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L'antiquit classique

Pais, child and slave

Mark Golden

Le mot grec pais signifie communment enfant et esclave . C'est l'histoire du mot qui nous apprend l'origine de cette
double signification : l'enfant et l'esclave appartenaient tous deux au rang social subordonn. La caractrisation de l'esclave
comme enfantin aux points, de vue intellectuel et moral est un dveloppement postrieur du mot. La sujtion des enfants et
des esclaves est marque tout particulirement par l'abus physique. Cet abus se reflte dans plusieurs textes littraires o
figurent des jeux de mots sur pais et paiein ( = battre quelqu'un).

Citer ce document / Cite this document :

Golden Mark. Pais, child and slave . In: L'antiquit classique, Tome 54, 1985. pp. 91-104;

doi : 10.3406/antiq.1985.2143


Document gnr le 16/03/2016


Pais is a common Greek word for both child and young person, male
and female1. At least from the time of Aeschylus 2, it and certain of its
derivatives may also denote a slave of any age3. I intend to investigate
this double use of pais and to discuss the common ground shared, in the
Athenian view4, by children and slaves5. I confine my discussion to
Athens on the grounds that, as usual, it is the only Greek state for which
we have remotely sufficient types and amounts of material.

An earlier draft of this article appeared as a chapter of my Ph. D. dissertation, Aspects of

childhood in Classical Athens, Toronto, 1981 . 1 would like to thank my supervisor, Mac Wallace,
for his advice on this revised version.
1 LSJ and P. Chantraine, Dictionnaire tymologique de la langue grecque, III (Paris, 1974),
p. 848 say that pais has special reference to the father, teknon to the mother, especially in
This distinction must not be pressed : see from Aeschylus alone, e.g., Pers., 177, 189,
197, 211, 227, 233, 352, 473, 476, 529, 609, 847 (Xerxes is Atossa's pats) ; Sept., 792, 929.
At Cho., 829 the chorus predict that Clytemnestra will call Orestes teknon to prevent him from
killing her. So she does (896, 910, 912, 920, 922) ; but she calls him paw (896) as well. Danaus
calls his children paides at Supp., 176, 600, 980, tekna at 739, 753.
2 LSJ gives Aesch., Cho., 653 as the first instance pais, slave. For pais in Hipponax
fr. 13 W. and several other ambiguous passages of Greek poetry earlier than Aeschylus' plays,
see my note in QUCC, 12 (1982), pp. 73-75.
3 Paidion means both child and young slave (the earliest LSJ citations are IG, I2, 329,
27 ; Ar., Nub., 132), paidarion means small child (Ar., Av., 494) and young slave (first in
LSJ at Ar., Plut., 823, 843), paidiske young girl (Xen., An., IV, 3, 1 1) and slave girl (first
in LSJ at Lys., 1, 12 ; 13, 67) ; LSJ gives only young boy, son for paidiskos (first at Ar., Eccl.,
1146), though Ammon., 378 Nickau implies that the word may also mean young slave.
According to J. A. Scott, Additional notes on the vocative, in AJP, 26 (1905), pp. 32-43, a
nuance of usage distinguished addresses to slaves and children. Free Athenians generally used
pai to slaves, opai to young citizens. Slaves, however, addressed each other o pai. While free
persons kept slaves at a distance and did not address them with the interjection, sakves could
use to each other the familiar o (37).
4 Pollux, III, 78, implies that pais, slave is a distinctively Attic usage. But it found in
the Hippocratic Epidemics ; see F. Kudlien, Die Sklaven in der griechischen Medizen der
und hellenistischen Zeit, Wiesbaden, 1968, pp. 16, 20. In addition, pats often means
slave in the papyri (J. A. Straus, La terminilogie grecque de l'esclavage dans les papyrus de
l'Egypte lagide et romaine, in Scritti in onore di O. Montevecchi, Bologna 1981, cites examples
as early as the mid-third century BC) and in the New Testament [see C. Spicq, Le vocabulaire
de l'esclavage dans le nouveau testament, in Rev. Bibl., 85 (1978), pp. 201-226, esp. 220-224].
5 I know of no other study of this use o pais in the classical period, though it has of course

We must begin with the word itself. The root idea is said to be
small 6, and it is tempting to suppose that it is personal characteristics
which slaves and children were thought especially to share, in particular
some lack of mental or moral stature 7. By this reckoning, slaves would
be similar to children, childlike. And certainly some of the qualities
to slaves were thought to characterize children as well. For example,
some Athenians distrusted the slave's ability to think8
This intellectual incapacity was also considered a mark of childhood.
Aeschylus' Prometheus says Hermes is a child and even more mindless,
if he expects to learn his secrets (PV, 987-988 ; cf. Ag., 277, 479). Xeno-
phon's Cyrus knows Astyages is drunk when he does things he would not
allow even children to do (Cyr., I, 3, 10 ; cf. Pl., Leg., I, 645 e). Aeschi-
nes regards the ability to distinguish good and bad as the mark of an adult
(1, 18 ; cf. 1, 39). Plato (or his speakers) claims children cannot tell
from fact (Resp., II, 377 b-c), are gullible and easily persuaded {Leg.,
II, 664 a), are prone to unreasonable fear (Phd., 77 e ; cf. Xen., Hell., IV,
4, 17), can understand only the simplest things (Euthd., 279 d ; cf. Symp.,
204 b).
But this approach is not entirely satisfactory. A root meaning small
need have little relevance to an extended use first attested several hundred
years after the word was well established. Nor can we be sure that small

been noticed ; see, e.g., M. I. Finley, Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, New York, 1980,
p. 96 ; M. Mactoux, Douleia. Esclavage et pratiques discursives dans l'Athnes classique
littraires de l'Universit de Besanon, 250 (Paris, 1980)], pp. 127, 150 ; U. Kstner,
fr Sklaven, in . C. Welskopf (ed.), Soziale Typenbegriffe im alten Griechenland und
ihr Fortleben in den Sprachen der Welt, III (Berlin, 1981), pp. 287-288, 306-307. For pais, slave,
in Greco-Roman Egypt, see J. A. Straus, n. 4 above and La terminologie de l'esclavage dans
les papyrus grecs d'poque romaine trouvs en Egypte, in Actes du Colloque 1973 sur l'esclavage
{Annales littraires de l'Univ. de Besanon, 182), Paris, 1976, esp. pp. 333-337 ; I. Biezuska-
MaCowist, L'esclavage dans l'Egypte grco-romaine, I (Wroclaw, 1974), pp. 11-18. Vor puer at
Rome, see J. Maurin, Remarques sur la notion de 'puer' l'poque classique, in Bulletin de
Guillaume Bud, 14 (1975), pp. 221-230 ; G. Bonfante, Puer = filius, filia, in PdP,
200 (1981), pp. 312-314. No form pais is as yet certainly attested on the Linear tablets.
6 Cf. Chantraine (above n. 1) 850 : Le mot appartient en tous cas une famille de
familiers exprimant la notion de 'petit'. For similar conclusions, see H. Frisk,
Etymologisches Wrterbuch, II (Heidelberg, 1960), p. 493 ; O. Szemernyi, Studies in the
Kinship Terminology of the Indo-European Languages, with Special Reference to Indian, Iranian,
Greek and Latin [Acta Iranica3 7 (1977)], p. 16. Terms adduced include Sanskrit putr-, son,
Osean puklum, son, Latin puer and paucus, Greek pauros, Gothic fawai, few.
7 So, e.g., H. Klees, Herren und Sklaven. Die Sklaverei im oikonomischen und politischen
Schrifttum der Griechen in klassischer Zeit, Wiesbaden, 1975, p. 30, n. 123 : ... man den
als geistigmoralisches Wesen als auf der Stufe eines Kindes stehend ansah...
8 See, e.g., Xen., Oec, 13, 9 : Cyr., VIII, 2, 4 and for passages revealing Plato's contempt
for slaves' intelligence, e.g., Clit., 408 a-b ; Leg., IV, 720 c-d ; XII, 966 b ; Pit., 309 a.

must refer to physical size or psychological development ; the root may

imply insignificant, unimportant.
Semantics is of more use here than etymology. Though its etymon may
well have meant small, pais itself is not used only to describe young
It can of course refer to a son or daughter of any age 9 ; this I shall
call the relative use . But even when used absolutely, to mean young
person, pais covers a very wide range. Homeric examples include the
Molione (//., XI, 710), who are old enough to go off to war. When the
poet wants to emphasize a child's youth, he must add an adjective. When
Odysseus tells Agamemnon that the homesick Greeks are crybabies he
calls them (//., II, 289). The new-born Odysseus is called
yeyawra {Od., XIX, 400), not simply paida. The expression
recurs to describe the infant Hermes (Hym. Horn. Merc, 271, 331), and
the Hymns introduce several similar coinages : ' (Hymn. Horn.
Merc, 245), ' (Ven., 115), (Cer., 141).
Pais has an equally wide range in later Greek. Different words had to
be developed and adapted for young children in particular - brephos in
verse (the first citation for human children given by LSJ is Simonides,
543, 21P.), paidion in prose and popular speech (first in the later fifth
: Hippocrates, in Philo, de opif. mundi, 36, 105 C.-W. ; Hdt., I,
110, 3 ; II, 119, 3 ; Ar., Pax, 50 ; Carm. Pop., 848, 19 P., perhaps Eur.,
fr. 485 N2.). In Athens, pats was the word for any male citizen who had
not yet officially come of age 10.
Pais then is boy or girl, not baby. Even used absolutely, it does
not imply extreme youth. Rather, it may describe any age up to
And while an older child will to some extent share the
of a young one, the Greeks early on began to speculate on the
between the various stages of life - and of childhood. Pais is
simply too vague a word to refer to any very definite set of physical or
other qualities n.
I suspect that it is more productive to seek the significance of the
use of pais in the word's relative sense. This can be said to

9 Simon., 14, 2 W. is a spectacular illustration.

10 Ath. Pol, 42, 1. For early usage in other states, cf. the law of the East Locrians (M.-L.,
20, 18 : 500-475) which divides colonists into paides and andres.
11 It is enough here to refer to Solon's famous poem 27 W., and to note that Aeschines'
view, mentioned above, that moral competence coincided with legal majority, was not held
by all of his fellow orators. The speaker of Isae., 12, 10 was just 13 when Euphiletus was born,
but claims to be able to testify to his legitimacy.

include the absolute usage. Of course, all children were once very young
and always younger than their natural parents. But an Athenian citizen
could as far as we know conceivably be adopted by a man younger than
himself; he would be his pais none the less12. And the word pais was
applied to a social as well as a biological stage - that is, it indicated a
relation to his society. To move from the status of pais, an Athenian
boy had both to come of age and to be admitted to a deme. If he was
admission because he was too young, he was returned (Ath.
Pol, 42, 1).
The relative is also the more common use in early Greek. The
sketch is based on an examination of early Greek epic, lyric, iambic,
and elegiac poetry up to the time of Bacchylides, and of tragedy.
Pats usually means son or daughter rather than boy or girl. For
example, pais occurs 166 times (by my count) in the Iliad. In all but 17
instances, it may mean child, and it often clearly refers to an adult son
or daughter. Of 129 occurrences cited in W. J. Slater, Lexicon to Pindar,
Berlin, 1969, only 15 mean boy, and one, girl. Proportions are only
slightly more balanced for Bacchylides : 20 certain instances, 4 examples
of pais, boy. Figures for these poets are especially significant because the
bulk of the texts involved deal with athletic contests in which paides,
boys, made up an age-class of competitors. We might therefore expect
more examples of the absolute use. Again, G. Italie, Index Aeschyleus2,
Leiden, 1964, cites 80 passages in Aeschylus under the headings filius
(56), filia (14), liben (10), just 20 under personam iuniorem indicat (7), par-
vulus (13). F. Ellendt, H. Genthe, Lexicon Sophocleum2, Berlin, 1872,
gives 130 unambiguous examples of pais meaning filius, filia, liberi in
Sophocles, 28 puer, puella, adulescens.
In many cases where pais means simply son or daughter, it is used
as a kind of periphrasis to identify some god or hero. Thus, Zeus is often
in the Iliad; Pindar addresses Hieron as
(Pyth., 2, 18), and refers to Zeus, Apollo, Dionysus,
Athene, and Heracles and a wide assortment of mortals by similar periph-

12 There is no known example. Nor do we know of any restriction on the age of adopted
sons or daughters, though adopters must be adults [A. R. W. Harrison, The Law of Athens,
I (Oxford, 1968), p. 84]. But a law forbade magistrates (men probably over 30) from being
adopted until they had rendered their accounts (Aeschin., 3, 21). This prohibition must
rescue adoptions, attempts to preserve the family property of a magistrate in default
(cf. Anecd. Bekk., 247, 10), and a desperate man would not worry much about the age of his
new father.

rases. Eight of the 10 instances of pats I have found in the poems of Archi-
lochus are periphrases of this type.
These periphrases of identification are purely relative uses. A similar,
extended, use also emphasizes the tendency of pais to denote relationship
rather than age. This is the practice of using phrases such as
', and the like as locutions for the Athenians,
the Hellenes. These phrases are not found in Epic diction, which
to use hyeis in such contexts 13. But examples occur as early as Hip-
ponax (12, 1W.)14.
The relative sense of pais is also the basis of a number of other
extended and metaphorical usages. LSJ gives (Pind., Nem.,
9, 52) for wine, (Aesch., Pers., 578) for
fish 15.
One last example, from the same trilogy as the first known use of pais,
slave, underscores the finding that pais was felt to be appropriate to a
very broad range of contexts. Aeschylus' Oresteia contains a number of
bold usages of words for child. Inis, a lion's whelp (if Conington's
is correct) at Ag., 717-718, is elsewhere used only of human or
divine children ; neossos is normally used only for animal young - but
Aeschylus uses it for Orestes and Electra (Cho., 256, 501), as well as (less
remarkably) for the troop of men who take Troy (Ag., 825). These two
semantic shifts are integral to the imagery of the play, with its complex
interweaving of cause and effect in the animal and human domains. There
is a third : pais, usually restricted to human young and children, refers to
the children of eagles at Ag., 50 16.
Pais, then, is a word of very broad range, used most often in what I
have called the relative sense of child. But early Greek tends to
exclude it from one context : emotional appeals from parent to child, or
from old to young. Here it is instructive to contrast pais with teknon. This

13 The expression paidon paides (II., XX, 308 ; also Tyrt., 12, 30 W.) is rather similar.
But the meaning may be literally children, not descendants.
14 Other early examples : Pind., 01, 13, 14 : Pyth., 10, 5 ; Nem., 8, 36 ; 9, 30 ; Isthm.,
5, 35 ; Bacchyl, 8, 11 ; 15, 56 ; Aesch., Pers., 402. Stesich., 278 P. is rather different :
may literally mean children.
15 For early metaphorical uses not in LSJ, see Pind., 01, 2, 32 ; 1 1, 3; Aesch., Ag., 386 ;
Ion, 26, 7 W. ; Chaeremon, 71 F 5 Snell = Ara., XIII, 608 e.
16 A. W. Verrall, The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, London, 1889, pp. 195-197, argued
that paidon in this passage could not mean the young of animals. But paw in this sense is found
already at Archil., fr. 179 W., perhaps 175 W. ; see M. L. West, in CQ, 29 (1979), p. 2 ;
M. Davies, in Hermes, 109 (1981), pp. 248-251.

word - related to tikto, I give birth - is also found (though less often
than pais) as early as the Homeric poems. It has only the relative sense ;
it never means young person but always child. Yet teknon is only very
rarely used (//., II, 871 ; Od., XI, 631) in periphrasis, simply to identify
a character, in Homer.
More significant is the early use of these words in the vocative case.
No one is ever called pai, no group paides in the Iliad, though the herald
Idaeus speaks to Ajax and Hector as paide (VII, 279). In the Odyssey,
once (III, 475) calls his sons paides emoi, and both Ajax (XI, 553) and
Odysseus (XXIV, 192) are addressed as pai - by Odysseus and
respectively - in parts of the poem marked by examples of later
But teknon is regularly found in the vocative. And the poet of the
Iliad reserves teknon and tekna, with one exception (X, 192), for the
family relationship of parent and child. Parents, both male and
female, constantly call their children teknon and tekna in contexts of
exhortation, or reproof. This rule is relaxed somewhat in the
Odyssey, where teknon is sometimes used, like its cognate tekos, by an
older person to a younger, but the contexts, once again, are emotionally
charged 17.
It would be rash to speak of formal conclusions based on this survey,
especially as the use of pais to mean slave, common in prose and

17 Teknon still seems less neutral than paw in the lyric poets. Of 12 sure instances in PMG,
only two or three are purely descriptive (Ibyc., 285, 2 ; Carm. Conv.., 886, 1 ; perhaps Adesp.,
1037, 1 1). Elsewhere, teknon is found in the vocative (repeated at Adesp., 925 a 5), in emotional
contexts (Carm. Conv., 917 c 2 ; Adesp., 925 c 8 ; 930, 5 ; 994, 2) or modified by adjectives
(Stesich., 278, 1 ; 222 ii 3 ; Adesp., 929 f 4). Two of Pindar's six instances of teknon occur
in addresses of father to son ; in Bacchylides' one example (11, 102), Proteus begs Artemis
to save his maddened tekna. A passage of Theognis (537-538) brings out the different
of pais and teknon most clearly. Pais became a synonym for slave. But, says Theognis,
neither a rose nor a hyacinth can grow from a squill, nor a free teknon from a slave woman.
' ,
' .
The juxtaposition odoules with teknon makes good use of the emotional overtones of the words,
overtones which pais lacks. Pais and teknon are less clearly distinguished in later Greek (see
n. 1 above and add, e.g. Aesch., Cho., 264-265 ; Soph., OT, 1008 with 1030 ; Eur., Hec,
171 ; Ar., Thesm., 1056 with 1063) ; the phrases ateknos paidon (Eur., Bacch., 1305) and apai-
das teknon (Eur., Andr., 714) are instructive. The choice of word may depend more on
effects (such as alliteration, e.g., Eur., IA, 690 ; Soph., OC, 1140) than on nuances of
connotation. But in Eur., Supp.> 106, paides clearly means young persons and tekna
; and in Cyc, 590, the colourless Dionysou paides is immediately followed by a more
vivid description of the satyrs, eugene tekna. Note too the comments of J. M. Edmonds, The
fragments of Attic Comedy, I (Leiden, 1957), p. 861, note d, on teknon, which is commonly
used in Comedy only by parents of or to their children, or by older to younger women with
whom they are on familiar terms... ; cf. D. Bain, in Antichthon, 18 (1984), pp. 38-39.

comedy, is very rare in the elevated poetry I have examined. The first
attested use, by Orestes at Aesch., Cho.} 653, is also the only example in
classical tragedy ; it may be meant, like the nurse, to add a touch of
colour to the play, or to help indicate by its colloquial tone that
prince Orestes is in disguise. (The only other occurrence in drama outside
comedy is in Menedemus, an early third-century satyr play by Lycophron
of Chalcis [100 F 2, 7 Snell = Ara., X, 420 b]). Nevertheless, I think we
may now claim to have some sense of the semantic field covered by pais.
There are two crucial points. First, pais is a vague word, capable of a
number of extensions - of which the application to slaves was only
one18. Second, it is word usually implying relationship, but not an
intense emotional relationship, between family members or members of
the same social group.
This suggests to me that the identification of slaves and children in
Athenian vocabulary did not involve a single correspondence or
of attitudes such as that implied by the word childlike. Rather,
I think that the Athenians saw slaves and children as occupying similar
statuses within the structure of their society 19. It was the recognition of
this analogy that prompted the extension of the use of pais. The
of certain characteristics, like intellectual immaturity, was an
but essentially secondary development20.

18 In another extension, pais (and paidika) is also used of the subordinate member of a male
homosexual couple, even if he is no longer a boy in age ; see K. J. Dover, Greek
Cambridge, Mass., 1978, pp. 16-17. 1 discuss the effects of the assimilation of
to slaves on the conventions of male homosexuality at Athens in Phoenix, 38 (1984), pp.
19 Of course, this act of categorization, essentially theoretical, might lead to and be
by physical resemblances, real or imagined. So artistic representations of children and
slaves were often influenced by the same convention. Teresa Carp of the University of Oregon
studied depictions of children for a paper delivered to the women's caucus at the American
Philological Association meetings in New York, December 1976. She summarized her
in a letter to me dated 7 July, 1977 : In Greek art, the miniature adult typology which
is so striking in depictions of children also applies to the conventions by which servants and
other inferior beings are portrayed, i.e., as diminutive adult figures. See the examples cited
by Kstner (above, n. 5), p. 307.
20 For an analogous definition of Homeric nepios in terms of social phenomena, see S.
T. Edmunds, Homeric , diss. Harvard 1976, reported in HSCP, 81 (1977), pp.
299-300. Similarly, it is social status - and not personal qualities - that accounts for the
double use of the Spartan word kyrsanios. The word denotes a young man (Ar., Lys., 1248) ;
but it is also used as a contemptuous form of address (Ar., Lys., 983). Schol. 1248 explains :
ol . Enfant had similar
connotations in early modern French. The idea of childhood was bound up with the idea of
dependence : the words sons, varlets, and boys were also words in the vocabulary of
subordination ... That is why the words associated with childhood would endure to indi-

One major mark of status is work. Several texts suggest that slaves and
children might fill the same economic roles. Our earliest and perhaps most
revealing comes from Herodotus (VI, 137, 2)21. The historian refers to
the view of his predecessor Hecataeus that the Pelasgians were driven
from Attica unjustly. Herodotus reports an Athenian counter-tradition :
the Pelasgians put themselves in the wrong by harassing and then
Athenian sons and daughters, as they went to get water at the Ennea-
krounoi. A slave's task - but at that time the Athenians, like the other
Greeks, did not yet have slaves,
" 22.
Children, according to this tradition, did the work of slaves. In some
cases, of course, this might be literally true 23. We do have some dubious
evidence of Athenian children at work, and in no case would slaves be
unsuitable replacements24. We also have Timaeus' word for it that the

cate in a familiar style ... men of humble rank whose submission remained absolute ... (P.
Aries, Centuries of Childhood, tr. R. Baldick, New York, 1962, p. 26).
21 Pierre Vidal-Naquet makes some valuable remarks on this passage in the Actes du
1971 sur l'esclavage (Annales littraires de l'Universit de Besanon, 140), Paris, 1972, pp.
22 I have printed the text of all manuscripts except S (mid-fourteenth century), which
omits kai touspaidas, with Blakesley, E. Shuckbrugh (Pitt Press edition of book VI, Cambridge,
1889), A. D. Godley (Loeb edition, 1922) and Vidal-Naquet (n. 21 above, p. 41, n. 21). The
words te kai tous paidas were excised by Schaefer, followed by most later editors, including
Stein, Hude, Legrand. I see no reason to emend the text. According to J. E. Powell, A
Lexicon to Herodotus2, Hildesheim, I960, pais in Herodotus usually means son (324 times) in
distinction to daughter (2 times), boy (72 times) in distinction to girl (5 times) ; Cleomenes,
Herodotus says, died apais - leaving no sons - but had a daughter, Gorgo (V, 48). And pats
and thygater are opposed elsewhere (II, 35, 4 ; III, 14, 6 ; 9 ; V, 67 ; IX, 11 1, 3, cf., e.g., Xen.,
Mem., I, 5, 2 and Hdt., VII, 114, paidas te kai parthenous). In these passages, pais precedes ;
the order in VI, 137, 3 indicates that fetching water is woman's work - though not so
as Schaefer may have thought.
23 Aristotle comments (Pol., VI, 1323 a 5) :
. Cf. the comment of Marx and Engels, ... the
nucleus, the first form of property lies in the family, where wife and children are the slaves of
the husband... (The German Ideology, 1845-1846 = Collected Works, Moscow, 1975, V, p. 46).
24 Older boys turned the wheel in pottery workshops or - as in a red figure cup by the
Foundry Painter (J. Boardman, Athenian Red Figure Vases : The Archaic Period, London, 1975,
no. 262.2, 3) - worked in a bronze sculptor's foundry. (For the distinction between slave and
free in this cup, see N. Himmelmann, Archologisches zum Problem der griechischen Sklaverei,
Mainz, 1971, p. 37.) Menon the miller had a free boy from Pallene working in his mill (Dinar-
chus, Against Demosthenes, 23). But the demos executed him for it - perhaps he had
him. At any rate, such cases were rare ; the only reference to apprenticeship in the classical
period is Xen., Eq., 2, 2 (and even here pais is ambiguous). Athenaeus says that boys from

Phocians resented Mnason, the friend of Aristotle, because he had 1000

slaves, and the Phocian custom was for younger family members to wait
on their elders (FGrH, 566 F 11, in ., VI, 264 c-d).
But Herodotus' tale is not history. We are in the realm of myth, a
age of self-sufficiency before the services of outsiders, like slaves,
became necessary. And this myth is not Herodotus' own. He is clearly
recounting a piece of Athenian folklore - evidence for the Athenian belief
that slaves and children could fill similar social roles25.
There is other evidence. Much of it comes from the political treatises
of the philosophers - Athenians or long-time inhabitants of Athens. For
Plato in particular slaves and children pose parallel problems. In the Repu-

the best families acted as wine pourers in the old days (X, 424 e ; cf. Arist., Pol., VII, 1333
a 7) : he mentions the son of Menelaus and, on the authority of Theophrastus (fr. 119 Wimmer),
Euripides. This was work which would otherwise probably have been done by slaves.
Children must also have helped their fathers farm, though there is little direct evidence of it.
Knemon's daughter, wooed but still unwed, keeps him company in the fields in Men., Dysc,
333-334. Socrates recommends that the inhabitants of his ideal city be sent out into the fields
after the age of 10 (Pl., Resp., VII, 540 e-541 a). If other agricultural communities are a guide,
some children may have worked even younger. We started field work when we were five or
six, says a woman recalling rural Suffolk before 1900 in R. Blythe, Akenfield, Harmonds-
worth, 1969, p. 50 ; and Roman slave children were thought to have some value - and some
capacity for work ? - at the age of 5 [see P. A. Brunt, JRS, 48 (1958), p. 166 ; G. E. M.
de Ste. Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, London, 1981, p. 233]. Such
Athenian children may have worked with or instead of slaves ; for slaves in agriculture at
Athens, see M. H. Jameson, Agriculture and Slavery in classical Athens, in CJ, 73 (1977-1978),
pp. 122-145 ; de Ste. Croix, pp. 505-509. It would not be easy to be sure whether any child
was slave or free (see Dem., 47, 61 ; 53, 16). It could be difficult enough for adults - or so ps.-
Xenophon claims (1, 10, cf., e.g., Pl., Resp., VIII, 563 b). And slaves' children were
purposely passed off as citizens'. Demosthenes 59 is an attack on Neaera - said to be a
slave - who purported to marry an Athenian and got him to claim her children as his. (See too,
e.g., Ar., Thesm., 564-565, a reference to the substitution of a newborn slave boy for a
25 girl.)
An Athenian folk custom is also instructive. The new slave's entry into the household
was marked by ceremony, just like the newborn child's. Slaves were given katakhysmata, dried
fruits and sweetmeats, on their arrival at their master's home [Ar., Plut., 768 with Schol., 789 ;
Harp., Suda, Hsch. s. katakhysmata ; see now L. Deubner, Katakhysmata und Mnzzauber,
in RhM, 121 (1978), pp. 240-254]. We are nowhere expressly told that this is a rite of initiation
like the amphidromia. But it does not seem unlikely that the slave, like the child, was understood
to be beginning a new life. Compare the treatment of enslaved captives in the African kingdom
of the Abron. Nous changeons le nom du captif, et nous lui donnons notre nom nous,
puisqu'il est comme un enfant. (Quoted by . Terray, in C. Meillassoux, L'esclavage en
Afrique prcoloniale, Paris, 1975, p. 404.) The new slave calls his Abron master father.
Similarly, many Greek slaves bear names, such as Davos, Lydos, Thratta, taken from their
places of origin. [See O. Masson, Actes du colloque 1971 sur l'esclavage {Annales littraires de
l'Universit de Besanon, 140), Paris, 1972, pp. 13, 21 ; L. C. Reilly, Ancient World, I (1978),
p. 111.) These names were probably bestowed by their masters ; dealers would have had too
many slaves of the same origin.

blic, the emphasis falls on the similarity of their natural characteristics. We

learn (IV, 431 c) that children and slaves share, with women and moral
the greatest susceptibility to desire, pleasure, and pain26.
This view is not altogether absent from the Laws. Slaves and children
are to give evidence on the same basis at murder trials, presumably
because they are equally perceptive or trustworthy (XI, 937 b). But one
passage suggests a significant difference in approach. Plato says that a
child may behave like a slave (aneleutheros) as a result of improper
- that too much repression will make him slavish (VII, 971 d;
cf. Resp.s VII, 536 e ; Grg., 483 c-484 A). We are reminded that Plato,
throughout the Laws, is primarily concerned not with innate
but with social control and the relations through which it is
exercised. Thus, children, slaves, and animals must be kept under
control - flocks and herds by attendants, slaves by masters, children by
(VII, 808 d-e)27. Again, the power of parents over their children
heads a list of similar relations, including the power of masters over slaves
(III, 690 a-d)28. These are presented as natural categories. But the
of the pairing noble/ignoble {gennaious/agennori) and the reference to
the rule enjoyed by a man chosen by lot indicates that here, as often,
oppositions visible in society as it is are explained as natural divisions29.
This line of argument is taken up in the first book of the Politics of
Aristotle. Aristotle distinguishes three important relationships within the
household : master-slave, husband-wife, parent-child (I, 1253 b 7). We are
not now concerned with the details of these relationships. What is relevant
here is Aristotle's insistence that they be treated together as particular
cases of the general problem of the relations between ruler and ruled (1254
b 11 ff. ; cf. VII, 1325 b 4)30. They have essential differences, rooted in

26 This is not to say that Plato thought the natures of slaves and children identical : see
especially Men., 73 d.
27 In addition, principles of punishment are to be identical for slaves and children in the
Laws (VII, 793 e-794 a) ; though the Seventh Letter notes that compulsion, effective with a
slave, is inappropriate for a child (331 b). Xenophon says Persian boys were taught to tell the
truth - just like servants (Cyr., I, 6, 33).
28 Cf. XI, 917 a, and note IX, 877 b - wounding a parent (or other near relation) is like
wounding a master. In Euripides' Heracleidae, Iolaus appeals to Theseus as friend, father, brother,
master (229-230). In his Suppliants, children are said to repay their parents' services {antidou-
leuei, 361-362).
29 Plato earlier {Leg., II, 665 c) speaks of society as divided into free and slave, adult and
child, male and female.
30 Note that for Aristotle too methods of control may differ ; it is more proper to
(noutheteteori) a slave than a child (1260 b 7).

the different make-up of the psykhai of slave, woman, child, and free adult
male (1259 b 20 ff.). But Aristotle is very definite that these
however natural they may appear, must in each case be evaluated
within the context of the relationship in question. Thus, the ideal child
is only definable within the child - adult relationship ; the true slave
manifests himself only in relation to a master31.
I have adduced these passages to support my contention that the
between slaves and children implied by the dual use of the word pais
is to be sought in their similar status within the Athenian social
structure32. The argument is very imperfect. The evidence is primarily
drawn from authors who are explicitly engaged in examining social
systems (though it is echoed too in other sources) ; it may be thought that
their treatment of children and slaves is merely consistent with this
purpose33. And many of our texts do not concern children and slaves
alone. They deal with several other subordinate or even subhuman
groups - women, old people, moral incompetents, animals34.
The relationship of children and slaves is therefore a special case of a
more general phenomenon, the Athenian tendency to emphasize the
between subordinate social groupings rather than their differences.
We have here, it seems, a powerful argument that it was the division
active male citizens and everyone else which really mattered in
But there is one respect in which children and slaves do make up a
of their own. Both were liable in law and custom to physical violence,
often in a disciplinary context (corporal punishment). An Athenian could
not harm another man's slave - as he could not harm any portion of his
property - but it seems he was free to do as he liked with his own, short

31 On the reciprocity of the definition of master and slave, see Pl., Prm., 133 e ; Arist.,
Pol., Ill, 1277 a 8.
32 -The low status shared by children and slaves in life was reflected in their regular absence
from Greek conceptions of the afterlife. . . Vermeule, Aspects of Death in Early Greek Poetry
and Art, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1979, p. 122, remarks, Children, slaves and animals did
not normally appear in Hades because they had no real hope of a future existence there... ;
cf. 36, and J. Bremmer, The Early Greek Concept of the Soul, Princeton, NJ, 1983, pp. 94, 99.
33 In Plato's case, however, slaves and children are linked even in work which is not
programmatic. In the Crito (50 e), the laws of Athens tell Socrates he is their
, and so he owes them obedience and respect.
34 Thus, Aristotle says that women, children, and slaves enjoy more licence in tyrannies
(Pol., VI, 1319 b 29) and that slaves, children, and some lower animals enjoy music (Pol., VIII,
1341 a 16).

of murder 35. Children too knew rough treatment - at the hands of their
parents 36 and of their teachers 37.
Neither slaves nor children controlled property, neither enjoyed the
rights of citizens 38. The penalty of beating took the place of other means
of reinforcing parental or state authority such as fines or restrictions of
privilege. But corporal punishment was also a mark of identification, the
immediate physical consequence of social inferiority, for slaves and
alike. It serves to define both slave and child in Aristophanes' Wasps
' , ; , rj ,

35 See Harrison (. 12 above), pp. 168-172 ; D. M. MacDowell, The Law in Classical

Athens, London, 1978, pp. 80-81.
36 Ar., Nub., 1399-1451 ; Pax, 123 ; Pl., Prt., 325 d ; Lys., 208 e ; Arist., Eth. Nie, VII,
1 149 b 8 ff. ; Xen., An., V, 8, 18 ; cf. Xen., Cyr., II, 2, 14 ; Ar., Eg., 412 ; Men., Sent., V,
17 Jaekel. For artistic representations of physical discipline, see F. A. G. Beck, Album of Greek
Education, Sydney, 1975, pp. 44-46 and plates 49-53. The children of another free family
were off-limits except in statu pupillari. Nicostratus' friends got a young Athenian to pick Apol-
lodorus' roses, hoping he would take the boy for a slave, strike him, and lay himself open to
serious charges (Dem., 53, 16). And a lost speech of Antiphon (Harp., s. axioi) may deal with
such an assault.
37 Ar., Eq., 1235-1236 ; Nub., 972 ; Xen., An., V, 8, 18 ; cf. Xen., An., II, 6, 11-15 ; Cyr.,
I, 3, 16 ; II, 2, 14 ; Pl., Leg., Ill, 700 c ; Herondas, 3, 58-97.
38 This is true of women too, and it is possible that we should include them in this
The law given at Dem., 21, 47 mentions women among the victims of hybris ; and one
old man threatens to prosecute another for assaulting his concubine in Menander's Santia (577).
But we hear of wife-beating in old comedy (e.g., Ar., fr. 10 . = Heph., Ench., 29 c ; Pl. Com.
98 E. = Anecd. Bekk., 368, 12). Perhaps, then, to harm another man's woman was illegal ,
as it was illegal to harm his child or slave ; but a husband could treat his wife as he pleased.
Aristotle, however, distinguishes the control of husband over wife from that of father over
children by saying a husband should rule politikos, like one citizen over another, a father basili-
kos, like a king (Pol., I, 1259b 1-17); politikos should rule out physical abuse. And Plutarch
speaks of torturing a serving-maid, whipping a steward, and merely scolding a wife (Mor., 461
b-463 b). L. A. Post therefore asserts that ... there can be no doubt that free women, and,
particularly, legitimate daughters of citizens, were exempt from the corporal violence from which
a slave had no protection except suicide, flight, or sanctuary [in TAPA, 71 (1940), p. 426].
I am not so sure that the opinions of a political philosopher and a post-classical moralist should
so outweigh the evidence of old comedy. Still, if it is true that a father's authority was not
entirely replaced by a husband's at marriage [see Harrison (n. 12 above), pp. 30-32], he might
continue to offer his daughter some protection at law. I think it best to conclude that our
present evidence does not permit us to be certain of the legal status of physical abuse within
marriage ; and factors other than legal were in any case probably more important. A wife with
influential male relatives, like Megacles' daughter (Hdt., I, 61, 2), was certainly more secure
from mistreatment of any kind than a slave, whatever her legal rights ; and her dowry provided
any wife with some protection, especially as divorce was in theory at least relatively easy even
for women (see Harrison, pp. 39-44). But no protection could be foolproof. I expect a good
deal of wife-beating went on, just as it does today.

The pais addressed is Xanthias, a slave ; Aristophanes plays on the dual
meaning of the words. He does so again at 1307 :
Here the pun has an extra dimension. Xanthias, the slave, is beaten neani-
kos ; and neanikos, though it describes the surprising energy with which
the geron beats him, is so placed as to echo the identification of slave and
child in 1297-1298 39. But pai, pai also recalls the verb paio, I strike;
makes this certain (despite MacDowell's doubts, Aristophanes
Wasps, Oxford, 1971, ad loc). And an exceptionally keen audience might
well remember a much earlier verse (456) in which , ',
was an order to strike the wasp chorus.
There is a similar pun in the Knights. Here the chorus urges the
Sausage-Seller to strike Paphlagon, the slave of old man Demos. ' -
, they say (451). And again - ' (mss.) (453).
A slave is struck, the verb is paio - two elements of the pun. The third,
the connection with children, is implied by the use of andrikos, andriko-
tata to contrast with pai40.
We have come back, once again, to the word pais. It seems to connote
more than a general analogy between slave and child ; it can be used to
make the analogy more exact, to express one of the essential similarities
between their social positions41. I do not mean that pais came to mean

39 Cf. Pl., Tht., 168 c : Theodoros : ,

40 For other, less ambitious plays on the word pais, see Aesch., Eum., 496 {paio and pais,
child : see A. W. Verrall, The Eumenides of Aeschylus, London, 1908, on 499) ; Xen., Cyn.,
6, 18 ; An., VII, 4, 9 (paio and pais, slave) ; Ar., Nub., 132 (kopto and pais, slave), and
perhaps Aesch., PV, 986, where Wilamowitz, Aeschyli Tragoediae, Berlin, 1914, read
' and remarked, Ludit in voce quae et servum et filium et puerum dicit. There
may be a kind of visual pun at Aesch., Cho., 653-654. Here pai pai is Orestes' summons to
Aegisthus' servants as he knocks on the palace door. Did Aeschylus intend the actor playing
Orestes to punctuate pai pai by striking the door ? (Compare Ag., 203, where the chorus
probably bang their staffs [75] on the ground just as they describe the Atreidae doing.) Note
the very similar passages in Menander's Dyscolus (459-464, 911-912). But the reader may feel
I am throwing pai in his face here.
41 In this connection, it is interesting that paideuo, a derivative of paw, may mean whip,
scourge in late Greek ; see the note s. paideuo in W. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the
New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, tr. W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich,
1 957. This use is a development from the common classical meaning correct, discipline ;
LSJ cites Soph., Aj., 595 ; Xen., Mem., I, 3, 5 ; Arist., Rh., II, 1389 b 11 for this sense.

slave because it resembled a word for strike. But the coincidence was
noticed, and was telling enough to be used on the popular stage42.

University of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mark Golden.

Canada R3B 2E9.

42 Another artist has recently made an equivalent observation to another audience. We

may say that the basis of all class distinctions in society is corporal punishment. Classes are
created by corporal punishment and maintained by corporal punishment. (E. L. Doctorow,
The Book of Daniel, New York, 1971, paperback edition, p. 144).