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Greek manumission inscriptions are rich documentary sources that can illuminate legal, economic, and social facets of the transition from slave to freedman (Darmezin 1999; Zelnick-Abramovitz 2005). In this paper, I examine what the manumission inscriptions from Delphi—dated between 201 BCE and c. 100 CE and recording the fictive sale of slaves to Apollo for the purpose of freedom (Hopkins 1978: ch. 3)—can tell us about the labor of freed slave-prostitutes. I argue, in light of recent scholarship highlighting the connections between prostitution and manumission in ancient Greece (Weiler 2001; Cohen 2006; Wrenhaven 2009), that the words ergasia and ergazomai, used only a handful of times in these inscriptions, refer euphemistically to “work as a prostitute” (see [Dem.] 59 passim). This continued ergasia is a condition of the slave-prostitutes’ manumission, in keeping with many of the inscriptions’ requirement that freed slaves remain (paramenein) and serve their former master, generally until the latter’s death (on paramonê: Samuel 1965).

I will first discuss the lengthy inscription FD III 2.169, in which a slave-owner named Dionysia is recorded as freeing four home-born slaves: two boys, a girl (korasion) named Aphrodisia, and a woman (gunaikeion [sc. sôma]) named Euemeria. All four slaves are to remain (parameinatôsan) by the side of Dionysia after their manumission, “doing everything that is ordered blamelessly.” While this is very formulaic language, what comes next is unusual: it is specified that the two female slaves, Aphrodisia and Euemeria, are to “work” (ergazestôn) for Dionysia “from their body (apo tou sômatos) and in whatever other way,” until Dionysia’s death. Closely echoing the way in which Neaira’s prostitution is described in ps.-Demosthenes’ Against Neaira (apo tou sômatos ergasia, 36; cf. ergazomenê tôi sômati, 30), this condition must refer to sexual labor, presumably labor begun while they were still slaves. We are then told that if the female slaves do not fulfill these prescribed services, Dionysia will become their master (kuria) once again and can punish (kolazousa) them however she likes.

Next, I will turn to a set of inscriptions that I believe must be paired (GDI II 1801, 1751). The first inscription records the manumission of a woman (gunaikeion) named Leaina, whose name indicates that she may have been a prostitute (cf. Machon fr. 12 Gow; Luc. Dial. meret. 5). The condition of Leaina’s manumission is that she “work” (ergazomena)—most likely as a prostitute—and obey her former master (and pimp?) Philon until his death. If she doesn’t perform these services, Philon has the right to do to her whatever he wants (poein…ho ka thelê). Interestingly, at some point later he appears to have changed his mind about the terms of Leaina’s freedom: in the second inscription (unfortunately insecurely dated), Philon releases her “from her paramonê and her work (ergasias),” granting her complete freedom from sexual and other services. Perhaps by this point she has become too old to earn money from prostitution?

Ultimately, this paper sheds new light on the labor of slave-prostitutes even after their manumission: namely, despite their new found freedoms, these women were still required to perform servile work with their bodies.