Research Paper: Civilizations Ancient Civilizations Represented the Core Nature

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¶ … Civilizations

Ancient civilizations represented the core nature of history as we know it today and as society developed throughout the centuries and millennia. From this point-of-view, slavery was crucial in the way in which society slowly developed. Slavery is an important element to analyze largely because it played an essential role on the development of ancient civilization and on their heritage. Some of the most representative slavery techniques were found in ancient Rome, Africa, and Eastern Europe. These are three worthy points of discussion because they reflect different cultural and historical influences that in the end shaped the practice differently.

The thesis of the paper concerns the role of slavery in different societies and cultures. It is proven that this practice, regardless how old it was, influenced societies and the way in which history eventually evolved.

The research question relates to how slavery developed in these three geographical points which although are not very far apart, they represent three reference points for three distinct cultures and civilizations.

The rationale for the research paper is based on the historical and social relations connected to slavery which can define a comprehensive view on the subject at hand. In this sense, several facts and realities are analyzed. One fact is that the issue of slavery is part of the wider process of historical evolution. From the African slavery, the American slavery emerged in the 17th century as a developing institution. The Roman process of slavery did not emerge as a worldwide practice. It was maintained as long as the Roman Empire lasted. As for Eastern Europe, there were certain reminisces which influenced the emerging 17th century societies.

A second fact is related to the importance of the development of slavery as it became a dominant practice in the respective societies: how it emerged, developed, dispersed or founded.

The third fact under analysis is that slavery is crucial for the way in which it influenced the social stratification of the societies. This is also a worthy point to take into account largely due to the impact it had on societies in Eastern Europe where slavery as seen in ancient times developed and degenerated into a social practice of labor.

Slavery has been a controversial issue and term to define largely because there are several types of slavery. On the one hand, the ancient term of slavery which was practices in ancient Rome, Greece, Europe, or Africa. On the other hand, there is the North American slavery which was practiced starting with the 17th century in particular (Jenkins, 1997). However, regardless of this first impression, the issue of slavery can be determined as "one of the most extreme forms of the relation of domination, approaching the limits of total power from the viewpoint of the master, and of total powerlessness from the viewpoint of the slave" (Paterson, 2007).

The definition mentioned above entangles the basic issues developed by slavery. In this sense, it represented first and foremost a human relation. This in turn was based on the exchange of power and the equilibrium which did not exist between the slaves and the master. Paterson argues thus that the master was in total control and exerted a power which molded the relations between the two sides. This perspective implies the belief that slavery and the relations between the slaves and the master also influenced the social environment and thus created a social structure stratified according to the exercise of power by one side and the lack of power by the other. Finally, this comes to point out that slavery indeed influenced the way in which societies were built and developed.

Slavery was part of a wider process in the development of human kind. More precisely, as mentioned above, it influenced the environments built on these power relations. Ancient Rome is perhaps one of the most representative cultures in this sense. It created slavery in the form of an institution. In the beginnings, there was an increasing shortage of manpower in order to create the Roman Empire. It must be pointed out that the issue of slavery was crucial for the development of the empire largely due to the fact that the quality of Roman citizenship created a certain status above the ordinary men. This in turn reflected on the stratification of the society.

Slavery in ancient Rome was also influenced by the continuous expansion of the Roman Empire in terms of territories which were conquered (Berstein and Milza, 1994). More precisely, given the enlarged territories, it was common practice that prisoners taken following a war would be either sold as slaves or used for the common works. These practices are though old as history itself, as elements of slavery were seen from the early years of history when war prisoners were either killed or sold, reducing them thus to slavery (Blake, 1861). However, this practice in ancient Rome was not necessarily a negative aspect, as even slaves were given a certain amount of money for the work they performed. In any case, the social stratification created enabled the Roman society to make clear distinction between Romans, the plebe, and the slaves.

The existence of slaves in ancient Rome was also distinguished in the political life. In this sense, slaves lacked any political right. They were indeed the lowest level of the society. However, the rebellions such as the Gracchi Brothers which aimed at improving the condition of the less fortunate ones gave the signs of a real political life in ancient Rome. This proves to be important because it offers a perspective on the first attempts to restore equilibrium and equality in ancient societies.

In African societies slavery was perceived differently. In early years of European conquest, as William Blake in his 1861 points out, "an intercourse took place between the Europeans and Africans, attended with a confidence highly favorable to the views of ambition and avarice. (…) the Europeans paid their court to the African chiefs and a treaty of peace and commerce was concluded, in which it was agreed that the kings in their part should sentence prisoners of war, and convicts, to European servitude; and that the European should in return supply them with the luxuries of the north" (Blake, 1861). Despite the fact that this occurred in the 15th century, it revealed the actual situation of the slaves in Africa and of the issue of slavery on the continent. Therefore, it can be seen that the African slavery system was largely dependant on the practices envisaged by the European trade.

In terms of slavery in Eastern Europe, it represented a part of a wider historical process from several points-of-view. One of them was the actual heritage of the roman influence. In this sense, it can be argued that the practices undergone by the Romans with the conquered territories also influenced Eastern Europe as their power stretched much into Eastern Europe. The same experiences were seen throughout the Roman Empire where war prisoners were sold and forced to work for the Roman Empire.

Slavery was a dominant factor for early societies. As seen above, it represented a modus operandi for the Roman Empire, a practice which eventually influenced the entire region of the European continent and Africa. Still, there is no sufficient information to actually identify the origins of slavery in Africa or Eastern Europe other than those which relate exclusively to human nature and to the power relations between rich and poor. However, it can be argued that one of the most important elements for propagation of slavery was the Roman Empire, both for the wide range of territories it affected as well as for the way in which this system developed in time.

Given the social nature of the phenomenon, slavery failed to have a very rapid development in terms of techniques, structure, or procedures. In general, slaves were used for cheap of free labor. This in turn created a separate level in the society. However, as opposed to the Roman system which succumbed once the Roman Empire collapsed, in Africa and in Eastern Europe, this system gave way to new modern for that time practices which eventually influence in a critical manner the history of these regions.

For the African continent slavery as seen in the 10th century gave way to slavery practices and trade which influenced the North American practices of the 18th century. Black people in general were perceived as an inferior race and thus enslaved in the common mentality of the north Americans. Indeed, this perception might also been possible as a result of science and evolutionary theories of the 17th and 18th centuries (Braunstein and Pepin, 1998). These articulated views according to which the white race is superior to any other race and thus Aryanism, xenophobia, and other mass believe theories emerged. Still, Africans were seen as the traditional slave at the house of a European or wealthy North American. The constant practice of slave exports created this image in time.

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