Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Doulos (plural form: Douloi), translated from Greek, means a worker who has no voting rights in order to vote for the decisions that affect his community, and who is forced to obey the commands of another person. On the contrary, a free person (eleutheros) is defined as a person who has voting rights, and is subjected to nobody except to the laws of his community that have been decided democratically using majoritarianism. In between them there is a metic (metikos), meaning immigrant guest or visitor, who has no voting rights, but who is not forced to obey the commands of another person, and is free to leave the country.
The word "douleia", used often by contemporary Greeks, is translated as "work", and this is not by chance. Additionally, the accurate translation of the word slave is "sklavos". This shows that Greeks distinguish "doulos" from slave.
Douloi in Athenian democracy were protected by laws similar to today liberal rights. No doulos could be killed by anyone, a trial was required in order to announce a death sentence of a doulos. Also their children were protected. For example there was a law that everyone who raped a child (either a free child or a doulos one) was sentenced to death. You could also find douloi in Athenian democracy who were wealthier than free persons. Douloi had the right to become suppliants in temples in case they were maltreated by their masters, and in that case their master was forced to sell them. Additionally a free person could denounce another free person in case of a doulos maltreatment.
Aristotle (who was in favor of douleia) mentioned that some philosophers in Athenian Democracy were against douleia and they wanted the abolishment of it. Unfortunately, the writings of those philosophers weren't preserved by successive governments. From other sources can be found just a quote from Alcidamas: "God has set everyone free. No one is created Doulos, by nature". Also a small fraction of a poem of Philemon demonstrated that he was also against douleia.
They were many classes of douloi in Athens:
- The home douloi, living in his master's home and working at home or land or shop.
- The freelancer douloi, who didn't live with their master but were working in their master's shop or fields and were paying him taxes from money they get from their own properties (as long as property was allowed to be owned by douloi).
- The public sector douloi, similar to municipal servants, who were working as police officers, ushers, secretaries, street sweepers, etc.
- The andrapods douloi who were rowers in commercial ships or miners. They often belong to a master who has lent them to another person. The miners in Athenian Democracy were about ten to fifteen thousand persons (3% to 5% of the population). Most of them were douloi, but not all of them, as excavations have proved that free persons also were working as miners. The miners' work was very hard and their living conditions very bad, which is why the douloi miners revolted in 413 B.C. during the war between Athens and Sparta. This caused very bad consequences both in the economy of Athens and in the Athenian army, and as a result Athens lost the war.
On the other hand, in Sparta and some other ancient Greek city-states, douloi were treated very badly. For example, it was custom in Sparta for a young man to pass from adolescence to maturity by killing one or more douloi. Sparta douloi were actually named ilotes, to distinguish them from Athenian ones. Subsequently, however, during the war between Athens and Sparta, and after the capture of Dekelia by the Spartans, two thousand Athenian douloi defect to Sparta, maybe because the Athenian state was disrupted and was ready to surrender.
Athens Politia, 10,10-11.
"Douloi and metics in Athens are very unrestrained. In Athens you are not allowed to hit a doulo, neither a doulos will let you pass firstly in a queue. I am going to explain you now why this is happening. If there was a law that would allow a free person to hit a doulo, or a metic, it will be very possible to hit a free person instead, as long as free persons do not wear better clothes or have better appearance, in order to distinguish them from doulous."
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