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International Journal of the Classical Tradition

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 333–335 | Cite as

Ilaria Ramelli, Social Justice and the Legitimacy of Slavery: The Role of Philosophical Asceticism from Ancient Judaism to Late Antiquity

Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, 293 pp., ISBN: 978019877724274. £70
  • Jennifer A. Glancy
Book Review

To the ever-growing literature on slavery in antiquity, Ilaria Ramelli contributes a helpful study of connections between philosophical asceticism and the advocacy of social justice, especially as exemplified in reservations about or repudiation of slaveholding. Sweeping in its scope, Social Justice and the Legitimacy of Slavery moves historically from the Sophists and texts from the Hebrew Bible to monasticism and other late ancient ascetic practices, with particular emphasis given to the remarkable Gregory Nyssen and his family.

The introduction defines key terms and situates the project in relation to some other scholarship on slavery in antiquity. Ramelli derives her definition of social justice from patristic thinkers who believed that ‘if one takes for oneself more than the necessary, one will automatically take the necessary away from other people’ (p. 6). The chapter asks whether ascetics who shied away from slave ownership did so primarily as a by-product of divestment of...

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Le Moyne CollegeSyracuseUSA

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