One of the reasons that I like history so much is that it is full of contradictions. Just when you think you know everything, have seen it all, you read some unexpected story or discover some absurdity. The story of history, like the story of any single person, is full of twists and turns, inconsistencies and moments (or long periods) of hypocrisy. Like slavery in ancient Athens. Now there’s a brilliant example.
The ancient Athenians are often praised for their contributions to the modern world, and yet in the midst of that seemingly free-thinking, creative society they kept thousands of slaves. Of course, so did the United States until 1865, even though they had written in the beautiful words of their Declaration of Independence in 1776 that “all men are created equal”. You can see what I mean about contradictions.
When I ask my students to describe slavery, they always say, “hard work, no pay, hardly any rights…” Then they do a double-take. “Hey!” they cry. “That sounds like us.”