• Fri. Mar 31st, 2023

The First Recorded Incident of an Escaped Slave


Nov 3, 2022

Right this moment, slavery is seen as one of many worst atrocities mankind has ever dedicated, however as soon as slavery was seen as simply one other a part of on a regular basis life. The Hellenistic world of historical Greece was no stranger to slavery. Actually, the variety of slaves that lived throughout the interval of Greek dominance was one of many highest in historical past. It was one of many main options of life throughout this time. And, one of many first recorded examples of an escaped slave comes from Greek-ruled Egypt or the Ptolemaic interval that lasted from 305 to 30 BC.

Slavery in Ptolemaic Egypt and Escaped Slave Desires

The earliest report of a runaway slave comes from Ptolemaic Egypt within the second century BC. Throughout this time, Egypt was underneath the rule of the Ptolemys. These had been descendants of Ptolemy I, a former basic of Alexander the Great . Egypt was a big a part of the Hellenistic world throughout this era, nonetheless, not like most of the lands conquered by Alexander, slavery truly decreased in Egypt after he conquered it. This was as a result of slavery was actively discouraged by the brand new Greek rulers out of worry that the usage of slaves would solely compete with free labor and end in full social upheaval. On the time many Egyptians labored not for cash however just so they might be allowed to stay as a tenant.

This can be a statuette of an Previous Kingdom slave (within the Museum of Wonderful Arts, Budapest). (HoremWeb / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

With that being mentioned, the Greeks did deliver with them a unique type of slavery: the Greek type. As Greeks slowly entered Egypt, they introduced their slaves with them. These slaves performed an enormous half within the day by day lives of those Greeks, significantly in commerce, handicrafts, and family companies. Some slaves had been additionally despatched off for added coaching by apprenticeships. These slaves could be given meals and clothes for his or her work and sometimes sums of cash to pay for dwelling bills whereas they realized.

Whereas beforehand slaves had been present in many alternative areas of Egypt similar to quarries or on royal constructing initiatives, throughout the Hellenistic period slaves had been solely discovered within the households of Greeks dwelling in Ptolemaic Egypt. The overwhelming majority of those slaves weren’t Greek or Egyptian however from overseas lands underneath Hellenic rule.

Throughout this era, solely the Greeks might afford slaves as a result of Egyptians truly had a really low social place underneath the rule of the Ptolemys. Even nonetheless, only a few folks had the wealth to have the ability to afford multiple or two slaves. It was actually solely rulers and the aristocracy who might afford to personal different folks. Nonetheless, general, the Greek rulers of Egypt enforced restrictions on the slave commerce, so that they most likely had fewer slaves than the pharaohs who dominated earlier than them.

Figurine from Egypt of semitic slave. (Hanay / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Figurine from Egypt of semitic slave. (Hanay / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The First Recorded Escaped Slave Had A International Title

This primary report of a runaway or escaped slave was written on a bit of papyrus discovered buried beneath the sands of Egypt. It tells the story of Hermon, also called Nilus. Hermon was a Syrian born in Bambyce. Hermon belonged to Aristogenes, son of Chrysippus the Greek stoic thinker. And when Hermon was 18 years outdated he ran away. The piece of papyrus documenting his escape is definitely a name for his return and it reads:

“About 18 years outdated, of medium stature, beardless, with good legs, a dimple on the chin, a mole by the left facet of the nostril, a scar above the left nook of the mouth, tattooed on the appropriate wrist with two barbarian letters. He has taken with him three golden cash, ten pearls, an iron ring on which an oil flask and strigils are represented, and is carrying a cloak and a loincloth. Whoever brings again this slave shall obtain 3 weights of copper. If he factors him out in a shrine, 2 weights of copper. If he factors him out within the family of a considerable and actionable man, 5 weights of copper.” (As cited in Combing, 2014)

The burden of copper refers to abilities. Subsequently, the person who returns the slave will obtain 3 copper talents in return. The shrine refers back to the Mediterranean customized of slaves taking refuge in temple sanctuaries. The family of a considerable man refers to the truth that Hermon could have entered into one other slave family as escaping from Egypt would have been subsequent to unimaginable. Apparently, Hermon escaped with a pal who appears to be of lesser significance, however who Aristogenes nonetheless needs returned:

“With him ran away Bion, a slave of Callicrates, one of many chief stewards at court, wanting stature, broad on the shoulders, stout-legged, bright-eyed, who has gone off with an outer garment and a slave’s wrap and a girl’s costume price 6 abilities 5000 drachmae.” (As cited in Combing, 2014)

This ancient Egyptian stone wall panel, part of the collection of the Archaeological Museum, Bologna, depicts Nubian slaves for sale and being punished. (Mike Knell / CC BY-SA 2.0)

This historical Egyptian stone wall panel, a part of the gathering of the Archaeological Museum, Bologna, depicts Nubian slaves on the market and being punished. (Mike Knell / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

The Therapy and Punishment of Slaves

It’s unknown if the 2 survived, but when they had been caught, they seemingly confronted harsh punishment , seemingly branding or limb amputation. It’s also price noting that the costume Bion escaped with is, fairly tragically, price greater than the worth Aristogenes is keen to pay for the return of Hermon.

It isn’t in any respect stunning that Hermon and Bion would make a run for it. In spite of everything, life as a slave within the Hellenistic world was a hellish expertise. They had been handled horrendously and had been usually whipped as punishment for his or her transgressions. Different punishments included branding, often on the brow for all to see.

The perfect likelihood a slave had at a good life was both incomes their freedom or escaping. Incomes your freedom as a slave was nearly unimaginable, counting on both the goodwill of your proprietor or your skill to by some means make sufficient cash to purchase your freedom. For that reason, Hermon and his pal Bion selected to run. Let’s simply hope they made it.

Prime picture: Egyptian slaves and others in Egyptian costume. Supply: Adobe Inventory / Ruslan

By Mark Brophy

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