Rome Revision – Slavery Slaves: ways to become a slave, skilled

Rome Revision – Slavery
Slaves: ways to become a slave, skilled and unskilled slaves, the purchasing of slaves, duties inside
and outside the home for both male and female slaves, opportunities for freedom.
How did people become slaves?
From the 3rd century BCE the slave population increased rapidly through conquest – in the second
Punic war with Carthage Rome enslaved 180 000.
Exposed children could be rescued and sold into slavery
Desperate parents may sell their children into slavery
Travellers could be kidnapped or captured by pirates
Slaves were traded for commodities, for example wine was traded with Gaul’s for slaves.
Criminals could be condemned as slaves.
Children of slaves were born into slavery – these were known as vernae, they had a higher
status than other slaves, were easier to manage and often made a lot of money for their
owners, especially if they were trained in a particular craft
The Slave trade
The Purchasing of Slaves
Slave markets were found across the empire, some of the largest being in Rome & Ephesus. Delos
was famous for handling 10 000 slaves a day.
Some slave traders set up stalls at forums, while others made private deals.
Slaves were inspected, new arrivals were marked with chalk feet, the slaves wore placards
advertising their origin, health & obedience. The trade was overseen by aediles who were
responsible for running public markets ensuring that people were not cheated. The price of slaves
varied according to age, health and skills.
Types of Slave & Duties
Domestic Slaves
Linked to the households, was a sign of status. Wealthy households would have slaves as nurses,
paedagogi, cooks, gardeners, hair-dressers, secretaries and cleaners.
Industrial Slaves
Worked in mines, factories, galleys and farming estates called latifundia. They often experienced the
worst conditions and were supervised by overseers (vilicus) to ensure they worked hard.
Public slaves
Owned by the state. Worked on building roads or other public buidings, or cleaning temples and
baths or maintaining aqueducts.
Some slaves were forced to become gladiators or forced into prostitution
Right’s and treatment of slaves
In Roman law slaves were the property of their owner, they had no legal rights. They were normally
given a new name. A slave could only be a witness if the evidence was taken under torture.
Household slaves faired better if they had a good master, they often had a better standard of living
than the poorest citizens. Industrial slaves were treated like animals, many were literally worked to
death. Some domestic slaves suffered terrible abuse; flogging, branding, mutilations & sexual assault
were common. Threats could accompany physical violence, for example a slave owner may threaten
to sell on a slave’s child.
Some slaves had good relationships with their masters. Cicero had a close relationship with his
secretary Tiro whom he eventually freed. Those who followed the philosophy of Stoics believed all
should be treated as human beings.
In the Imperial period 2nd century CE the emperor Hadrian passed laws preventing masters from
killing their slaves or selling them as prostitutes or gladiators without court approval. In the late 4th
century master were not allowed to separate slave children.
Runaway slaves were dealt with severely; crucifixion, being burnt alive or being sent to the arena to
be savaged by wild beasts. Some fitted their slaves with identity collars. If a slave murdered his
master all of the slaves were murdered. The most famous revolt was that led by Spartacus in 70BCE
Opportunities for Freedom
The act of freeing a slave was known as manumission this could be done by a magistrate or in the
masters will. Purpose of freeing slaves was to act as an incentive for other slaves to work hard.
1. Some slaves could earn a small amount of money called the peculium, they could after many
years buy their freedom.
2. Slaves could be freed for long service or an outstanding act.
3. Slave girls were freed so their masters could marry them
4. A freed slave may pay for the freedom of others
5. Freeing slaves was a sign of status
6. Some masters facing court freed slaves so they could not give evidence under torture.
7. Elderly slaves were freed as they were of no longer any use.
Freed slaves were citizens but could not hold public office but their heirs could. Although freed they
were still tied to his master as a client & had to work for him for a number of days each year. Some
became very wealthy like the Vetti brothers in Pompeii.
2013 Qu 7
2013 Qu 7 M/scheme
2011 Qu7
2011 Qu 7 m/scheme