Cover: Democracy’s Slaves: A Political History of Ancient Greece, from Harvard University PressCover: Democracy’s Slaves in HARDCOVER

Democracy’s Slaves

A Political History of Ancient Greece

Add to Cart

Product Details


$36.00 • £28.95 • €32.50

ISBN 9780674660076

Publication Date: 01/09/2017


208 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


[An] elegant and discreetly knowledgable translation… Ismard’s book is welcome for both its careful factual survey of the too scanty evidence for the activities of the dēmosioi, and its comparison of their activities with those of similar administrators in other slave societies.—Peter Green, London Review of Books

The Western claim of Greece and Rome as a cultural heritage has affected classical scholarship and contemporary vision, sometimes in mirror imaging, sometimes in moral rationalization. Slavery has been viewed almost exclusively through this filter, but this book is a fresh, revisionist appraisal of the institution… Ismard sets his argument in the origins of public slavery and carries it through all aspects of classical Greek society. His use of a variety of geo-historical examples adds to the flavor if not the substance of the book. The author has clearly mastered the relevant classical texts and material sources, but it is his fresh perspective that makes this a fascinating, important scholarly work.—J. Tucci, Choice

This ingenious work is as much a study of ancient Greek democracy as of its public slaves. In fine-grained interpretations of the ancient sources, informed by an impressive grasp of the comparative literature on slavery, Ismard unravels nearly all the puzzling aspects of the dēmosioi’s status and roles: policemen, priests, artisans, civil servants, archivist and expert advisers, yet fully slaves. In so doing, he further illuminates the paradox of the constitutive role of slavery in the Greek discovery and understanding of freedom, especially the centrality of participative citizenship and amateur political deliberation. Brilliantly original, and persuasively argued, it will be required reading for all students of Greek slavery and the Western origins of freedom.—Orlando Patterson, author of Freedom, Volume 1: Freedom in the Making of Western Culture

This is not a conventional work of ancient history, and so much the better. Ismard challenges our dependence on influential comparisons of ancient and modern democracies, ancient and modern slave societies. Democracy’s Slaves is forceful, engaging, erudite, and sophisticated.—Page duBois, University of California, San Diego

From Our Blog


Who We Might Have Been, and Who We Will Become

Who among us hasn’t considered what our lives would be like if we had taken alternate paths, made different decisions? Storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have, says Andrew H. Miller, author of On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives. As we live through a worldwide pandemic, the ideas of what might have been are even more appealing. Much like the adolescents on the verge of adulthood in Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, Miller tells us, we wait to see what comes next.