Ancient greece slavery essay

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 , 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.

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. In the Late Republic, about half the gladiators who fought in Roman arenas were slaves, though the most skilled were often free volunteers. 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 BC , was a rebel gladiator.

A servus publicus was a slave owned not by a private individual, but by the Roman people. Public slaves worked in temples and other public buildings both in Rome and in the municipalities. Most performed general, basic tasks as servants to the College of Pontiffs , magistrates , and other officials. Some well-qualified public slaves did skilled office work such as accounting and secretarial services. They were permitted to earn money for their personal use.

Because they had an opportunity to prove their merit, they could acquire a reputation and influence, and were sometimes deemed eligible for manumission. During the Republic , a public slave could be freed by a magistrate's declaration, with the prior authorization of the senate ; in the Imperial era , liberty would be granted by the emperor. Municipal public slaves could be freed by the municipal council. According to Marcel Mauss , in Roman times the persona gradually became "synonymous with the true nature of the individual" but "the slave was excluded from it.

He has no personality. He does not own his body; he has no ancestors, no name, no cognomen , no goods of his own. 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. As a social class, freed slaves were libertini , though later writers used the terms libertus and libertinus interchangeably. During the early Empire, however, freedmen held key positions in the government bureaucracy, so much so that Hadrian limited their participation by law.

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 gladiator 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 reenslavement. 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. 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 They could then use the money to buy a new young slave while the old slave, unable to work, would be forced to rely on charity to stay alive.

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. And under Antoninus Pius , a master who killed a slave without just cause could be tried for homicide.

It became common throughout the mid to late 2nd century AD to allow slaves to complain of cruel or unfair treatment by their owners. 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. As most slaves in the Roman world could easily blend into the population if they escaped, it was normal for the masters to discourage slaves from running away by putting a tattoo reading "Stop me!

I am a runaway! Moses Finley remarked, "fugitive slaves are almost an obsession in the sources".


Rome forbade the harbouring 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. Those who lived were branded on the forehead with the letters FUG, for fugitivus. Sometimes slaves had a metal collar riveted around the neck. One such collar is preserved at Rome and 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. In addition to slavery, the Romans also practiced serfdom. By the 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire faced a labour shortage. Large Roman landowners increasingly relied on Roman freemen, acting as tenant farmers , instead of slaves to provide labour. Because the tax system implemented by Diocletian assessed taxes based on both land and the inhabitants of that land, it became administratively inconvenient for peasants to leave the land where they were counted in the census.

Some see these laws as the beginning of medieval serfdom in Europe. The religious holiday most famously celebrated by slaves at Rome was the Saturnalia , a December festival of role reversals during which time slaves enjoyed a rich banquet, gambling, free speech and other forms of license not normally available to them.

To mark their temporary freedom, they wore the pilleus , the cap of freedom, as did free citizens, who normally went about bareheaded. The practice may have varied over time. Meanwhile the head of the slave household, whose responsibility it was to offer sacrifice to the Penates , to manage the provisions and to direct the activities of the domestic servants, came to tell his master that the household had feasted according to the annual ritual custom.

For at this festival, in houses that keep to proper religious usage, they first of all honor the slaves with a dinner prepared as if for the master; and only afterwards is the table set again for the head of the household. So, then, the chief slave came in to announce the time of dinner and to summon the masters to the table. Saturnalian license also permitted slaves to enjoy a pretense of disrespect for their masters, and exempted them from punishment. The Augustan poet Horace calls their freedom of speech "December liberty" libertas Decembri.

Like the Saturnalia, the holiday involved a role reversal: the matron of the household washed the heads of her slaves, as well as her own. The temple of Feronia at Terracina in Latium was the site of special ceremonies pertaining to manumission. The goddess was identified with Libertas , the personification of liberty, [93] and was a tutelary goddess of freedmen dea libertorum. A stone at her temple was inscribed "let deserving slaves sit down so that they may stand up free. At the Matralia , a women's festival held June 11 in connection with the goddess Mater Matuta , free women ceremonially beat a slave girl and drove her from the community.

Slave women were otherwise forbidden participation. A handmaid named either Philotis or Tutula came up with a plan to deceive the enemy: the ancillae would put on the apparel of the free women, spend one night in the enemy camp, and send a signal to the Romans about the most advantageous time to launch a counterattack. The Mithraic mysteries were open to slaves and freedmen, and at some cult sites most or all votive offerings are made by slaves, sometimes for the sake of their masters' wellbeing.


The Stoics taught that all men were manifestations of the same universal spirit, and thus by nature equal. Stoicism also held that external circumstances such as being enslaved did not truly impede a person from practicing the Stoic ideal of inner self-mastery: It has been said that one of the more important Roman stoics, Epictetus , spent his youth as a slave. Both the Stoics and some early Christians opposed the ill-treatment of slaves, rather than slavery itself. Advocates of these philosophies saw them as ways to live within human societies as they were, rather than to overthrow entrenched institutions.

In the Christian scriptures, equal pay [ clarification needed ] and fair treatment of slaves was enjoined upon slave masters, and slaves were advised to obey their earthly masters, even if their masters are unfair, and lawfully obtain freedom if possible. Certain senior Christian leaders such as Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom called for good treatment for slaves and condemned slavery, while others supported it. Christianity gave slaves an equal place within the religion, allowing them to participate in the liturgy.

According to tradition, Pope Clement I term c. Although ancient authors rarely discussed slavery in terms of morals, because their society did not view slavery as the moral dilemma we do today, [] they included slaves and the treatment of slaves in works in order to shed light on other topics—history, economy, an individual's character—or to entertain and amuse.

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Texts mentioning slaves include histories, personal letters, dramas, and satires, including Petronius ' Banquet of Trimalchio , in which the eponymous freedman asserts "Slaves too are men. The milk they have drunk is just the same even if an evil fate has oppressed them. To achieve this navigation of acceptability, works often focus on extreme cases, such as the crucifixion of hundreds of slaves for the murder of their master.

We must be careful to recognize these instances as exceptional and yet recognize that the underlying problems must have concerned the authors and audiences. The following examples provide a sampling of different genres and portrayals. Plutarch mentioned slavery in his biographical history in order to pass judgement on men's characters.

In his Life of Cato the Elder , Plutarch revealed contrasting views of slaves. He wrote that Cato, known for his stringency, would resell his old servants because "no useless servants were fed in his house," but that he himself believes that "it marks an over-rigid temper for a man to take the work out of his servants as out of brute beasts.

A prolific letter writer, Cicero even wrote letters to one of his administrative slaves, one Marcus Tullius Tiro. Even though Cicero himself remarked that he only wrote to Tiro "for the sake of keeping to [his] established practice," [] he occasionally revealed personal care and concern for his slave. Indeed, just the fact that Tiro had enough education and freedom to express his opinions in letters to his master is exceptional and only allowed through his unique circumstances. Also, Cicero was an exceptional owner, even taking Tiro's education into his own hands.

In Roman comedy, servi or slaves make up the majority of the stock characters, and generally fall into two basic categories: loyal slaves and tricksters. Loyal slaves often help their master in their plan to woo or obtain a lover the most popular plot-driving element in Roman comedy. They are often dim, timid, and worried about what punishments may befall them. Trickster slaves are more numerous and often use their masters' unfortunate situation to create a "topsy-turvy" world in which they are the masters and their masters are subservient to them.

Slaves and Citizens

The master will often ask the slave for a favor and the slave only complies once the master has made it clear that the slave is in charge, beseeching him and calling him lord, sometimes even a god. Depictions of slaves in Roman comedies can be seen in the work of Plautus and Publius Terentius Afer.

In the work Andria , slaves are at the centerpiece off the plot. In this play, Simo, a wealthy Athenian wants his son, Pamphilius, to marry one girl but Pamphilius has his sights set on another. Much of the conflict in this play revolves around schemes with Pamphilius's slave, Davos, and the rest of the characters in the story. Many times throughout the play, slaves are allowed to engage in activity, such as the inner and personal lives of their owners, that wouldn't normally be seen with slaves in every day society.

This is a form of satire by Terence due to the unrealistic nature of events that occurs between slaves and citizens in his plays. 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 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. 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.

In one such case, the court had to decide whether a slave whose tongue had been removed was defective. The court made an analogy in this matter to the sale of a horse. By Roman law, a slave was considered property. A slave owner could do anything he wished to that slave, even killing the slave, with impunity. This is exactly like Gorean slave law. In the later period of the Roman Empire, they did try to limit cruelty to slaves but it was not too effective. It came much too late to have a major impact. The sexual use of slaves, male and female, was common in Rome. This is similar in many respects to Gorean slaves.

The major difference here would be that a number of male slave owners in Rome would sexually use their male slaves. This would be very rare on Gor. As a slave was considered the property of his owner, then if a third party harmed that slave, the owner could seek legal redress. This would include if a third person sexually used that slave. The owner could seek civil compensation for the harm done to the slave.

This is essentially the same as in Gorean slave law. By law, slaves could not own anything. Anything they possessed was considered the property of their master. Again, this is exactly like Gorean slave law. The slave might be able to treat his slaves, to a significant degree, as if he owned them. This would be similar in some ways to the slave hierarchies that exist in some Gorean households with first girls and such.

The owner though could claim the peculium at any time as the slave legally did not actually own it. The slave could use the peculium to enter into contracts but they required the consent of his owner. Some Gorean slaves might be given spending money but it was a rarity. They would rarely, if ever, accumulate a savings. Roman slaves were also considered to be kinless and could not have any legal family bonds. It would last only as long as permitted by the slave owner.

Gorean slaves are also legally kinless but there is no type of slave marriage on Gor. This right allowed slaves to practice certain aspects of their religion, to be properly buried and to join certain religious associations. This right does not exist for Gorean slaves. But, Gorean society does allow slaves one basic right, the right to receive the stabilization serums. Manumission is the process of freeing a slave and Roman slaves could be freed in several different manners. This is similar to Gorean slave law.

This does not occur on Gor as slaves do not accumulate a peculium. Second, if a slave has grown too old to be of much value anymore, he might be freed by his owner. With the stabilization serums, Gorean slaves are not going to grow old and useless so this reason would be irrelevant. Third, an owner might free his slaves in his will. Interestingly enough, a Roman law was eventually enacted that limited the amount of slaves that someone could free through a will. The objective of this law was to ensure that the only slaves who were freed truly deserved to be freed.

Though something similar to this is not mentioned in the Gorean books, it seems a definite possibility that slave owners could free their slaves in their wills. There is some evidence to suggest that Roman female slaves were freed more often than male slaves. The principal reason for this is thought to be owners wanting to marry their slaves and have them bear their children. This also reflects Gorean society as some masters did free their female slaves to Free Companion them and have children together. Once freed, a slave became a freedperson, not a freeperson, similar to the Greek ideas on freedom of their slaves.

Freedpersons have less rights than a freeperson. The freedperson can only vote in the city assemblies, cannot become a magistrate and cannot enter a legion. However, unlike in Greece, the children born to a freedperson become freepersons. On Gor, a freed slave is a free person though they would have a lesser status than most because they would not have a Caste or Home Stone. The freed slave would have to apply for citizenship and a Caste and thus could eventually attain a normal free person status.

Slave Revolts:. Unlike most of Greece, Rome did have some serious problems with revolts by their slaves. The most famous revolt was in 73 B. For almost two years, Spartacus and his slave army roamed free, often defeating Roman legions sent to capture Spartacus. Most of the major slave revolts occurred during the Roman Republic. During the time of the Empire, any such revolts were smaller and less violent. A far greater problem was the revolt of individual slaves or small groups.

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      Essay about Slavery in Ancient Greece and Rome -- Ancient History

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      Ancient Greek Slavery

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