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Attic manumissions : a commentary on IG II2 1554-59 and Agora I 3183 and 4763 Joss, Kelly L.


The following paper is based on eight opisthographic fragments as assembled and published by D.M. Lewis in Hesperia XXVIII (1959) - IG II² 1554-59 and Ag. I 3183 - and Hesperia XXXVII (1968) - Ag. I 4763. Although the existing text is fragmentary, much of it remains intact and is legible. Both faces of the stele consist of entries recording the results of fictitious trials for abandonment, in which, in every case, chattel slaves were acquitted from their masters and given metic status. Along with each acquittal, there was a payment of a phiale worth one-hundred drachmas. This stele now stands as the most complete manumission document surviving from ancient Athens and its existence compels us to ask many more questions than can perhaps be answered. Manumissions were exceedingly uncommon at Athens, as attested by the near absence of literary and epigraphical evidence for them, and it is unclear why such a document would appear suddenly, having no predecessors, save for a few fragments found to be from around the same period, never to be followed by further evidence of its kind. Why would it have been necessary to simultaneously manumit so many slaves in the last quarter of the fourth century? Surely, it wasn't to honour them, judging from the format of the entries. What, then, was the purpose? With this question in mind, the following topics were explored. Chapter one focused on the legal aspects of the document such as what was meant by the apophugon procedure and who paid for the phiale. Chapter two involved charting the deme-distribution of the former masters and slaves, with the purpose of finding a general area of domicile. for those named on the document. The third chapter discussed the various occupations listed in conjunction with the former slaves, with the ultimate motive of finding what types of slaves were being released and what this might reveal about the document's purpose. The following conclusions were formed: the slave probably bore the responsibility for the payment of his release, which here took the form of a phiale. Based on Plato's reference to paramone agreements in Laws 915a, it is viable that such agreements were practiced at Athens and, furthermore, that .they were similar to those found at Delphi. The deme-distribution of both the former masters and slaves provides evidence that the majority probably had domiciles in city-demes. Lastly, the fact that the highest percentage of former slaves were involved in wool-working and domestic-service lends some credence to the slaves' manumissions having been based upon something other than solely the attainment of freedom. These slaves would have been virtually unskilled and, therefore, the cheapest for the masters to release. As for the other more skilled slaves listed, they would almost certainly have been living-apart, already in a. quasi-free state. In essence, these slaves appear to have been token manumissions, although their new legal status is indisputable, assembled from the more politically active city-dwellers, whose purpose was to allow the state to gather revenue for the oncoming and inevitable war with Macedon. This revenue took the initial form of phialai payments and then, subsequently, the perpetual metoikion payments, required of every metic. The text of the inscription, as published by D.M. Lewis (1959 and 1968), along with his assembly of the fragments, is included. I have also written an English translation. Charts and maps of the former masters' and slaves' deme distribution and slave occupations are also included, as well as an appendix on slave names.

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