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Slave Market

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Lincoln at New Orleans Slave Market by Joseph Boggs Beale
[There is in Gao] a market where many slaves, men and women, are sold every day. A girl of fifteen is worth about six ducats. Little children are sold for about half the price of grown-ups.
Leo Africanus

A Setting Trope, this is a place where people meet to buy and sell slaves. It can be a stand-alone thing, or it can be part of a much larger market. In well-thought-out settings where slavery is commonplace, many of the largest slave markets will be situated near the largest markets for other merchandise, on account of the simple merchant's rule: follow the money. For this reason, a slave market is usually a sign that the place it is located in is rich, or is very strategically useful or convenient to another place that is rich; a larger market usually signifies a richer locale. The presence and size of the market will also be a sign that whoever runs it is powerful — since slaves were historically taken in war — and highly unequal — since one of the other main ways to become a slave across history was to get deeply indebted to a rich neighbor — and (in modern works) probably decadent and possibly evil.

In fact, in Sword and Sorcery fantasy stories and Sword and Sandal stories set in ancient history, the slave market may be treated as just part of the usual setting furniture, and if not exactly treated with approval, not a major moral issue either; slavery is just something (bad) that happens in such settings, so of course there are slave markets. It also shows up in some sci-fi and Days of Future Past fiction, often as an institution found on a Planet of Hats which practices slavery. In visual works, the slave market scene may serve as a rather sleazy excuse to slip in some Fanservice, an amazing proportion of the slaves being young, attractive, and under-dressed (for customer inspection, of course), and often female. (This is a habit that goes back at least to Victorian painters, who took all sorts of "classical" scenes as excuses to slip a lot of nudity past the period's active Moral Guardians.) In stories set any time in the last couple of hundred years, though, slavery is almost always treated as unambiguously evil, with the slave market being a big sign of the society's moral degeneracy — although there may still be some fanservice. If it's actually set in the Present Day, it'll probably be an underground slave market managed by Human Traffickers and depicted as nightmarishly grim.

Please note this does not refer to a general market that happens to sell a few slaves every now and again; the place has to have an ongoing slave trade.

Often located in a Wretched Hive. The slavers will usually be villains in the story, because Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil. However, the occasional Sympathetic Slave Owner may show up.

Compare Auction of Evil, which can overlap. If it's sentient, non-human characters who are being sold at these markets, see Superhuman Trafficking.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Donquixote Doflamingo from One Piece has one, managed by his subordinate Disco. Though not long before Amazon Lily arc Doflamingo chooses to stop the business, leaving the bidder Disco in astray.
  • In Tales From Earth Sea, the city to which Arren and Sparrowhawk arrive has a booming slave trade, and it's not long until the hero runs afoul of Hare and rescues Theru from the said slavers.
  • Vinland Saga: York called the biggest slave market in Europe at the time, with vikings coming from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to buy and sell slaves that had been taken from all around Europe.


    Comic Books 
  • In the Asterix comic Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, in one of their attempts to get into Caesar's palace, Asterix and Obelix attempt to sell themselves as slaves at the House of Typhus, a renowed salesman of high quality slaves. They end up wrecking his stand, and ruining his reputation (as well as crash the slave market) by selling themselves for the ridiculously low price of ten sestertii, and realize too late the buyer wasn't even working for Caesar.
  • Barracuda: Puerto Blanco is a Not-So-Safe Harbor on a small island in the Caribbean, free from the control of any of the colonial powers, that is a haven for prates, slavers and smugglers, so it is no surprise that it has slave market. It is run by the slave dealer Ferrango, who later falls under the thrall of Maria, one of his slaves.
  • Judge Dredd is sold in a market in the Cursed Earth in the course of the "Judge Child" saga. It's all part of a cunning plan, of course.
  • In Sinestro the title character brings his Yellow Lanterns to massacre a slave market, including the slaves and random passer-bys, which is selling a handful of Korugar survivors.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: From Out-of-Dungeon Experiences: "Slave trading stands" have been mentioned as part of some Underworld cities.
  • In the Supernatural fanfic Maybe Sprout Wings Castiel purchases Dean from a slave auction house at the beginning of the story, with the intention of freeing him. This is presented as a metaphor for rescuing Dean from Hell as he does in canon.
  • The Violet Demon: Fornax basically has this as its hat, with all the biggest businesses being auction houses where captives from across the galaxy are sold off.
  • Vow of Nudity: Averted in the Genasi Empire, where the majority of the stories take place; all slaves are owned by the government, and the Slaver's Guild is primarily responsible for housing, disciplining, and assigning daily work to the slave population. Played straight with the pirates of Crimson Cove, who threaten Haara with putting her up for auction after capturing her.

    Film — Animation 
  • Asterix Versus Caesar: After escaping the Roman camp in the Sahara, Panacea and Tragicomix are taken captive again by slave traders and end up on a slave market in Rome, where they are bought by Caius Fatuous for the upcomming games in the circus. Later, Asterix and Obelix also visit the slave market and beat the slave trader into telling them where Panacea and Tragicomix are.
  • Joseph: King of Dreams has a sequence where Joseph is sold to Potiphar that gets its own song. He's mercifully passed over for hard labor by another prospective buyer as he's considered too scrawny, instead becoming a household slave.
  • Klugetown in My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) has a market where Beast Man characters capture and sell slightly less anthropomorphised, but still sapient, creatures. When the Klugetown citizens spot the Shoulder-Sized Dragon Spike in the ponies' company, they start bidding on him.
  • Akima from Titan A.E. was jettisoned from the Drej mothership, and wound up in a Wretched Hive's slave pens. Her shipmates attempt to rescue her by posing as Akrennian traders, but the guard isn't fooled. Fortunately, Akima really didn't need rescuing, as she sits Atop a Mountain of Corpses (knocked out, not dead) awaiting a ride off-world.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Anne of the Indies, Anne takes the kidnapped Molly to a Caribbean slave market, intending to sell her. However, on learning Molly's true identity, the slavers force Anne to leave lest she bring the wrath of the Royal Navy down upon them.
  • Carry On Cleo parodies a good proportion of the standard Sword and Sandal movie tropes, so of course it features a slave market scene.
  • Django Unchained naturally features a slave market scene when Django and Schultz arrive in Mississippi to look for Broomhilda following Django's Training Montage in the winter. The original script and the comic adaptation has Schultz describe the market as "a scene out of Dante", to which Django, who has had first-hand experience with such markets, says, "You should see it from the other side."
  • In Indochine, a French officer is assigned to a remote place where once per month, starving Vietnamese gather to be "bought" by French plantation owners. It is not officially a slave market, since slavery was banned at the time, but it looks like one, with the buyers weighing the candidates, examining their teeth and shutting them up in enclosures.
  • Mandingo: Mede (the eponymous Mandingo) is bought at a slave market, almost literally out from under a self-described "vidder voman" who obviously wanted to buy him for his sexual prowess.
  • Never Say Never Again has James Bond rescue Bond Girl Domino Petachi from slave traders, where she'd been shackled to a post and put up for auction. Domino had been sent there as punishment for betraying Big Bad Largo.
  • The film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader expands the scene at the Lone Islands slave market, so we get to see a bidding war between several scruffy looking old sailors for the teenage Lucy (we're never told why, but use your imagination).

  • Present in the Fighting Fantasy Gamebook Seas of Blood, where you play a pirate ship captain who can capture prisoners to be later sold as slaves. You can either sell them yourself (with wildly variable results) or employ an agent to do so on your behalf (less risk but less potential profit).

  • Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy starts at a slave auction where the main character, Thorby, is being sold. There's so little interest in him, as a scrawny little boy, that a beggarnote  is able to buy him, free him, and adopt him as a son.
  • In the early Discworld stories, the setting in general and the city of Ankh-Morpork in particular are parodies of Sword and Sorcery fiction, so of course there are slave markets; in the first novel, The Colour of Magic, they're one of the sights which Twoflower the tourist insists on visiting.
  • Gor has many slave markets since slavery is a common phenomenon on the planet.
  • The Rai Kirah trilogy begins with the protagonist Seyonne going back on the market after sixteen years of slavery and being bought by his eventual Fire-Forged Friend, the Derzhi Prince Aleksander. The slave trade is common in the Derzhi empire, though directly handling slaves is seen as dishonorable.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, the protagonists meet when Naofumi visits a slave market and buys Raphtalia. Later they get Filo's egg from the same trader who ran the market. From the looks of it most Demi-Humans in Melromarc are slaves who get sold at one market or another.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, these exist in the cities of Slaver's Bay (which also serve as the Slave Market for the known world, as their the main hub of its international slave trafficking).
  • Quite a few such markets appear in Thais of Athens, owing to the nature of the setting. One particular example would be where Thais purchases Hesione (a Theban girl who was Made a Slave after Alexander the Great's army sacked Thebes).
  • There are also several examples in Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe:
    • In the Beka Cooper trilogy, the main Chorus slave market is called the Market of Sorrows. A significant source of its supply is actually Lower City parents selling children they can't afford to feed. By the end of the trilogy the king decides to end Tortall's participation in the slave trade, it not being essential to the economy and having played a pivotal role in his noble's kidnapping of his son and attempted rebellion.
    • In the Trickster's Duet, Aly is captured by raiders and sold at a slave market in the Copper Isles. Thanks to a god having his eye on her for his own purposes, she manages to avoid the expected outcome. Due to Fantastic Racism and raiding of nearby countries, the Copper Isles has a flourishing slave trade; again, by the end of the duology, this has ended .
    • Slavery and slave markets are name dropped in various other countries such as Carthak and Maren, but not seen.
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the main characters are captured by slave traders. Caspian is rescued/bought by one of the Lords they have been sent to find who recognizes his father in him, but the rest are sent to a slave market. Caspian comes and rescues them before their new owners can take them away. The experience begins the process of breaking Eustace's Jerkass attitude — as the narrative notes, being sold as a slave is bad enough, but it's even worse to be offered for sale as a slave and no one wants to buy you.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Blake's 7 episode "Assassin", Avon is captured and paraded at one of these. Servalan is attending, and starts bidding on him.
  • Slave marketing appears in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, unsurprisingly. Notably, late in the first season, as Batiatus' fortunes are on the rise, he and his rival Selonius bid against each other for gladiator slaves before Batiatus buys the whole lot outright, just to flaunt his new wealth and stick it to Good Selonius. Batiatus rubs salt in the wound by suggesting Selonius try buying the whores (naked slave girls also waiting to be sold) and see if he can perhaps make successful gladiators out of them.
  • Key & Peele: The "Auction Block" sketch is about two slaves in a slave auction complaining that no one is bidding on them.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: In "Borderland", several members of the Enterprise crew are kidnapped and put up for sale on the Orion slave market. Orion slave girls are part of the merchandise, although in a later episode ("Bound") it's revealed that they're actually the ones in control.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: These show up on Periphery worlds, particularly ones that are run by pirate lords or bandit kings. Astrokasky, which is Qurac IN SPACE!, has a slave market in every large city, most of the people up for sale being from one of the neighboring cities captured in raids. The Marion Hegemony, which is explicitly modeled after the Roman Empire (IN SPACE!) also has extensive slave markets on various Marion worlds, which sell the people captured in raids on non-Hegemony worlds.
  • Almost routine in the Dark Sun setting, with the strongest finding work as gladiators and status symbols for sorcerer-kings.
  • Forgotten Realms:
    • Menzoberranzan, the largest dark elf city in the Underdark, has a slave market of truly staggering size. Dark elves will enslave everything they can: surface races, deep gnomes, goblins and goblin-kin, orcs, other dark elves, and even powerful beings like giants, beholders, extraplanar beings, and the rare dragon can wind up for sale in the market.
    • The town of Tyrantaros in Thay has an extensive slave market every day in its central market area.
  • The extradimensional city of Commorragh in Warhammer 40,000 has slave-markets everywhere, as their entire economy and way of life depends on slavery. Since Commorragh is the home of the Drukhari, being taken by them as a slave is guaranteed to be the worst thing to happen to you. And considering that this is the 40k universe, that's saying a lot.
    • The nomadic alien race known as the Stryxis are infamous for buying and selling slaves, whom they disparagingly refer to as "meat."

  • The song "Molasses to Rum" in 1776 is all about the "Triangle Trade", and more specifically the hypocrisy of how Northerners profit from (and participate in) the slave trade while condemning Southern slave-owners; in the middle of the song, there's a spoken-word reenactment of a slave auction.

    Video Games 
  • In the Civilization IV mod Fall from Heaven, the Undercouncil can vote the Slave Trade resolution, allowing members to buy and sell slaves.
  • In Dragon Age II, the city-state of Kirkwall was originally a slave market for the Tevinter Empire before a slave rebellion turned it into a free city. There are still statues and murals around the city that attest to its dark past.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Great House Telvanni sponsors the slave trade heavily in their territories. In Tel Aruhn, the player can even buy slaves who then become followers and can be freed. The main quest requires it at one point in order to please an Ashlander khan (though if talked to later, the slave reveals to be happy with the situation).
  • Elona has a slave trader in the city of Derphy, where you can buy and sell party members. Some random NPC chatter mentions how important the slave trade is to the economy.
    Slavery is a very lucrative business. Many people claim it's evil, but even mighty Palmia's economy would disintegrate if they didn't have any slaves to work their fields.
  • Slavers have prominent bases in Fallout games, although they're more in the business of buying slaves than selling them to the PC.
  • In Fallout 3, Paradise Falls used to be a famous super market before the bombs fell. In the Capital Wasteland, it has been repurposed into the headquarters of a local band of slavers. While the player cannot buy slaves, they can choose to help free the ones inside and kill the slavers if they choose, or work as a slaver to earn some extra caps.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic V's "Tribes of the East" expansion, the Stronghold faction has access to a special building called the Slave Market, which lets them convert creatures into resources.
  • From Neverwinter Nights:
    • In Hordes of the Underdark, the illithid (Cthulhumanoid monsters with Psychic Powers which they use to enslave members of other races) run slave auctions at a trade outpost called Zorvak'mur. If you participate in the auction and win, you can choose to give your new slave her freedom, or send her to the gladiator pit to fight other slaves for the illithid's amusement.
    • In community module A Dance with Rogues, after the Princess' party is captured by the drow on their incursion into the Underdark, they all end up on the slave market and bought by different nobles. The Princess then has to reassemble them after breaking free herself.
  • With the DLC MegaCorp of Stellaris, civilizations can access the Galactic Slave Market, with prices varying depending on the traits of those being sold. Nations which ban slavery also have access to the market whereupon the enslaved pop is set free (and of course very grateful to your empire), though they have to pay double the normal price as the sellers are wary in dealing with those morally opposed to the entire practice.
  • In Watch_Dogs Aiden is able to infiltrate, during the main story, an auction for sex slaves, with the "ware" being imported from the Third World or, lately, from Chicago's streets. Side missions allow Aiden to destroy the network by himself.

    Real Life 
  • One of the historical giants of the slave trade was none other than Athens, which was happy to be middleman for all Greece and much of the Eastern Mediterranean, and also bought so many slaves that at its height, a majority of people living in Athens were slaves. This was mostly a result of them being an empire and taking thousands of people (often other Greeks) as slaves in wars (a common practice by most classical empires). Of course, slavery was also practiced by the other ancient Greek city-states, on a lesser scalenote .
  • Rome had a massive ongoing slave trade, with slave trading being fairly common in the various fora (although not nearly as common as in Classical Athens). Freedmen were a major social class in Roman society, and the slaves got bought and sold somewhere. When Rome took the Eastern Mediterranean, it set up a major slave clearinghouse on the island of Delos in the Aegean, capable of moving over 10,000 slaves per day.
  • In medieval Europe, the biggest slave market by far was in Bari, a town at the "Achilles tendon" of the Italian "boot" and the Byzantine Empire's last toehold (heh, heh) on the peninsula. The "merchandise" tended to be prisoners of the wars of the German emperors and Italian merchant city-states (especially Venice) against the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe and the Balkans... hence the term "slave." The place was convenient because it was controlled by the Byzantines (until the Sicilian Normans under Robert Guiscard took it...) and was on the major trade route from Venice (which besides taking a bunch of slaves from Dalmatia was also where the HRE went to dump its Poles and Wends and Rus) to the Middle East and Byzantium (which were the main places buying these slaves).
  • Cairo, being absurdly rich in the Middle Ages, was also famous as a depot for trading slaves: particularly castrated black African slaves going north and east and coming from...
  • Aswan, where the Nubians would sell their prisoners from the incessant wars with the tribes to their swampy south.
  • In the US, Charleston and New Orleans were noted as the biggest ports in the South, and also had the largest slave markets. It helped (after a fashion...) that the Big Easy was the only real "big city" in the South.
  • Gora Island, in Senegal, was a major slave market in the Atlantic slave trade.
  • In North Africa, the main slave markets were in Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli and Cairo. The last slave markets in Morocco were closed in 1920 on the orders of the French colonial authorities.
  • Mecca was a major slave trade center, due to pilgrims funding their travel by buying and selling slaves on the road.
  • The Brandenburg colony of Saint Thomas, rented to the Danes, had some of the largest slave auctions in the world held there.
  • Chechnya during the inter-war period in the 90s was infamous for it's kidnappings for ransom when more often than not, the captives would be sold openly in the streets among Chechen gangsters and warlords.
  • After the fall of Qadaffi's government in 2011, Libya descended back into permanent tribal warfare. Slave markets made a return as well, the "merchandise" being primarily composed of captured sub-Saharan migrants.
  • The Islamic State had markets where it sold the "human loot" kidnapped during warfare against non-Sunni Muslims (the Shia or other Muslims, Christians, Yazidis etc.) in Syria and Iraq, which they proclaimed to be permitted by Islamic law. Many of the women were taken as sex slaves, and they had even published pamphlets on how to carry out this practice.