Slavery was a fundamental institution in the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention, but little agreement. The modern debate has sometimes been bitter - unsurprisingly, given its background in the abolitionist atmosphere of the 19th century. As we enter the 21st century the battleground has started to shift: can the historian hope to reconstruct the life of ancient slaves, or just fragments of their image in Greek and Roman literature? More than most topics, the ancient slave has therefore attracted constant modern redefinition. But how far do we see the slave better, and how far do we, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, use the idea of the slave to offer a refracted image of ourselves?