The Ephesians and their slaves

Heraclitus was quite a grumpy man, especially in his epistles. The writer of these epistles is usually called pseudo-Heraclitus and actually wrote several centuries after Heraclitus. In one of these epistles (VII) he complains that the Ephesians want to make a law directly aimed at him. The law was that anyone who never laughed and was a general misanthrope had to leave the city before sunset. This law could only apply to him. To be honest if I had been an Ephesian I would have voted for the law or at least if I had a spare seat at a dinner party I would not have invited Pseudo-Heraclitus as he would have put a dampener on the whole proceedings.

However it is difficult to disagree with Pseudo-Heraclitus over some of his complaints and among them is his objection to slavery. The slave owners, in his opinion, are more slaves than the slaves themselves being commanded by their own masters (their desires).

In one passage he warns what could happen if the slaves went off and founded their own city. Because there is very little on these epistles online, I am not sure whether the connection I have made below has been made. I am sure it must have been but I am quite proud that I have made it for myself.

The following passage refers to the Ephesians’ former masters and the passage after is from Athenaeus and tells how Samian slaves founded Ephesus. Pseudo-Heraclitus must have been thinking of the story about the founding of Ephesos when he wrote the following.

καὶ τότε πικροτέροις ἐδουλούετε δεσπόταις, καὶ νῦν ἔτι δουλεύετε φοβούμενοι ὧν ἢρξατε. τί ουν βούλεσθε; τῆς πόλεως ἀθρόοι πάντες ἐξέλθωσι καὶ ἐξελθόντες ἰδίαν πόλιν κτίσωσι, καραρώμενοι ὑμῖν καὶ παισὶ παίδων ἀνεπιβασίαν ψηφισάμενοι; πολεμούς ἑαυτοῖς τρέφετε, Ἐφέσιοι, καὶ τοῖς μέλλουσι παισὶ πρὸς τοὺς μέλλοντας ἐξ ἐκείνων.

Then you were slaves to more bitter masters and now you are still slaves because you fear those that you ruled. Let them all go away together and when they have gone let them found their own city, cursing you and voting to ban any communication with your children’s children. You are nurturing wars for yourself, Ephesians, and for your future children against their future children.

Heraclitus epistle IX

And from Athenaeus

Μάλακος δ᾽ ἐν τοῖς Σιφνίων ὥροις ἱστορεῖ  ὡς τὴν Ἔφεσον δοῦλοι τῶν Σαμίων ᾤκισαν χίλιοι τὸν ἀριθμὸν ὄντες, οἳ καὶ τὸ πρῶτον ἀποστάντες εἰς τὸ ἐν τῇ νήσῳ ὄρος κακὰ πολλὰ ἐποίουν τοὺς Σαμίους: ἔτει δὲ ἕκτῳ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐκ μαντείας οἱ Σάμιοι ἐσπείσαντο τοῖς οἰκέταις ἐπὶ συνθήκαις, καὶ ἀθῷοι ἐξελθόντες τῆς νήσου ἐκπλεύσαντες κατέσχον τὴν Ἔφεσον: καὶ οἱ Ἐφέσιοι ἐκ τούτων ἐγένοντο.

Malacus in his annals of the Siphians tells that slaves of the Samians founded Ephesus, one thousand in number who after they had revolted  and occupied a mountain on the island caused the Samians much damage. But in the sixth year after this as the result of a prophecy, the Samians made a treaty with their servants and when they had all gone together and sailed away from the island they took possession of Ephesus and the Ephesians are descended from them

Athenaeus Book 6 – 92

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