The Harvard Law School Annual Lecture on Latin American and European Legal History
Sara Forsdyke will discuss “Slave Agency and Ancient Greek Law: A Comparative Perspective.” Forsdyke is Professor of Classical Studies and History at the University of Michigan.
This event is open to the public.
Sponsored by The International Academic Program – Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Fundación Asisa
Scholars of both ancient and modern forms of slavery have long recognized that slaves reacted to the system in a variety of ways ranging from passive acceptance of their condition to full-scale rebellion. In between these poles lies a range of strategies through which slaves resisted control by their masters, including work slowdowns, playing sick and breaking tools. This paper uses the evidence of Greek law to uncover two previously unrecognized strategies of slaves. The first strategy resulted in the transferal of the slave to a more lenient master; the second led to the attainment of freedom and/or citizenship by slaves. Drawing on evidence from ancient Greece and the antebellum South, this paper shows that some slaves exercised surprising agency in the matter of their ownership and even in their legal status.