Slavery in the Persian Empire


slavery under the Persian civilization

The group of dynasties that were centered in present-day Iran and whose rule extended for several centuries, starting from the sixth century BC until the twentieth century AD, was called the Persian Empire.

A tribal leader called Cyrus the Great founded the first Persian Empire around 550 BC, which became one of the largest empires in history, it surpassed the Roman Empire in fame and power, and its borders extended from the Balkan Peninsula in Europe in the west to the Indus Valley in India in the east.

The Iron Age dynasty, sometimes called the Achaemenid Empire, was a global center of culture, religion, science, art and technology for more than 200 years before it fell to the invading armies of Alexander the Great.

the beginning

 Will Durant, the American historian, believes that the phenomenon of slavery began with the transition of man from the hunting stage to the agricultural stage.

The hunter, as Durant saw, man relied on himself to bring enough food for himself and his small family, and did not need an extra mouth to help him.

But when people gathered in towns and cities and human societies began to emerge, the food requirement became greater, and then the need for labor appeared, and the idea of slavery and human ownership of humans was resorted to as a means of providing this labor.

The Persian economy relied mainly on agriculture, and due to the diversity of their lands and varying climates, the Persians practiced cultivation of all crops in the Middle and Near East, this required the presence of slavery and the use of slaves as an investment in and expansion of agriculture.

Classes of Persian society

Class differentiation plays a major role in the existence of slavery, as it creates an appropriate social situation and forms a suitable psychological readiness.

The situation in the Persian civilization (ancient Iran) was not better than the other old civilizations, they also had this abhorrent class distinction.

Among the classes of the people, the Otsa (the law book in Iran) mentions three classes of society:

 the clergy class, the war class, and the agricultural class. Even more than that, they relied on dividing these same classes into classes, with each class having a president, this division, as is clear, was largely political, and alongside it, there was also a social division that divided the upper classes of society.

Iranian society was based on lineage and craftsmanship, and there was a wide gap between the classes of society that could not be bridged or connected.

The government prohibited the common people from buying property for a prince or a major man, and one of the rules of Sassanian politics was that each person should be satisfied with his position that his lineage granted him, and not look forward to anything above him.

No one was allowed to take up a profession other than the craft for which God created him, the kings of Iran did not assign any of their positions to a lowly person, the common people were also clearly distinct classes from one another, and each one had a specific position in society.

Some historians state that Iranian society was based on two foundations: They are lineage and ownership, as stated in the book (Tansur), where he distinguished the “nobles” from the craftsmen and workers by their dress and adornment, just as their wives were distinguished by their silk clothes and great palaces.

In addition to this, social ranks existed in all classes, so each individual had his own specific rank and place in the group. The peasants were subordinate to the landowner, forced into forced labor and service, their great majority walked behind the armies, as if they were going to eternal humiliation, with no reward to motivate them. There were no laws to protect the peasants.

In Persia, the blood of the gods runs in the veins of the rulers, they are a class above humans, even if everyone else is their slaves.

Although the emergence and spread of the Mazdak religion in Persia reduced class distinction because of its teachings that call for absolute equality.

Slavery was commonplace in Persian society, a substantial number of slaves consisted of prisoners of war captured in military campaigns, although some were military, others were civilians who had either resisted Persian control or rebelled against them, still, others were former merchants or artisans who had fallen into debt and sold themselves or their families into slavery.

Slaves were the property either of an individual, the government, or even a temple or other community institution. They could not move or marry without the consent of their masters, although slave families were seldom separated.

Slave labor in Persia

The African slave trade in the Persian Gulf began well before the Islamic period, Mediaeval accounts refer sporadically to slaves working as household servants, bodyguards, militiamen and sailors in the Persian Gulf including what is today southern Iran, the practice lasted, and evolved, through many centuries.

There were many slavery among the Persians in their great state that extended throughout the borders of known Asia, the slaves were shepherds, and the slaves specialized in the needs of adornment, wealth, and wealth, and some of them were designated to perform the reprehensible abominations that were decreed by the people’s superstitions.

Slaves were taken for grazing and farming, and used for the decorations and work needed in homes, if the slave commits a sin, he is punished moderately, if he commits it again, his master has the right to punish him however he wants, and he has the right to kill him, The Khorows  (the Persian kings) viewed every non-Persian as a slave owned by them, and had no right to anything except food and drink, like any animal!

As for the Persian Kingdom, whose authority extended to the borders of Asia known at that time, it brought together all types of employment known to many different nations, the slaves were shepherds, and slaves specializing in the needs of adornment, wealth, and wealth,  in the temple of Anaites in Armenia, there were slaves who were prepared to work the vile, reprehensible, vile things that It was ruled by people's superstitions.

How to deal with slavery in Persia

"Debt slavery" or "forced labor", did exist in ancient Persia, but is not comparable to traditional slavery, as it cannot be characterized by the form of racial/ethnic dehumanizing oppression, which is the hallmark of traditional slavery practiced throughout history in other parts of the world.

In some countries, custom and convention have created times for slaves to devote themselves to seeking rest. Indeed, their law-makers have worked hard to reduce the oppression of masters towards their slaves and to lessen the burden of their grievances on them.

Herodotus said: “It is not permissible for any Persian to punish his servant for a single sin he has committed with extreme severity ".

But if the servant returns to committing this sin after the punishment that befell him, then his master has the right to execute him for life, or to punish him with all imaginable types of torment.

Marriage and slavery

There were two main types of marriage among them: regular and informal marriage,  regular marriage is what constitutes a legitimate wedlock, and it is called (Padesha Zani), and the husband is called (Shawda), and the wife is called (Zan) or (Badesha Zan), and it requires the approval of the girl’s father, the girl’s approval, three witnesses, and a judge to authenticate and register the marriage.

The husband is the master of the house, and obedience to him is obligatory.

Engagement often took place during childhood, marriage was concluded at an early age, and the age of fifteen was considered the necessary age for marriage.

As for irregular marriage; It is a marriage in which the girl marries herself, without referring to her family, and with the approval of her father.

There was the servant wife (Zan Jagarbha), and they also called her (Shukar Zan), depending on the reason for the marriage. She is in second place, and they consider her the status of slaves and captives.

The legal provisions regulating the conditions of each of the two types are different.

The perfect wife was the head of the husband’s house, supervised his food, and had her own house, unlike the imperfect wife, who had no right to demand an independent house.

In the event of the husband’s death, the full wife has the inheritance and disposes of the affairs of the family and children, the incomplete wife does not have the right to inherit or act on her own.

An example of an irregular marriage is that the husband had the right to give up his wife to another man for a specific time, and the wife had no right to object, the marriage was concluded by a legal contract, whereby the temporary husband was obligated to take care of the wife while she was hired, and to treat her like a slave.

In the event of a pregnancy resulting from marriage, the child belongs to the first husband, not the temporary husband. In the event of the death of the temporary husband, the wife is not entitled to a share of his inheritance.





























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