Slavery in the ancient world was not based solely on race like in the Confederate South. Slavery in the ancient world happened to you when your city was conquered or when you were kidnapped by pirates. When a city was defeated the women and children were often enslaved, the men were often slaughtered, though sometimes they were enslaved to work in the mines. Or if you could not pay your bills you could be sold into slavery. […]
We are tempted to view slavery as something that went away with the Civil War, that with regards to slavery the modern world is so morally superior to the ancient world. The truth is that there were no employees in the ancient world, that slaves in the ancient worlds did the work that employees are hired to do in today’s world.
To understand the role of slaves in the ancient world we have a totally distorted picture when we only focus on the moral wrong of owning another person, treating servants like talking draft animals. The other aspect of slavery is paying someone such low wages that they cannot feed their family with dignity, that they feel like they live forever on the edge of the abyss, where the slightest crisis could force them to live in the streets. Someone who earns starvation wages is very much a modern-day slave. […]
We in the modern world are so quick to condemn the ancients for misogyny, for not treating women as equals, for subjugating women, we forget how dangerous it was to be a woman in the ancient world. Indeed, those in the ancient world would be puzzled by these accusations, they would reply that their entire culture is built around the need to protect women, for it was dangerous for pretty women to be wandering about town for any reason, rape was a constant threat, women were sequestered partially for their protection. The Hebrews in the Old Testament culture did not sequester women quite as much as the Greeks, many of the stories in the Old Testament describe how romances center around the wells where the women draw water for their flocks. This was true even in the middle ages, St Francis and his monks could choose to minister to the townspeople, but St Claire and her nuns were always cloistered. […]
The ancient world is very different from the modern world. We in the modern world view life is sacred, today we expect our children to survive until old age, because modern medicine ensures a long healthy life to most of us. If I had lived in the ancient world, I would have died as a teenager from appendicitis. In the ancient world, parents often did not name their children until they were a few weeks old due to the high infant mortality rate. Only half of children survived to adulthood, some scholars estimate that only one in ten survived to a ripe old age.
Warfare is mentioned over three hundred times in the Old Testament, swords four hundred times. Ancient Israel was caught in many of the ancient wars since it was in the cross-roads of trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Since Judah was mountainous, its armies relied heavily on infantry, but the Bible mentions that King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom had chariots, and that he was felled by arrow probably shot by a composite bow. Assyria and Babylon had cavalry archers on horseback, but not Egypt or Israel. An Israeli chariot had three horses pulling three men, a driver with a spear, an archer, and a shield bearer. We know from our Sunday School stores King David slew Goliath with a sling, but the ancient slings were not the puny toys we imagine, the sling in the ancient world was a deadly combat weapon. A skilled slinger could sling a rock over 120 miles per hour, faster than the fastest fast ball. […]
The Greek innovation to ancient warfare was their hoplite warrior phalanx, a formation eight to ten rows of a hundred or more warriors, sometimes extending a quarter of a mile. The shields of the front row would interlock, and the entire formation would press upon the enemy, the soldiers would first throw their spears then jab with their swords from behind their shields, strictly maintaining their position. This required training and practice, the Athenians expected their nobles to drill during the year, the Spartans had a year-round military the practiced year-round. […]
The Greeks were the most formidable fighting force in the Near East. The mighty Persian empire loaded their army on ships to fight what they thought would be an easy victory, but were decisively defeated by Athens and Sparta and their allies both on land and on sea in two separate wars. This established the reputation of the Greeks, later a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, hired a Greek hoplite infantry army to fight for the crown of Persia. The Greeks dominated the battle, but Cyrus was killed in the fighting. Losing their patron, the Greeks were forced to fight their way through the Persian Empire back to the Black Sea and then to Greece. This showed that the mighty Persians were vulnerable, later Alexander the Great of Macedon would conquer all of Persia and some of India also.
The Greeks may have been the founders of Western Civilization, but they were first and foremost a warrior society. If the Greeks weren’t formidable warriors they would have been conquered by the mighty Persian Empire, which means that there would be no Socrates, no Plato, no Xenophon, the Greeks would not have been able to leave us a cultural legacy. […]