Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology

Slaves have been exploited in most societies throughout human history. There have, however, been only five genuine slave societies, and of these, two were in antiquity: classical Greece and classical Italy. Here distinguished historian Sir Moses Finley examines those two not in isolation, but in comparison.

In this thought-provoking study of slavery in ancient Greece and Italy, Sir Moses Finley discusses how slave societies came into being and considers the moral, social, and economic underpinnings that allowed them to prosper. His comparison of ancient slave societies with their relatively modern counterparts in the New World opens a new perspective on the history of slavery. Sir Moses’ inquiry sheds light on the complex ways in which ideological interests affect historical interpretation.


Sir Moses I. Finley, author (Cambridge University) is the author of The World of Odysseus, The Olympic Games: The First Thousand Years, Democracy Ancient and Modern, and numerous other books.

Brent Shaw, editor, is the Andrew Fleming West Professor of Classics at Princeton University.