Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Slavery in Ancient Rome

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
based on 'The Slave Market' by Gustave Boulanger
SLAVERY in ANCIENT ROME


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INTRODUCTION

Slavery in ancient Rome played an important role in society and the economy.
Besides manual labor, slaves performed many domestic services, and might be employed at highly skilled jobs and professions.
Teachers, accountants, and physicians were often slaves.
Greek slaves in particular might be highly educated.
Unskilled slaves, or those sentenced to slavery as punishment, worked on farms, in mines, and at mills.
Their living conditions were brutal, and their lives short.
Slaves were considered property under Roman law and had no legal person-hood.
Unlike Roman citizens, they could be subjected to corporal punishment, sexual exploitation (prostitutes were often slaves), torture, and summary execution.
The testimony of a slave could not be accepted in a court of law unless the slave was tortured - a practice based on the belief that slaves in a position to be privy to their masters' affairs would be too virtuously loyal to reveal damaging evidence unless coerced.
Roman slaves could hold property which, despite the fact that it belonged to their masters, they were allowed to use as if it were their own.
Skilled or educated slaves were allowed to earn their own money, and might hope to save enough to buy their freedom.
Such slaves were often freed by the terms of their master's will, or for services rendered.
A notable example of a high-status slave was Tiro, the secretary of Cicero.
Tiro was freed before his master's death, and was successful enough to retire on his own country estate, where he died at the age of 99.
Rome differed from Greek city-states in allowing freed slaves to become citizens.
After manumission, a male slave who had belonged to a Roman citizen enjoyed not only passive freedom from ownership, but active political freedom (libertas), including the right to vote.
A slave who had acquired libertas was thus a 'libertus' ("freed person," feminine liberta) in relation to his former master, who then became his patron (patronus).
As a social class, freed slaves were libertini, though later writers used the terms libertus and libertinus interchangeably.
Libertini were not entitled to hold public office or state priesthoods, nor could they achieve senatorial rank.
During the early Empire, however, freedmen held key positions in the government bureaucracy, so much so that Hadrian limited their participation by law.
Any future children of a freedman would be born free, with full rights of citizenship.
Vernae (singular verna) were slaves born within a household (familia), or on a family farm or agricultural estate (villa).
There was a stronger social obligation to care for vernae, whose epitaphs sometimes identify them as such, and at times they would have been the children of free males of the household.
The general Latin word for slave was servus.
A major source of slaves had been Roman military expansion during the Republic.
The use of former soldiers as slaves led perhaps inevitably to a series of en masse armed rebellions, the Servile Wars, the last of which was led by Spartacus.
During the Pax Romana of the early Roman Empire (1st–2nd century CE), emphasis was placed on maintaining stability, and the lack of new territorial conquests dried up this supply line of human trafficking.
To maintain an enslaved work force, increased legal restrictions on freeing slaves were put into place. Escaped slaves would be hunted down and returned (often for a reward).

ORIGINS of  SLAVERY

In his 'Institutiones' (161 BCE), the Roman jurist Gaius wrote that:
'Slavery is a human invention and not found in nature. Indeed, it was that other human invention, war, which provided the bulk of slaves, but they were also the bounty of piracy ... or the product of breeding. —'
The 'Twelve Tables', Rome's oldest legal code, has brief references to slavery, indicating that the institution was of long standing.
In the tripartite division of law by the jurist Ulpian (2nd century CE), slavery was an aspect of the ius gentium, the customary international law held in common among all peoples (gentes).
The "law of nations" was neither natural law, which existed in nature, and governed animals as well as humans, nor civil law, which was the body of laws specific to a people.
All human beings are born free (liberi) under natural law, but slavery was held to be a practice common to all nations, who might then have specific civil laws pertaining to slaves.
In ancient warfare, the victor had the right under the ius gentium to enslave a defeated population; however, if a settlement had been reached through diplomatic negotiations, or formal surrender, the people were by custom to be spared violence and enslavement.
The ius gentium was not a legal code, and any force it had depended on "reasoned compliance with standards of international conduct."

ACQUISITION of SLAVES

Throughout the Roman period many slaves for the Roman market were acquired through warfare.
Many captives were either brought back as war booty or sold to traders, and ancient sources cite anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of such slaves captured in each war.
These wars included every major war of conquest from the Monarchical period to the Imperial period, as well as the Social and Samnite Wars.
The prisoners taken or re-taken after the three Roman 'Servile Wars' (135–132, 104–100, and 73–71 BCE, respectively) also contributed to the slave supply.
While warfare during the Republic provided the largest figures for captives, warfare continued to produce slaves for Rome throughout the imperial period.
Piracy has a long history of adding to the slave trade, and the period of the Roman Republic was no different.
Piracy was particularly common in Cilicia, where pirates operated with impunity from a number of strongholds.
Pompey was credited with effectively eradicating piracy from the Mediterranean in 67 BCE.
Although large scale piracy was curbed under Pompey, and controlled under the Roman Empire, it remained a steady institution, and kidnapping through piracy continued to contribute to the Roman slave supply.
Augustine lamented the wide scale practice of kidnapping in North Africa in the early 5th century CE.


TRADE and the ECONOMY

During the period of Roman imperial expansion, the increase in wealth amongst the Roman elite and the substantial growth of slavery transformed the economy.
Although the economy was dependent on slavery, Rome was not the most slave-dependent culture in history.
Among the Spartans, for instance, the slave class of helots outnumbered the free by about seven to one, according to Herodotus.
In any case, the overall role of slavery in Roman economy is a discussed issue among scholars.
Delos in the eastern Mediterranean was made a free port in 166 BCE and became one of the main market venues for slaves.
Multitudes of slaves who found their way to Italy were purchased by wealthy landowners in need of large numbers of slaves to labor on their estates. 
It was land investment and agricultural production which generated great wealth in Italy, and it was Rome's military conquests, and the subsequent introduction of vast wealth and slaves into Italy which had effects comparable to widespread and rapid technological innovations.
Augustus imposed a 2 percent tax on the sale of slaves, estimated to generate annual revenues of about 5 million sesterces - a figure that indicates some 250,000 sales.
The tax was increased to 4 percent by 43 CE.
Slave markets seem to have existed in every city of the Empire, but outside Rome the major center was Ephesus.
Estimates for the prevalence of slavery in the Roman Empire vary.
Estimates of the percentage of the population of Italy who were slaves range from 30 to 40 percent in the 1st century BC, upwards of two to three million slaves in Italy by the end of the 1st century BCE, about 35% to 40% of Italy's population.
For the Empire as a whole, the slave population has been estimated at just under five million, representing 8-10% of the total population of 50-60 million+ inhabitants.
An estimated 49% of all slaves were owned by the elite, who made up less than 1.5% of the Empire's population.
About half of all slaves worked in the countryside, where they were a small percentage of the population, except on some large agricultural, especially imperial, estates; the remainder the other half were a significant percentage 25% or more in towns and cities as domestics and workers in commercial enterprises and factories.
Roman slavery was not based on race.
Slaves were drawn from all over Europe and the Mediterranean, including Gaul, Hispania, Germany, Britannia, the Balkans, Greece.
Generally slaves in Italy were indigenous Italians, with a minority of foreigners (including both slaves and freedmen) born outside of Italy, estimated at 5% of the total in the capital, where their number was largest, at its peak.
Those from outside of Europe were predominantly of Greek descent, while the Jewish ones never fully assimilated into Roman society, remaining an identifiable minority.
The slaves (especially the foreigners) had higher mortality rates, and lower birth rates than natives, and were sometimes even subjected to mass expulsions.
The average recorded age at death for the slaves of the city of Rome was extraordinarily low: seventeen and a half years (17.2 for males; 17.9 for females).

SLAVE SALES and AUCTIONS

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
based on 'The Slave Market' by Gustave Boulanger

New slaves were primarily acquired by wholesale dealers who followed the Roman armies.
Many people who bought slaves wanted strong slaves, mostly men.
Child slaves cost less than adults, although some sources state their price as higher.
Julius Caesar once sold the entire population of a conquered region in Gaul, no fewer than 53,000 people, to slave dealers on the spot. 
Within the empire, slaves were sold at public auction or sometimes in shops, or by private sale in the case of more valuable slaves.
Slave dealing was overseen by the Roman fiscal officials called quaestors.
Sometimes slaves stood on revolving stands, and around each slave for sale hung a type of plaque describing his or her origin, health, character, intelligence, education, and other information pertinent to purchasers.
Prices varied with age and quality, with the most valuable slaves fetching prices equivalent to thousands of today's dollars.
Because the Romans wanted to know exactly what they were buying, slaves were presented naked. 
The dealer was required to take a slave back within six months if the slave had defects that were not manifest at the sale, or make good the buyer's loss.

TYPES of WORK

Slaves worked in a wide range of occupations that can be roughly divided into five categories: household or domestic, imperial or public, urban crafts and services, agriculture, and mining.
Epitaphs record at least 55 different jobs a household slave might have, including barber, butler, cook, hairdresser, handmaid (ancilla), wet nurse or nursery attendant, teacher, secretary, seamstress, accountant, and physician.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016Roman Slave-Boy
A large elite household (a domus in town, or a villa in the countryside), might be supported by a staff of hundreds.
The living conditions of slaves attached to a domus (the familia urbana), while inferior to those of the free persons they lived with, were sometimes superior to that of many free urban poor in Rome.
Household slaves likely enjoyed the highest standard of living among Roman slaves, next to publicly owned slaves, who were not subject to the whims of a single master.
Imperial slaves were those attached to the emperor's household, the familia Caesaris.
In urban workplaces, the occupations of slaves included fullers, engravers, shoemakers, bakers, mule drivers, and prostitutes.
Farm slaves (familia rustica) probably lived in more healthful conditions.
Roman agricultural writers expect that the workforce of a farm will be mostly slaves, managed by a vilicus (overseer), who was often a slave himself.
Slaves numbering in the tens of thousands were condemned to work in the mines or quarries, where conditions were notoriously brutal.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Roman Slave Gladiator
'Damnati in metallum' ("those condemned to the mine") were convicts who lost their freedom as citizens (libertas), forfeited their property (bona) to the state, and became servi poenae, slaves as a legal penalty.
Their status under the law was different from that of other slaves; they could not buy their freedom, be sold, or be set free.
They were expected to live and die in the mines.
Imperial slaves and freedmen (the familia Caesaris) worked in mine administration and management.
In the Late Republic, most of the gladiators who fought in Roman arenas were slaves, though the most skilled were sometimes free volunteers.
Successful gladiators were occasionally rewarded with freedom, however gladiators, being trained warriors and having access to weapons, were potentially the most dangerous slaves.
At an earlier time, many gladiators had been soldiers taken captive in war.
Spartacus, who led the great slave rebellion of 73-71 BCE, was a rebel gladiator.



MASTER and SLAVE RELATIONS

Sexuality was a "core feature" of ancient Roman slavery.
Because slaves were regarded as property under Roman law, an owner could use them for sex or hire them out to service other people.
The letters of Cicero have suggested that he had a long-term sexual relationship with his male slave Tiro.
The Roman paterfamilias was an absolute master, and he exercised a power outside any control of society and the state.
In this situation there was no reason why he should he refrain having sexual relations his houseboys.
But this form of sexual release held little erotic cachet.
In describing the ideal partner in pederasty, Martial prefers a slave boy who "acts more like a free man than his master," that is, one who can frame the affair as a stimulating game of courtship.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
'Puer Delicatus'
One particular class of male slave was the the 'puer delicatus' - an exquisite, handsome slave-boy, chosen by his master for his beauty as a "boy-toy", also referred to as deliciae ("sweets" or "delights").
Unlike the freeborn Greek eromenos ("beloved"), who was protected by social custom, the Roman 'delicatus' was in a physically and morally vulnerable position.
The "coercive and exploitative" relationship between the Roman master and the 'delicatus', who might be prepubescent, can be characterized in some cases as pedophilic, in contrast to Greek paiderasteia.
The boy was sometimes castrated in an effort to preserve his youthful qualities; the emperor Nero had a puer delicatus named Sporus, whom he castrated and married.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
'Puer Delicatus'
A somewhat more mature version of the 'puer delicatus' was the emperor Hadrian's Antinous, who mysteriously died before he reached maturity.
Pueri delicati might be idealized in poetry.
In the erotic elegies of Tibullus, the delicatus Marathus wears lavish and expensive clothing.
The beauty of the 'delicatus' was measured by Apollonian standards, especially in regard to his hair, which was supposed to be wavy and scented with perfume.
The mythological type of the 'delicatus' was represented by Ganymede, the Trojan youth abducted by Jove (Greek Zeus) to be his divine companion and cupbearer.

Trimalchio
In the Satyricon, the tastelessly wealthy freedman Trimalchio says that as a slave-boy he had been a 'puer delicatus', servicing both the master and the mistress of the household.
When figures identifiable as slaves appear in erotic art, they are performing routine tasks in the background, not taking part in sex acts.
In his work on the interpretation of dreams (ca. 170 AD), Artemidorus takes a symbolic view of the sexual value of slaves: to dream of having sex with one's own female slave was a good thing, "for slaves are the dreamer's possession; therefore taking pleasure in them signifies the dreamer's being pleased with his own possessions."
A Roman could exploit his own slaves for sex, but was not entitled to compel any enslaved person he chose to have sex, since the owner had the right to control his own property.
In the pursuit of sex with a slave who belonged to someone else, persuasion or threats might be employed.
A charge of rape could not be brought against a free man who forced a slave to have sex, since a slave lacked the legal standing that protected a citizen's body, but the owner could prosecute the rapist under the Lex Aquilia, a law pertaining to property damage.
A slave's sexuality was closely controlled.
Slaves had no right to legal marriage (conubium), though they could live together as husband and wife (contubernales).
An owner usually restricted the heterosexual activities of his male slaves to females he also owned; any children born from these unions added to his wealth.
Cato, at a time when Rome's large-scale slave economy was still in early development, thought it good practice to monitor his slaves' sex lives, and required male slaves to pay a fee for access to their female fellow slaves.
Despite the external controls and restrictions placed on a slave's sexuality, Roman art and literature perversely often portray slaves as lascivious, voyeuristic, and even sexually knowing.


TREATMENT and LEGAL STATUS

There are reports of abuse of slaves by Romans, but there is little information to indicate how widespread such harsh treatment was.
Cato the Elder was recorded as expelling his old or sick slaves from his house.
Seneca held the view that a slave who was treated well would perform a better job than a poorly treated slave.


© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Slave Killed in the Arena
Although in general freed slaves could become citizens, with the right to vote if they were male, those categorized as dediticii suffered permanent disbarment from citizenship.
The dediticii were mainly slaves whose masters had felt compelled to punish them for serious misconduct by placing them in chains, branding them, torturing them to confess a crime, imprisoning them or sending them involuntarily to a gladiatorial school (ludus), or condemning them to fight with gladiators or wild beasts (their subsequent status was obviously a concern only to those who survived).
Dediticii were regarded as a threat to society, regardless of whether their master's punishments had been justified, and if they came within a hundred miles of Rome, they were subject to re-enslavement.



© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Crucified Slave
Crucifixion was the capital punishment meted out specifically to slaves, traitors, and bandits.


© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Condemned to the Arena
Marcus Crassus was supposed to have concluded his victory over Spartacus in the Third Servile War by crucifying 6,000 of the slave rebels along the Appian Way.
Several emperors began to grant more rights to slaves as the empire grew.
Claudius announced that if a slave was abandoned by his master, he became free.
Nero granted slaves the right to complain against their masters in a court.
In Roman times the persona gradually became "synonymous with the true nature of the individual" but
"the slave was excluded from it. servus non habet personam ('a slave has no persona').
He has no personality.He does not own his body; he has no ancestors, no name, no cognomen, no goods of his own."
REBELLIONS and RUNAWAYS

Fugitive slaves are almost an obsession in Ancient Roman writings.
Rome forbade the harboring of fugitive slaves, and professional slave-catchers were hired to hunt down runaways.
Advertisements were posted with precise descriptions of escaped slaves, and offered rewards.


If caught, fugitives could be punished by being whipped, burnt with iron, or executed - usually by crucifixion or alternatively by being condemned to fight in the arena.
Those who lived were branded on the forehead with the letters 'FVG', for fugitivus.
Sometimes slaves had a metal collar riveted around the neck.
One such preserved collar states in Latin, "I have run away. Catch me. If you take me back to my master Zoninus, you'll be rewarded."
There was a constant danger of servile insurrection, which had more than once seriously threatened the republic.
The 1st century BCE Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote that slaves sometimes banded together to plot revolt.
He chronicled the three major slave rebellions: in 135–132 BCE (the First Servile War), in 104-100 BCE (the Second Servile War), and in 73-71 BCE (the Third Servile War).

Prostitution

Prostitution in Ancient Rome was legal and licensed.
In Ancient Rome, even Roman men of the highest social status were free to engage prostitutes of either sex without incurring moral disapproval, as long as they demonstrated self-control and moderation in the frequency and enjoyment of sex.
At the same time, the prostitutes themselves were considered shameful: most were either slaves or former slaves, or if free by birth relegated to the infames, people utterly lacking in social standing and deprived of most protections accorded to citizens under Roman law, a status they shared with actors and gladiators, all of whom, however, exerted sexual allure.
Although both women and men engaged prostitutes of either gender, the evidence for female prostitution is more ample.
A prostitute could be self-employed and rent a room for work.
A girl (puella, a term used in poetry as a synonym for "girlfriend" or meretrix and not necessarily an age designation) might live with a procuress or madame (lena) or even go into business under the management of her mother, though mater might sometimes be a mere euphemism for lena.


Slaves on Display in a High Class Roman Brothel
Prostitutes could also work out of a brothel or tavern for a procurer or pimp (leno).
Most prostitutes seem to have been slaves.
Some professional prostitutes, perhaps to be compared to courtesans, cultivated elite patrons and could even become wealthy.
The dictator Sulla is supposed to have built his fortune on the wealth left to him by a prostitute in her will.
Romans also assumed that actors and dancers were available to provide paid sexual services, and courtesans whose names survive in the historical record are sometimes indistinguishable from actresses and other performers.


Brothel Tokens
Interestingly, after the institution of the Principate under Augustus, Roman coinage was not legal tender in a brothel (probably because it has a representation of the Emperor on one of the faces) and so tokens were exchanged for legal coinage, and the tokens were used in the brothel.
Prostitution was regulated to some extent, not so much for moral reasons as to maximize profit.
Prostitutes had to register with the Aediles.
She gave her correct name, her age, place of birth, and the pseudonym under which she intended practicing her calling.
If the girl was young and apparently respectable, the official sought to influence her to change her mind; failing in this, he issued her a license (licentia stupri), ascertained the price she intended exacting for her favors, and entered her name in his roll.
Once entered there, the name could never be removed, but must remain for all time an insurmountable bar to repentance and respectability.


MANUMISSION

Freeing a slave was called 'manumissio', which literally means "sending out from the hand".
The freeing of the slave was a public ceremony, performed before some sort of public official, usually a judge.
The owner touched the slave on the head with a staff, and he was free to go.
Simpler methods were sometimes used, usually with the owner proclaiming a slave's freedom in front of friends and family, or just a simple invitation to recline with the family at dinner.
A felt cap called the Pileus was given to the former slave as symbol of manumission.
Slaves were freed for a variety of reasons; for a particularly good deed toward the slave's owner, or out of friendship or respect.
Sometimes, a slave who had enough money could buy his freedom, and the freedom of a fellow slave, frequently a spouse, however, few slaves had enough money to do so, and many slaves were not allowed to hold money.
Slaves were also freed through testamentary manumission, by a provision in an owner's will at his death.
Augustus restricted such manumissions to at most a hundred slaves, and fewer in a small household. 
Already educated or experienced slaves were freed the most often. 
Eventually the practice became so common that Augustus decreed that no Roman slave could be freed before age 30.

FREEDMEN

A freed slave was the libertus of his former master, who became his patron (patronus).
The two had mutual obligations to each other within the traditional patronage network.
The terms of his manumission might specify the services a libertus owed.
A freedman could "network" with other patrons as well.
As a social class, former slaves were libertini.
Men could vote and participate in politics, with some limitations.
They could not run for office, nor be admitted to the senatorial class.
The children of former slaves enjoyed the full privileges of Roman citizenship without restrictions. 
The Latin poet Horace was the son of a freedman, and an officer in the army of Marcus Junius Brutus. 


 House of the Vettii - Pompeii
Trimalchio - Satyricon
Some freedmen became very powerful. 
Many freedmen had important roles in the Roman government. 
Freedmen of the Imperial families often were the main functionaries in the Imperial administration. 
Some rose to positions of great influence, such as Narcissus, a former slave of the Emperor Claudius. 
Other freedmen became wealthy. 
The brothers who owned House of the Vettii, one of the biggest and most magnificent houses in Pompeii, are thought to have been freedmen. 
A freedman designed the amphitheater in Pompeii. 
A freedman who became rich and influential might still be looked down on by the traditional aristocracy as a vulgar nouveau riche. 
Trimalchio, a character in the Satyricon, is a caricature of such a freedman.


for more information about slavery in ancient Rome see:






© Copyright Peter Crawford 2016


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