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‘It is a law established for all time among all men that when a city is taken in war, the persons and the property of its inhabitants belong to the captors’ (Xenophon, Cyropaedia). ‘Booty’ referred not just to movable and inanimate objects (e.g. precious metals), but could include animals and livestock, human beings, and even whole cities and territory. War was one of the major suppliers of the slave trade (see slavery). It was rare after Homer for wars to be fought solely and openly for acquisitive purposes. But it was always assumed that success in war would lead to appropriation by the victor of the property and persons of the vanquished, and sometimes of territory as well. Hence the largest sudden transfers of wealth in the ancient world were the result of successful warfare: e.g. Sparta's conquest of Messenia and the Messenians in the late 8th cent. bc, the Persian Wars and the Delian League down to c.450. Alexander (2) the Great's conquest of the Persian empire and the wars of the Successors (see diadochi), who all regarded their conquests as ‘spear‐won territory’, and the numerous wars of the expanding Roman republic. On a smaller scale raiding between neighbouring states was endemic, as were piracy at sea and brigandage on land, except when a stronger power was able to impose peace in its sphere of influence (Athens in the 5th cent., Rhodes in the Hellenistic period, Rome under the empire). Throughout antiquity, it was also assumed that armies would sustain themselves from the territory in which they operated. For a Roman commander's right to dispose of booty, see manubiae.

Subjects: History

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