) - Slavery in Iran
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A History of slavery in Iran during various ancient, medieval and modern periods is sparsely cataloged.
- 1 Under the Achaemenids
- 2 Under the Parthians
- 3 Under the Sassanids
- 4 Modern Period
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
Under the Achaemenids
In general, mass slavery as a whole has never been practiced by Persians, and in many cases the situation and lives of semi-slaves (prisoners of war) were, in fact, better than those of the commoner.
Slavery was an existing institution in Egypt, Media and Babylonia before the rise of the Achaemenid empire.
On the whole, in the Achaemenid empire, there was only small number of slaves in relation to the number of free persons and moreover the word used to call a slave was utilized also to express general dependence. Usually, captives were prisoners of war that were recruited from those that rebelled against Achaemenid rule.
Modern historians handle the book of Herodotus with care and according to Pierre Briant: "It is hard to separate history from fairly tale in Herodotus". Herodotus has mentioned enslavement with regards to rebels of the Lydians who revolted against Achaemenid rule and captured Sardis. He has also mentioned slavery after the rebellion of Egypt in the city of Barce during the time of Cambyses and the assassination of Persian Satrap in Egypt. He also mentions the defeat of Ionians, and their allies Eretria who supported the Ionians and subsequent enslavement of the rebels and supporting population.
According to Dandamayev:
|“ ||The basis of agriculture was the labor of free farmers and tenants and in handicrafts the labor of free artisans, whose occupation was usually inherited within the family, likewise predominated. In these countries of the empire, slavery had already undergone important changes by the time of the emergence of the Persian state. Debt slavery was no longer common. The practice of pledging one’s person for debt, not to mention self-sale, had totally disappeared by the Persian period. In the case of nonpayment of a debt by the appointed deadline, the creditor could turn the children of the debtor into slaves. A creditor could arrest an insolvent debtor and confine him to debtor’s prison. However, the creditor could not sell a debtor into slavery to a third party. Usually the debtor paid off the loan by free work for the creditor, thereby retaining his freedom. ||” |
Under the Parthians
There is evidence from classical sources about practice of slavery under Parthian rule. According to Plutarch, there were many slaves in the army of the Parthian general Surena.
Under the Sassanids
Under this period Roman prisoners of war were used in farming in Babylonia, Shush and Persis.
Sassanid Laws of Slavery
Some of the laws governing the ownership and treatment of slaves can be found in the collection of laws of the Sassanid period called Matikan-e-Hazar Datastan. Principles that can be inferred from the laws include:
1) The slaves were captured foreigners who were non-Zoroastrians.
2) The ownership of the slave belonged to the man.
3) The owner had to treat the slave humanely; violence toward the slave was forbidden. In particular beating a slave woman was a crime.
4) If a non-Zoroastrian slave, such as a Christian slave, converted to Zoroastrianism, he or she could pay his or her price and attain freedom.
5) If a slave together with his or her foreign master embraced Zoroastrianism, he or she could pay his slave price and become free.
To free a slave (irrespective of his or her faith) was considered a good deed. Slaves had some rights including keeping gifts to them and at least three days of rest in the month. The law also protected slaves, including: No one may inflict upon slaves a fatal punishment for a single crime... Not even the king himself may slay anyone on the account of one crime.
In 1828 the slave trade against Circassians and Georgians was abolished. In the late 19th century the British Empire put an end to the slave trade in Iran. However Slavery was still common in Iran under the Qajar dynasty. Slavery was formally outlawed in Persia by Rezā Shāh in 1928.
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