In Ancient Rome, slaves addressed their masters as Dominus or Domina (male or female, respectively).

Would the slaves (or servants) of Ancient Greece have used a similar title, or would they have simply used their masters's names?

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    Actually, just to be picky, Roman slaves would probably have addressed their masters "Ddmine", which is the vocative case for "dominus". :-) Good question anyway.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Nov 7, 2011 at 22:00
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    From another question, the book questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=3797806 seems to be a good source.
    – apoorv020
    Commented Nov 8, 2011 at 9:36
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    @Noldorin youtube.com/watch?v=IIAdHEwiAy8 :)
    – quant_dev
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 15:01
  • @quant_dev: Ahah, thank you for that! One of the best scenes from one of my favourite comedies of all time. Priceless.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 15:35
  • Reminds me of the good old days of GCSE Latin classes too. :-)
    – Noldorin
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 15:38

4 Answers 4


"A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language" By Egbert J. Bakker

The only context in which titles can have been at all common in Greek society is addresses from slaves to their masters and mistresses.

In literary representations of such addresses δέσποτα “master” and δέσποινα "mistress" frequently occur, but they are by no means the rule, and in Menander address by name is more common

Free men and women who were not a slave's own master or mistress did not receive titles or any other type of respectful address from slaves, merely names or of respectful address from slaves, merely names or γύναι (woman?) as appropriate.

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    I think this is probably closest to the answer. I also found corroborating information in Greek mythology, per Wikipedia.
    – samiz
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 23:04

ἀνάξε (pronounced ah-NAHX-eh) is the vocative, if I've handled the accent right.

I vaguely suspect it might be ἄναξε (AH-nax-eh) - my greek is rusty.

Example (Odyssey 24.251):

οὐ μὲν ἀεργίης γε ἄναξ ἕνεκ᾽ οὔ σε κομίζει,

"It is not on account of your idleness your master does not take care of you"

  • Welcome to the site and nice answer indeed. Commented Nov 24, 2011 at 15:35
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    How do we know what the pronunciation would have been like given that Ancient Greeks didn't have the IPA or a sound recording device?
    – Opt
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 21:10
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    ἄναξ would be closer to "king", for example Agamemnon in the Iliad is titled "ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν", which would translate to "king/leader of men/kings" or in modern terms "commander in chief". I don't think there's any reference to the word in the context of slaves using it to address their master.
    – yannis
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 5:01
  • Welcome to the site Onion. Great work on your first answer, but there are some points which might lead to improving your answer here. To go off what previous posters have noted there are differences between modern Greek and ancient Greek (I'm certainly not an expert on this, but I do believe the difference is quite vast). Is the reference you are using in the connotation of King? Also is the reference a modern Greek translation of the odyssey or an ancient writing (I also am not aware if there are any as I don't believe Homer wrote any of his works, although I could be wrong on this). Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 20:27

First of all, your assumption that slaves in Rome addressed their master as "domine" is not true. The language used in the household was completely different than the "silver" Latin you read in Cicero or Seneca. Vernacular Latin had large amounts of Greek slang in it and the lower in the class the person, the more slangy it got.

Words like kurios and dominus are literary words that would be not normally be used in everyday speech by a slave. The normal word in both Latin and Greek was the Greek slang Heros, which means "boss". For example, in the play "The Two Menaechmuses", Messenio, the slave, says:

edepol, ere, ne tibi suppetias temperi adveni modo!

which means:

Holy cow, boss, I saved you just in the nick of time!

If you read "Latin Forms of Address: From Plautus to Apuleius" by Eleanor Dickey it confirms my answer: slaves almost always call their master/mistress erus/era to their face. Note that "ere" is the vocative form, so that is the form that would normally be used (the Greek equivalent is the same). You will sometimes find the word in Latin dictionaries under "herus". Don't be fooled by some of these dictionaries into thinking this is an "official" Latin word, it's actually very colloquial Greek.

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    I'm just rekindling my interest in ancient history, but think maybe using Roman comedy as a rule is a bit like using sitcoms today. I would suspect that a) comedy was even broader than normal speech and b) would it not depend on the master's status/the slave's position? Would Tiro have called Cicero "boss? A Victorian skivvy would have called her lower middle class mistress" mum" or "missus", an upper class maid would have used "madam". Jeeves calls Wooler "sir", a cabbie might call him "guv". Just asking, little Latin and less Greek! 😂
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 13:26
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    @TheHonRose No, slaves, both ordinary and highly educated only used the word ere. Domine was never used as a form of address. This is partly because of usage. Domine, as I said, was sort of a technical term. It would be like you going to your boss at work and saying. Hi, supervisor, what do you want me to do next on the project? You would not use that word as a form of address, but you might tell someone else: "my supervisor told me to write the spec". Domine is the same way. A slave might describe his master as "domine" to a third person, but he would not address his master as "domine". Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 14:03
  • So all that time at 12 declining dominus, domine etc was wasted! 😂
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Oct 11, 2015 at 15:15
  • Having just stumbled over this comment by @TylerDurden I'm intrigued to the point of immediately purchasing this book. For one that there would have been one form of address only - no, "sir", "guv", "master", "boss" - and that "dominus" (voc. "domine") wouldn't have been used at all. Whence the "dominate" when the emperor shifted from princeps to dominus - with accompanying court protocol and forms of address?
    – Marakai
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 7:28

Just a quick clarification question re: erus/ere/era:

Note that "ere" is the vocative form, so that is the form that would normally be used (the Greek equivalent is the same).

I've had no formal training in either Latin or Greek, but I'm looking to learn how to use this form of address from a slave toward a slave master as well as his wife. Normally, my Greek slave character would be saying it to her master or mistress (the wife), but I also have Roman slaves that would be addressing the same master and mistress.

A couple of questions that came to mind:

  • Would "era" be used to address both a master and a mistress? Or would the gender require a spelling change?
  • And would a Praenomen (first name) be used with this term (i.e. "Yes, Ere Lucretia.")? Or would it be a nomen?
  • (Note: the time period for this book is 71 BC.)
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