Four-sevenths of the enfranchised slaves of the Butrint theatre were women

In 1972 Pierre Cabanes analysed the inscriptions covering the wall of the Butrint theatre (Southern Albania), discovered between 1928 and 1932 and first published in 1966 (Studime Historike, 1966, fasc.2, K. Bozhori and D. Budina, pp. 143-191). These were redacted between the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, over at least twenty-nine years. They mention, in thirty-one legal acts, at least 403 enfranchisements of slaves (some names have been lost to the wear of time on the stone).

“The division of slaves according to gender is easier to observe, although the many names that may be masculine as well as feminine must be left out of this comparison between genders. M. Guarducci and K. Bozhori, followed by D. Budina, assessed that out the 400 freed slaves, half were women. It turns out that the scale tips noticeably on the feminine side: out of the 365 names that do not lead to confusion, 206 belong to women and only 159 to men, which gives us a 7:4 ratio of women to men. This very unexpected ratio raises questions regarding both the grounds of this act of manumission and the activities of these slaves, as we will see at the end of this study.

It should also be noticed that the percentage of feminine and masculine elements is relatively stable from year to year, barring of course the years during which enfranchisements were granted very parsimoniously.”

Pierre Cabanes, “Les inscriptions du théâtre de Bouthrôtos”, in Actes du colloque 1972 sur l’esclavage, Annales littéraires de Besançon, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1974, pp. 105-208, here p. 190 (in French in the text).

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