Reviewed by TammyJo Eckhart, Indiana University (email@example.com)
[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]
The first book about slavery that had a profound impact on me was Orlando Patterson’s Slavery and Social Death. Its greatest problem, its breadth, was also its greatest appeal. Such an attempt to reveal universal truths for all of human history could indeed entice readers and scholars to continue their own research, but it could never truly offer a necessary and deep understanding of slavery in any one culture. As an ancient historian I turned my attention to studies that narrowed in on these specifics, though here too many books and articles attempted to find generalities across the centuries or in terms of moral and ethical questions. Slavery is an emotional topic for many people, and living as we do in a time when most societies have outlawed the practice, it can seem very distant as well. The result is a field that never seems exhausted as each new generation finds new evidence and constantly re-examines earlier ideas and interpretations.
Thus from November 4th to the 7th in 2004, a group of scholars gathered for the 29th meeting of GIREA or the "Groupe International de Recherche sur l’Esclavage dans l’Antiquité". While the title may suggest a wider cultural reach, the essays themselves almost exclusively focus on ancient Greece or ancient Rome, with a few pieces looking at the modern historiography or popular presentation of slavery. I was unable to determine how many papers were presented in total at the conference, but 32 are included in this publication. 17 of the essays are in English, 13 in French, and 2 in Spanish. A review that covered each essay in detail would be prohibitively long, so I will say a few words about each study, attempting to give a sense of which pieces are best argued and offer a new view of the study of slavery.
After the inaugural address from Pierre Ducrey, which briefly lays out previous scholarship on slavery and the topics of the current conference, there are eight subsections in this collection, which I assume represent the conference’s panels themselves. As at all conferences, some papers fit better into each topic than others, and there is an overlap of topics and evidence among numerous studies.
The first subsection, "Fear, War, and Revolts", looks at how slavery and military conflicts interacted. Annalisa Paradiso’s "Sur la servitude volontaire des Mariandyniens d’Héraclée du Pont" looks at how agreeing to slavery was a way to end conflict by examining the case of the Mariandyniens. Paradiso claims that looking at slavery as a means to end war is a new topic in history, but in this volume it is also the subject of René van Royen’s "Slavery and Conquest", which tackles the issue of Gaul and Rome. The third essay in this section, Ricardo Martínez-Lacy, "Fear as a Factor in Slave Revolts", too briefly looks at fear as a motivation for the famous slave revolts of the Roman Republic.
Three more essays look at the political nature of slavery in "Slavery and Critical Analysis in a Civic Context". Christopher Tuplin’s "Fear of Slavery and the Failure of the polis" is a solid argument drawing upon philosophical, historical and political authors but ultimately suggests we have used most of these sources, especially Aristotle, as much as we can to undercover ancient attitudes toward slavery. Julián Gallego writes on "Δοῦλος κατὰ νόμον y la idea de hombre en la Grecia clásica".[] This discussion of masculinity and the idea of slavery in Aristotle is a new approach to this philosopher, challenging the conclusions of Tuplin’s essay immediately. Domingo Plácido’s "La guerre, la démocratie et la peur de l’esclavage" returns to the previous chapter’s topic of war, but from the political view of Thucydides’s portrayal of democracy and its decay.
"Manumission, Social Threats and Juridical Restrictions" is the general thread that ties the next five essays together. Miriam Valdés Guía’s "Peur et contrainte des dépendants ratifiées par des pratiques judiciaries et religieuses: les paysans atimoi de l’Attique archaïque" uses a good range of evidence to move away from slavery proper to another dependent status that Solon attempted to deal with: peasant/noble dynamics that could result in debt servitude. Georgios A. Zachos presents a solid study of how political restrictions interacted with freeing slaves in the Hellenistic period in his essay "Interference of the City in the Elateian Manumissions". Pedro López Barja Quiroga rightly claims at the end of his brief essay that his conclusions are tentative and in need for greater exploration when he looks at "Fear of Freedmen. Roman Republican Laws on Voting Procedure". I wanted a lot more speculation and theory about why slaves are punished differently and whether there are any slave-specific offenses by the time I finished with Ilias Arnaoutoglou’s "Fear of Slaves in Ancient Greek Legal Texts". Richard Gamauf’s essay “Cum aliter nulla domus tuta esse posit...”: "Fear of Slaves and Roman Law" is one of the best in the collection as he very logically and convincingly looks at the fear often seen in the senatus consultum Silanianum, expands his search into other aspects of legal and social rules regarding slavery during the early period of the Principate, and finds more examples of rewards than punishments that were used to keep slaves in check and reassure masters.
The next two subsections deal with well-trodden topics in the study of slavery, but given the nature of our evidence one cannot get away from literature and rhetoric. The three essays in "Definitions and Literary Reactions to Slavery" each focus on a different author with varying degrees of success and new insights. David Bouvier’s "La peur de l’esclavage comme peur refoulée dans l’Iliade", clearly is focused on Homer, discussing in fact both the Odyssey and the Iliad, and thus represents the earliest chronological piece in the conference papers, but the argument covers familiar ground. Paul Demont’s essay, "La peur et le rire: la perception de l’esclavage dans les Grenouilles d’Aristophane", focuses too exclusively on just one play, though he does bring in a wide range of scholarship on both theater and Aristotle. Overall I wanted more contemporary examples for what the Greek attitude was during Plato’s lifetime than another look back at the Odyssey in William G. Thalmann’s essay, "Despotic Authority, Fear and Ideology of Slavery".
I was pleasantly surprised that the three essays in "Rhetoric of Slavery" did not just cover the same philosophers and jurists that one usually reads in discussions of rhetoric and slavery. Roger Brock’s essay "Figurative Slavery in Greek Thought" touches upon several sources to discover different attitudes towards slavery in reality versus literature but could use expansion to give more weight to his startling conclusions that legal and political slavery are negative while purely literary uses of the concept are positive. Anastasia Serghidou targets Herodotus after an overview of how fear is connected to the idea of being enslaved in other authors in her essay "Les deux temps de la peur. Crainte immédiate et peur d’asservissement prospectif. Le cas d’Hérodote". Jacques Annequin looks at two separate spheres of fear in "Esclaves-esclavages, peurs individuelles et peurs sociales dans les Métamorphoses d’Apulée". Once more in this collection of conference papers we see an idea in its initial stages that really could use expansion of the evidence and the flow of logic that leads us to the scholar’s conclusions.
When owner and slave live in close proximity there will be issues of sexuality and family, so five essays in "Controlling Affective Ties: Master-Slave Relation, a Problematic Scheme" examine aspects of these issues. Ana Iriarte’s "Une peur colérique, ou la résistance tragique des vierges asservies", looks at the complex and primarily unspoken dynamic between Clytemnestra and Cassandra in the Agamemnon. Andreas Fountaoulakis offers a brilliant and wide discussion of the gender roles, freedom and slavery allow for an engaging examination of Bitinna and her slave Gastron in "Punishing the Lecherous Slave: Desire and Power in Herondas 5". Niall McKeown spends more time finding the flaws in other arguments than offering solid conclusions in "The Sound of John Henderson Laughing: Pliny 3.14 and Roman Slaveowners’ Fear of their Slaves". Holt Parker’s essay "Free Women and Male Slaves, or Mandingo meets the Roman Empire" finds not only a distinct lack of fear that Roman women might have slave lovers but also offers three good suggestions to why this may be so. Dionisio Pérez Sánchez’s "Social Domination and Protective Heavens. Dependences and Withdrawal from the World in the Visigothic Milieu" seemed the least logical piece in this subsection, since it deals with religion and political decisions and not with interpersonal dynamics.
"Producing Fear: Punishment and Morals of Submission" looks at a topic that is currently hot in scholarship on slavery and social inequities across cultures: how punishment and a socially agreed upon morality function to maintain the institution. Five essays tackle this difficult subject, and difficult it is, because our sources often assume their audience, their peers, will know these codes and thus do not elaborate on them. Antonio Gonzales’s article "Peur des affranchis impériaux et compassion envers les affranchis privés dans l'oeuvre de Pline le Jeune" is very aptly named but rightly goes beyond Pliny’s work to place it in a solid historical context to reveal how imperial policies and emperors are changing attitudes toward freedpeople. María José Hidalgo De La Vega’s essay, "The Flight of Slaves and Bands of latrines in Apuleius", looks at Apuleius, comparing both groups as examples of a fairly consistent strategy to resist oppression. Several studies in this collection made one think of James C. Scott’s "Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts", but Manuel Rodriguez Gervás’ essay "Enseigner la peur, reproduire la domination. Une approche" was the most directly connected to what Scott is trying to do across cultures. As with Scott’s work, Gervás must rely upon more modern studies, this time in psychology and sociology, but is focused on the Roman period of the 2nd to the 4th centuries. David Harvey is the only scholar in this collection who mentions and thanks the conference for help with his paper, yet “The severity of the master, and misery of the slave”: "Fears and Evils in David Hume’s Essay Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations" seems more of a criticism of previous scholarship than a solid argument or new insight. Alberto Prieto’s paper ("Miedo, menosprecio y castigo a los esclavos en el cine de romanos") looks at five movie versions of the Spartacus story from 1913 to 1965 from a wide range of angles including race, politics, and sexuality.
At first glance, it seems that the last subsection, "Colonies, Utopian Communities and Fictional Slavery Perspectives", is more about literature, but these four essays look at the social and political stories that cultures create to explain their traditions and past. Violaine Sebillotte Cuchet briefly examines the complex differentiations that a society can make to define social status in her essay "Habiter quelque part: le lien á la terre et la menace de l’esclavage. L’exemple de la représentation spartiate des hilotes entre le milieu du Vème siècle et le milieu du IVème siècle avant notre ère." Adolfo J. Dominguez looks at the evidence for slavery as part of a colony’s foundation legend and a method for dealing with threats through symbolic enslavement; there is not really much about “social control,” however, in "Fear of Enslavement and Sacred Slavery as Mechanisms of Social Control among the Ancient Locrian". The Sicilian rebellions are common topics in the study of slavery. Théodorus Mavrojannis’s study, "Rébellions d’esclaves et réactions politiques de 137 à 101 av. J.-C.", goes beyond those well-known slave revolts to reveal a political and social environment that unconsciously encouraged such resistance. Herodas is the focus of a second essay in this collection, this time from Page duBois in her more philosophical than persuasive piece, "The Coarsest Demand: "Utopia and the Fear of Slaves".
Any collection of conference papers will have its share of excellent essays and poor essays. Quality is determined by both the scholars’ use of any comments or suggestions they received at the conference as well as the editor’s vision of the publication. This collection displays problems in both areas. First, very few of the essays reference the conference at all, either by footnoting where suggestions or comments aided in the revision of the conference paper or by acknowledging similar topics presented at the same or other panels. The result is that most of the essays read like oral presentations, lacking the tight argument and logical flow of evidence that we expect in published studies. The second general problem is editorial, as numerous typographical, grammatical and spelling errors as well as uneven or weak arguments appear throughout.
There are certainly some interesting ideas and new information presented in some of the essays as well as reviews of well-trodden ground. In my opinion two scholars had essays that stood out from the rest, Richard Gamauf and Andreas Fountaoulakis, as each drew upon a wide range of evidence but stayed focused on strongly proving his thesis by taking the reader through his flow of reasoning while keeping up the interest on the topic. Too often the studies in this collection were too brief to fully explore their subjects and persuade me to their conclusions. The result is a collection that is weak in comparison to other conference publications on the same topic I have read, but some of the evidence was new enough to encourage me and hopefully others to continue investigating slavery in the ancient world.
Table of contents
(see also the publisher's website)
P. Ducrey, "Le monde antique est-il basé sur la peur? Peur des esclaves, peur de l’esclavage dans le monde gréco-romain"
Fear, War, and Revolts
A. Paradiso, "Sur la servitude volontaire des Mariandyniens d’Héraclée du Pont"
R. Martínez Lacy, "Fear as a Factor in Slave Revolts"
R. van Royen, "Slavery and Conquest"
Slavery and Critical Analysis in a Civic Context
Ch. Tuplin, "Fear of Slavery and the Failure of the polis"
J. Gallego, "
D. Plácido, "La guerre, la démocratie et la peur de l’esclavage"
Manumission, Social Threats and Juridical Restrictions
M. Valdés Guía, "Peur et contrainte des dépendants ratifiées par des pratiques judiciaries et religieuses: les paysans atimoi de l’Attique archaïque"
G. Zachos, "Interference of the City in the Elateian Manumissions"
P. L ópez Barja Quiroga, "Fear of Freedmen. Roman Republican Laws on Voting Procedure"
I. Arnaoutoglou, "Fear of Slaves in Ancient Greek Legal Texts"
R. Gamauf, “'Cum aliter nulla domus tuta esse posit. . .': Fear of Slaves and Roman Law"
Definitions and Literary Reactions to Slavery
D. Bouvier, "La peur de l’esclavage comme peur refoulée dans l’Iliade"
P. Demont, "La peur et le rire: la perception de l’esclavage dans les Grenouilles d’Aristophane"
W.G. Thalmann, "Despotic Authority, Fear and Ideology of Slavery"
Rhetoric of Slavery
R. Brock, "Figurative Slavery in Greek Thought"
A. Serghidou, "Les deux temps de la peur. Crainte immédiate et peur d’asservissement prospectif. Le cas d’Hérodote"
J. Annequin, "Esclaves-esclavages, peurs individuelles et peurs sociales dans les Métamorphoses "d’Apulée"
Controlling Affective Ties: Master - Slave Relation, a Problematic Scheme
A. Iriarte, "Une peur colérique, ou la résistance tragique des vierges asservies"
A. Fountoulakis, "Punishing the Lecherous Slave: Desire and Power in Herondas 5"
N. McKeown, "The Sound of John Henderson Laughing: Pliny 3.14 and Roman Slaveowners’ Fear of their Slaves"
H. Parker, "Free Women and Male Slaves, or Mandingo meets the Roman Empire"
D. Pérez Sánchez, "Social Domination and Protective Heavens. Dependences and Withdrawal from the World in the Visigothic Milieu"
Producing Fear: Punishment and Morals of Submission
A. Gonzales, "Peur des affranchis impériaux et compassion envers les affranchis privés dans l'oeuvre de Pline le Jeune"
M.J. Hidalgo De La Vega, "The Flight of Slaves and Bands of latrines in Apuleius"
M. Rodriguez Gervás, "Enseigner la peur, reproduire la domination. Une approche"
D. Harvey, “'The severity of the master, and misery of the slave': Fears and Evils in David Hume’s Essay Of the Populousness of Ancient Nations"
A. Prieto, "Miedo, menosprecio y castigo a los esclavos en el cine de romanos"
Colonies, Utopian Communities and Fictional Slavery Perspectives
V. Sebillotte Cuchet, "Habiter quelque part: le lien á la terre et la menace de l’esclavage"
A.J. Dominguez, "Fear of Enslavement and Sacred Slavery as Mechanisms of Social Control among the Ancient Locrians"
T. Mavrojannis, "Rébellions d’esclaves et réactions politiques de 137 à 101 av. J.-C."
P. duBois, "The Coarsest Demand: Utopia and the Fear of Slaves"
[] I thank an Indiana University colleague of mine, David Woken, for helping me with the Spanish text of the papers by Julián Gallego and Alberto Prieto.