An understanding of the institution of slavery in the period in which Christianity emerged is necessary for comprehending both the rhetoric of slavery in Christian writings and the realities of slavery in Christian communities. Egyptian papyri – including personal letters, census returns, household accounts, wills, legal petitions, and fugitive slave notices – document details of slaveholding society in one province of the Empire. Literary works and Roman law codes offer insights into the function and ideology of slavery. Jewish texts and the writings of Stoic and Cynic philosophers also provide evidence related to both the practices of and attitudes toward slavery. Most ancient writings accord priority to the perspectives of slaveholders rather than of slaves.
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