Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Slaves in Ancient Greece and Rome, Blog 2

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. […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Slaves in the Ancient World, Blog 1, Were Slaves the Employees of the Ancient World?

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. […]

Plato

The Stoic Socrates of Xenophon

Xenophon’s Socrates definitely sounds Stoic, he sought to die the good Stoic death. “Socrates was so arrogant in court that he invited the juror’s ill-will and more or less forced them to condemn him. His fate was proper to one loved by the gods, because he both avoided the most difficult part of life and gained the easiest of deaths. His fortitude was obvious, since he decided death was the better option, he showed no weakness in the face of death, but awaited it cheerfully.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Sentencing and Execution of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 2

In the end of his speech to the jurors who will decide whether he will live or die, he says, “Judges, be of good cheer about death, and know for certain that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.” Socrates is forgiving. “I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm. Although the did not mean to do me any good; for this I gently blame them.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Trial of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 1

How do you encourage your neighbor to grow in wisdom without preaching to him? The Platonic method is the dialectic, the Socratic Dialogue, questions and answers to encourage the citizen to think. The method used by the Gospels is the parable, similar in function to the Delphic Oracle, that also entices the listener to think through questions of right and wrong, justice and virtue. Plato does not use parables as often, but he does use parables very effectively, the most famous parable in the history of philosophy is his Allegory of the Cave in the Republic. […]

Greek Philosophy

Plato: Euthyphro, Who Won’t Listen

Socrates has been charged by the citizens of Athens of impiety, of corrupting the youth, and in preparation he must go to the porch of the King Archon. There he meets his friend, Euthyphro, and they converse about the serious charges filed against Socrates, and the serious charges Euthyphro intends against, surprisingly, his very own father. Socrates senses that his friend has little idea of the consequences of this action, and that his youthful haste may lead to a miserable and penurious future, and that his friend has pondered little of this drastic action. […]

Iliad and Odyssey

Odyssey, Blog 4, The Slaughter of the Suitors

When Odysseus had seen his departed mother in Hades she said from the shades, “your father stays among the fields, and comes to town no more. Bed he has none, no robes, no bright-hued rugs. Through the winter he sleeps in the house where the servants sleep, in the dust besides the fire, and wears upon his body sorry clothes. . . . There he lies in distress, woe waxing strong within him, longing for your return; and hard old age comes on. Even so I also died and met my doom. . . . longing for you, your wise ways, glorious Odysseus, and your tenderness, took joyous life away.” […]

Iliad and Odyssey

Odyssey, Blog 3, Odysseus Returns Home to Ithica

We get a rare glimpse into the lives of the slaves, the lives spent serving their masters, when Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, approaches the hovel of his swineherd Eumaeus, who chases away the dogs who snap at the stranger, offering hospitality to even an old beggar. “Old man, my dogs had nearly torn you to pieces here, all of a sudden, and so you would have brought reproach upon me. Ah well! The gods have given me other griefs and sorrows; for over my matchless master I sit and sign and groan, and tend fat hogs for other men to eat; while my master, hungry, wanders among lands and men who speak alien tongues, if he still lives and feels the sunshine. But follow me, old man, into the lodge, so that when you have eaten and drunk your fill, you may tell me where you come from and what troubles you have borne.” The good swineherd is more concerned about the beggar’s troubles than who he is. […]

Iliad and Odyssey

Odyssey, Blog 2, Odysseus Sings His Adventures

While the Cyclops was fast asleep from the wine, Odysseus and his men drove a large wooden stake into his one eye, blinding him. The Cyclops jumped up and tried feeling about for the men in vain. The next morning, they each escaped by hanging onto the bottom of the large sheep and rams as Cyclops let them out to pasture. After escaping the men loaded the sheep onto their ships, and Cyclops roared at them and threw boulders into the sea near their ships. […]

Iliad and Odyssey

Odyssey, Blog 1, Waiting Those Very Long Years For Odysseus

Just as the Iliad revolved around the need to show hospitality and respect to the enemy who had courage to enter your camp, often to ransom his relatives, or to fetch their bodies for a proper burial, so the Odyssey revolves around the need to show hospitality to strangers. Travel in the ancient world was arduous and hazardous, and if you did not show hospitality to stranger, or what the Greeks called xenia, the stranger could die. […]