies themselves subsequently entered the trade as competitors. In 1713 the exclusive right to supply the Spanish colonies was granted to the British South Sea Company.

In North America, the first African slaves landed at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. Brought by early English privateers, they were subjected to limited servitude. The number of slaves imported was small at first, and it did not seem necessary to define their legal status. Statutory recognition of slavery, however, occurred in Massachusetts in 1641, in Connecticut in 1650, and in Virginia in 1661. These statutes mainly concerned fugitive slaves. With the development of the plantation system in the southern colonies in the latter half of the 17th century, the number of Africans imported as agricultural slave laborers increased severely.

Several northern coastal cities became centers of the slave traffic. Generally, in the northern colonies, slaves were used as domestics and in trade; in the Middle Atlantic colonies they were used more in agriculture; and in the southern colonies, where plantation agriculture was the primary occupation, almost all slaves were used to work the plantations. As African slaves became an increasingly important element in the English colonies in America, particularly in the South, the laws affecting them were modified.

By the time of the American Revolution (1775-1783), they were no longer indentured servants, but slaves in the fullest sense of the term. Laws defining their legal, political, and social status with respect to their owners were specific. Contrary to what is commonly believed, slaves did have some legal rights. For instance, support in age or sickness, a right to limited religious instruction, and the right to bring suits and give evidence in special cases. Custom gave numerous rights also, such as private property, marriage, free time, contractual ability, and, to females, domestic or lighter plantation labor.

However, the master was not bound to respect. Brutal treatment such as mutilation, branding, chaining, and murder were regulated or prohibited by law, but instances of cruelty were common before the 19th century. Denmark was the first European country to abolish the slave trade in 1792. Great Britain followed in 1807, and the United States followed in 1808. At the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Great Britain exerted its influence to induce other foreign powers to adopt a similar policy, and eventually nearly all the states of Europe passed laws or entered into treaties prohibiting the traffic.

The Ashburton Treaty of 1842, between Great Britain and the United States, provided for the maintenance by each country of a squadron on the African coast to enforce prohibition of the trade. In 1845, a joint cooperation of the naval forces of England and France was substituted for the mutual right of search. The limited supply of slaves led to a greater attention on the part of the masters to the condition of their slaves. The French emancipated their slaves in 1848. The Dutch slaves had freedom conferred on them in 1863.

Most of the new republics of South America provided for the emancipation of slaves at the time of their establishment. In Brazil slavery was not abolished until 1888. In North America, after the Union victory in the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862), Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation on September 22. This declared his intention of promulgating another proclamation in 100 days, freeing the slaves in the states deemed in rebellion at that time. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, conferring liberty on about 3,120,000 slaves.

With the enactment of the 13th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution in effect in 1865, slavery was completely abolished. In conclusion, slavery took its affect on continents, countries, and states all over the world. It took its affect on people of all kind. Since ancient times, people of all cultures were deprived of their rights through slavery. Until today, people still experience slavery in one way or another. We, the people, have to do whatever it takes to put a stop to slavery all over the world.

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