Sosias (Laurion)

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Sosias ( Greek Σωσίας Sōsías ) was a highly qualified Thracian experienced in mining , who was led by the wealthy Athenian politician and general Nicias (* around 470 BC; † 413 BC) during the Peloponnesian War (431 - 404 BC). Chr.) Was appointed as overseer and entrepreneur for the exploitation of the silver mines of Laurion (Laureion) in Attica .

According to the historian Xenophon , Nikias had to pay the then unbelievable price of a talent, i.e. the sum of 6,000 drachmas (about 6,000 working days wages ) for the slave of Sosia. That was more than thirty times what a less skilled slave cost (150–200 drachmas). Obviously, Nicias had such a high opinion of Sosias' abilities that the price did not seem too high to him. Nikias put Sosias in charge of his mining activities in Laurion and subordinated 1,000 slaves to him. Sosias had to ensure that Nikias received 1,000 obols net income every day from this investment, one obolus for each slave (6 obols = 1 drachm). In addition to Nikias, Xenophon also mentions the Athenian millionaires Hipponikos and Philemonides, who took part in the exploitation of the silver mines with 600 and 300 slaves, respectively.

The number of mine slaves in Laurion is estimated by the historian Siegfried Lauffer at the heyday of the facilities at 30,000 who were employed in several hundred mines. The majority of them were non-Greeks from the north or from Asia Minor. In addition to Sosias, the names of other slaves from Laurion have been handed down through inscriptions and tombstones. In addition to Sosias u. a. also the slave Antigenes was active, who - as the famous speaker Demosthenes (XXXVII, 4) reports - rented out from his owner Pantainetos and was employed by the workshop owner Euergos as a supervisor of over 30 workshop slaves in his company. Successful slaves were able to achieve their release and also become full citizens, especially in the nearby cities of Thorikos and Sunion .

The Laurion silver mines were owned by the Athenian state: the city of Athens leased the Laurian mines to its citizens for three years each. Some wealthy Athenians can be traced as mining entrepreneurs for generations, and many Athenian careers of politicians, including those of Nicias, have been based on the independence that the wealth of the mines afforded them.


  • Demosthenes: " Against Pantainetus " (Speech XXXVII).
  • Xenophon: " About the state income ". (IV, 13).
  • Xenophon: " Memories of Socrates " ("Memorabilia", Book II 5,2).


  • August Boeckh: " About the Laurish silver mines in Attica ". Berlin 1818.
  • Siegfried Lauffer : " The Mining Slaves of Laureion ". Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1979.