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Arming Slaves and Helots 25 Slaves in the Athenian Navy Slaves were much more commonly used in the navy than as foot soldiers. Naval warfare required far larger numbers of people than land warfare. Athens never managed to field more than sixteen thousand hoplites at any one time, but its largest naval effort required fifty thousand crew members. So whereas hoplite service was not imposed on the poorer half of the citizen population, mobilizing a navy required large numbers of poor citizens, resident aliens, foreign mercenaries, and slaves.

If there were any distinction between slave and free among the rowers on a trireme, it might be that the thranitai tended to be free while slaves were relegated to the lower rows. In the absence of evidence either way, such a hierarchy among the rowers cannot be ruled out. The demands of military efficiency, however, can also be compelling: one can easily imagine sloppy, weak, or ill free thranitai being sent down in favor of fit slaves. In any case, the numbers probably never worked out exactly enough to allow a consistent distinction between slave and free rowers.

The Macedonians’ defeat of Athens and its allies at the battle of Chaeronia in 338 bc brought the Classical period to an end. The old Greek city-states entered a period of domination by large kingdoms and their professional or mercenary armies. The Hellenistic kingdoms resulting from the conquests of Alexander the Great were not essentially slave societies. Their Greek-speaking 34 Peter Hunt elite still owned slaves, but the rural economy was dominated by a dependent peasantry. Ω∂ They were nevertheless occasionally freed for emergency infantry service, used regularly in the navy, and involved in civil wars.

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