Some Aspects of Olbia Social History in Light of Epigraphic and Archaeological Data

Keywords: Olbia, private letters, aristocracy, landowning, slaves


The paper is devoted to a number of issues of the social structure of Olbia polis from the Archaic period to Hellenism.

In recent decades, a significant amount of information from various types of sources, mainly epigraphic (private letters) and archaeological, has been brought into scientific circulation. It has significantly enriched our knowledge of various aspects of Olbia polis history, especially its social and economic components. This makes it possible to study some aspects of Olbia social history that were previously overlooked by the researchers.

The first of these aspects is the problem of significant social differentiation in Olbia, which could be seen almost from the very beginning of its history. Private letters of the late 6th – early 5th century BCE (Letters of Achillodorus, Apaturius, Artikon, the ‘Priest from Hylaia’) show a clear picture of sharp social contrasts in Olbia society, where at one end of the social ladder were rich aristocrats, and at the other – the poor, who did not even have their own dwelling, and slaves. The latter are mentioned in several epigraphic documents, and a variety of contexts (sale, loan, etc.).

The second issue is the problem of the economic basis on which the Olbian aristocracy built its social influence. Private letters contain information about the involvement of the aristocracy in trade activities. At the same time, archeological and epigraphic data make it possible to raise the issue of the existence of sizeable landowning in Olbia polis, at least during the flourishing of its agricultural area.

A certain aspect of Olbian social history is the spread of slavery. Epigraphic finds not only corroborate the presence of purchased slaves in Olbia in the late archaic period but also demonstrate the involvement of slave labor in various spheres of life: trade, work to the needs of temples, agricultural production. The export of slaves from the Lower Buh region to external markets (Bosporus) is also recorded.

Probably, the representatives of the social elites actively used the work of slaves and freedmen in their economic activities: both in agricultural production and trade.


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How to Cite
OdrinO. (2021). Some Aspects of Olbia Social History in Light of Epigraphic and Archaeological Data. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (1(33), 164-176.
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