The first thing a modern reader will immediately zero in on in the first book of Aristotle's Politics is Aristotle's views on slavery. It's commonly held that our ancestors kept slaves unquestioningly and then via Abraham Lincoln we morally progressed past the barbaric practice.
First of all, here we have, right out of the mouth of an Ancient Greek, proof that the unquestioning part is false:
"Others affirm that the rule of a master over slaves is contrary to nature, and that the distinction between slave and freeman exists by law only, and not by nature; and being an interference with nature is therefore unjust."Later Aristotle disagrees with this view and argues that slavery (or at least hierarchy) is natural; that those with higher brain function are meant to rule and those of physical strength are meant to serve. However, let it not be forgotten that in Ancient Greece there were those who spoke out against slavery.
This goes a little beyond the scope of Politics, but another thing to keep in mind when discussing slavery in the Ancient World is the difference in circumstances our ancestors were in. It's easy for us say that we will not stand for slavery. After all, countries in the Ancient World didn't have the convenient prisons that we have, at least not at the mass size that we have today. Most countries in the Ancient World, largely thanks to geography, were almost constantly in a state of either war or threat of war, which means war prisoners. Ancient Egypt was rarely at war, again thanks to geography, and therefore had few slaves. So what should these countries do with the surplus of criminals and prisoners of war? Should you slaughter them all like the Assyrians were prone to do? The nice answer would be to let the prisoners of war become citizens, but how long would that last before their numbers swelled and they started a rebellion? Also, we have technology and machinery to do the work that hitherto depended on slaves, so we can easily afford to write up the Emancipation Proclamation and act like we're "enlightened".
I'm not saying any of this to condone slavery. I agree with C. S. Lewis on this issue:
"Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters." - C. S. Lewis, EqualityI write merely to make North Americans realize that if we found ourselves in a similar situation as our ancestors, we might not act so differently.