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Slavery in Athens

            The presence of slavery in Athenian ancient Greece is one of the greatest paradoxes in all of recorded history. The Athenian culture is often remembered as the founding culture of democracy as we know it today. However, despite their support of democracy, the Athenians clung to the idea that some people are naturally meant to command while others merely meant to follow. However, although the Athenian use of slavery was indeed paradoxical, generally both slaves and masters accepted slavery as a way of life. A justification for slavery was in a sense assimilated into the democratic Athenian culture through physical and mental comparisons, the necessity of the duties of slaves, and the unique relationships formed between slave and master. .
             The ancient Athenians believed there was an inborn trait in humans that either defined them to be a slave or a master. They felt that those who are meant to be masters have stronger more willful souls than those who are meant to serve. As Aristotle stated: "the soul rules the body with the authority of a master," and that "the rule of the body by the soul, and the rule of the passionate part by the rational, is in accordance with nature and beneficial," and therefore they were justified in saying that the strong willed souls were intended by nature itself to rule over those with weak souls. The Greeks further rationalized this idea by saying that an individual with a weak soul is reasonless on their own, and being enslaved actually improves them in the same manner as the domesticating of wild animals, for "domesticated animals are by nature superior to wild ones and they are always better off when they are ruled by man- Slaves were also to be distinguished not only by their lack of reason, but also by their body type. Aristotle explains that "it is the intention of nature also to make a distinction between the bodies of free men and those of slaves - the latter are strong for the performance of necessary tasks, while the former are erect and useless for such tasks but useful for the life of a citizen" (Spyradakis,1985).

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