Slavery in Iran

The History of slavery in Iran (Persia) during various ancient, medieval, and modern periods is sparsely catalogued.


  • 1 Slavery in Pre-Achaemenid Iran
  • 2 Classical Antiquity
    • 2.1 Slavery in the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC)
    • 2.2 Slavery in Hellenistic Iran (c. 330–238 BC)
    • 2.3 Slavery in Parthian Iran (c. 238 BC–224 AD)
    • 2.4 Slavery in Sassanid Iran (c. 224–642 AD)
      • 2.4.1 Sassanid Laws of Slavery
  • 3 Medieval Iran
    • 3.1 Slavery under the Umayyads, Abbasids, and Persianate Muslim dynasties (c. 642–1220 AD)
    • 3.2 Slavery under Mongol and Turkoman rule (c. 1220–1502 AD)
  • 4 Early Modern Iran
    • 4.1 Slavery in Safavid Iran (c. 1502–1736 AD)
      • 4.1.1 Safavid harem
    • 4.2 Slavery under Nader Shah and his successors (c. 1736–1796 AD)
    • 4.3 Slavery in Qajar Iran (c. 1796–1925 AD)
      • 4.3.1 Slave trade and supply
      • 4.3.2 Employment of slaves
      • 4.3.3 Decline
  • 5 Modern Period
    • 5.1 Abolition of slavery (1929 AD)
    • 5.2 Slavery after abolition
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Further reading

Slavery in Pre-Achaemenid Iran

Slaves are attested in the cuneiform record of the ancient Elamites, a non-Persian people who inhabited modern southwestern Iran, including the ancient cities of Anshan and Susa, and who were eventually incorporated into the Achaemenid Empire. Because of their participation in cuneiform culture, the Elamites are one of the few pre-Achaemenid civilizations of Iran to leave written attestations of slavery, and details of slavery among the Gutians, Kassites, Medes, Mannaeans, and other preliterate peoples of Bronze Age Iran are largely unrecorded.

Classical Antiquity

Slavery in the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC)

Slavery was an existing institution in Egypt, Media and Babylonia before the rise of the Achaemenid empire.

The most common word used to designate a slave in the Achaemenid was bandaka-, which was also used to express general dependence. In his writing, Darius I uses this word to refer to his satraps and generals. Greek writers of the time expressed that all Persian people were slaves to their king. Other terms used to describe slaves within the empire could also have other meanings; such as "kurtaš" and "māniya-", which could mean hired or indentured workers in some contexts.

Herodotus has mentioned enslavement with regards to rebels of the Lydians who revolted against Achaemenid rule and captured Sardis. He has also mentioned slavery after the rebellion of Egypt in the city of Barce during the time of Cambyses and the assassination of Persian Satrap in Egypt. He also mentions the defeat of Ionians, and their allies Eretria who supported the Ionians and subsequent enslavement of the rebels and supporting population.

Under the Achaemenids, Persian nobles in Babylonia and other conquered states became large slave owners. They recruited a substantial number of their domestic slaves from these vanquished peoples. The Babylonians were required to supply an annual tribute of 500 boys. Information on privately owned slaves is scarce, but there are surviving cuniform documents from Babylonia and the Persepolis Administrative Archives which record slave sales and contracts.

On the whole, in the Achaemenid empire, there was only small number of slaves in relation to the number of free persons. Usually, captives were prisoners of war that were recruited from those that rebelled against Achaemenid rule.

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