The Cretan economy (or rather economies) should be considered from a much broader perspective than that which is used in the interpretative pattern of agrarian economy. And in fact, according to several pieces of epigraphical as well as numismatic evidence, it seems feasible to prove that as early as the end of the archaic and the beginning of the classical period the Gortynian economy reveals a few relevant features of a mixed system where the old agrarian parameters coexist perfectly with the new commercial ones. On the one hand, some epigraphical sources – which are particularly related to the issue of local slave system – suggest that at the turn of the 6th to the 5th century BCE the Gortynian economy is “modern” in nature on the level of urban activities and, at the same time, “primitive” in nature on the level of rural activities, because while the urban sector would largely resort to chattel slavery, the rural would mainly continue to use traditional serfdom. Such a long-lived dichotomy would persist apparently until the end of the classical period. On the other hand, the numismatic evidence points out clearly that a regular monetary circulation starts in Cretan poleis a little later than in the most advanced commercial places of the Greek world like Aegina, Corinth, Athens or Samos and coastal cities of Asia Minor, but much earlier than in Sparta. It may be implicitly stated once again that the controversy over the dominant character of the Greek economy, in other words the sharp antagonism “modernism vs primitivism”, seems rather useless and sterile. At Gortyn the classification would depend dialectically on the sector of the local economy. Taking all this into account, the present paper aims firstly to determine the main trends in the development of both types of Cretan slavery, i.e. serfdom and chattel slavery, in their reciprocity, from the archaic to the Hellenistic period; then to identify its economic factors, against the background of socio-political dynamics; and finally to draw a fundamental functional distinction between serfdom and chattel slavery.