A Cargo of Slaves? Demosthenes 34.10

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Existing studies of the ancient Greek slave trade lack detailed evidence for a key link in the supply chain. The geographical origins of non-Greek slaves are well known, as are the various destinations to which they were trafficked; as yet, however, little is known about their transport by sea. This article shows that a key testimonium for this phase of the trade has been lying unnoticed under historians’ noses: Demosthenes 34.10, a passage that describes the shipwreck and drowning of numerous persons. These unfortunates have long been considered free persons because one of our manuscripts (followed by many modern textual editions) describes them as ‘free bodies’ (somata eleuthera). However, most manuscripts, including the most authoritative manuscript, S (cod. Parisinus 2934, ninth–tenth century ad), simply read somata, ‘bodies’, a word that can mean ‘slaves’ in ancient Greek. Some editors have also rejected the number (‘300’) of these individuals in S, emending it to ‘30’, due to disbelief that an ancient merchantman could carry so many souls aboard. This article argues that the readings in S should stand, and that this passage illustrates an episode where the shipment of numerous slaves went disastrously wrong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-148
JournalThe Mariner's Mirror
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ancient Greece
  • slavery
  • slave trade
  • shipwreck
  • maritime trade
  • Attic orators
  • Demosthenes
  • ancient Greek manuscripts


Dive into the research topics of 'A Cargo of Slaves? Demosthenes 34.10'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this