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Slavery

Autor /Kajetan Dodano /11.11.2011

Institution whereby one person owns another and can exact from that person labor or other services, found among both primitive and advanced peoples.

At the beginning of the Roman Empire slavery was not so current but later on as more and more provinces were occupied enemies were taken and sold as slaves.Though slavery was a prevailing feature of all Mediterranean countries in antiquity, the Romans had more slaves and depended more on them than any other people. These ranged from Greeks to some barbarians.

These barbarians were used as labor in this empire. Greeks on the other hand were educated and so were used to teach the Roman people. From this we can see how important the slave was at the time. Although it was very convenient and added its part to Romans prosperity, in the long run it was one of the factors that caused their fall. Slaves were a surplus to such an extent that even slaves could own slaves of their own. The difference was that the qualities of the slaves were not equal.For example a rich man could buy a slave that would be able to rule his home and educate his children. The slave could then also own a slave but this time for its own use. This became a common practice after the third century BC (Source: "Everyday life in Ancient Rome" by F.R. Cowell. It is located in chapter IV on slavery).

This was due to the fact that the Romans had a huge army consolidating the Roman Empire and gaining submission from the defeated countries. These people were then taken as slaves and so this is what caused the great influx of them to the empire. Important question is what was the cost of a slave and how it varied? The cost could vary according to the qualifications of the slave. If a slave was weak and could not do much work then he could fetch very little or if it was a very capable slave that could do a lot then the cost was high. Some people bought young untrained slaves, which they trained to increase their value. A slave could be bought from a price of 500 denarii to something about a million. This is a demonstration of the difference in wealth between slave owners (Form slaves to rich masters). As I said earlier slaves could buy slaves and sell them to their owners or keep them to help them in the labor. Tariffs for slaves could be the following: a nurse and two children could be sold for 1,800 denarii. The Romans admired beauty such that a pretty girl could reach from 2000 to 6000 denarii. A music girl cost 4000 denarii.

Later on in the empire people were prepared to spend vast amounts on just a slave boy. It is impossible, however, to put an accurate figure on the number of slaves owned by the Romans at any given period: for the early Empire conditions varied from time to time and from place to place. Yet, some estimates for Rome, Italy and the Empire can be attempted. The largest numbers were of course in Italy and especially in the capital itself. In Rome there were great numbers in the imperial household and in the civil service - the normal staff on the aqueducts alone numbered 700. Certain rich private individuals too had large numbers - as much for ostentation as for work. Pedanius Secundus, City Prefect in AD 61, kept 400 slaves, while some owners had so many that a nomenclator had to be used to identify them . However, there is evidence to suggest that these cases were not typical - even for great houses.

Sepulchral inscriptions for the rich nobles the Statilii list a total of approximately 428 slaves and freed persons from 40 BC to AD 65. When these figures are analyzed, the number of slaves and freed persons definitely owned by individual members of the nobility is small, It is difficult to give total figure for slaves in the city of Rome, the most accurate number we can take is about 300,000-350,000 out of a population of about 900,000-950,000 at the time of Augustus. The same kind of difficulty we have in attempting to arrive at a figure for slaves in Italy. I didn't manage to find any exact numbers. And what of the Empire as a whole? It is impossible to give any kind of accurate figure. We have neither statistics for the total area nor for the provinces separately. And of course the number of slaves in each province depended on the particular circumstances prevailing there.

Some provincial locations had a high number of slaves and in some areas it dropped to as low as 2%. And in other regions, particularly perhaps in the more backward provinces of the West, slaves may never have comprised a significant segment of the work force at all. What then might we assume as an approximate number of slaves in the entire empire in this period? The attractive hypothesis is ten million, i.e. 16.6%-20% of the estimated entire population of the Empire in the first century AD, i.e. one in every five or six persons would have been a slave. This is a computation only not conjecture.Whence came these slaves? The most important sources were war and piracy.

And of course there was a natural source, there is a Latin saying for that:servi aut nascuntur, aut fiunt ['slaves are either born or made']. So Romans had constant source of free labor. What work did they do in the provinces? On farms the slaves had to take care of the fields and also the houses of the owners. Some farms were family farms and so didn't have many slaves as because they could most of the work themselves. Rich farmers on the other hand were able to get a lot of slaves, which were qualified to take care of other problems The rich farmer was a manager which had slaves to be the workers. Sometimes qualified slaves were used as administrators since they had previous experience or the owner thought they could be trusted.

Other slaves were government owned. Some ended up becoming gladiators while others had to do road works and other manual labor. Slaves had to work in the warm Mediterranean climate, which was very harsh for hard work. They had to carry the blocks of marble and other materials themselves on carts and other transport methods. Most of the slaves died very quickly in these conditions. Average lifetime of a slave was 20-30 years.

Such broad use of free labor had major impact on the other workers - free people of the empire. Slaves were cheap replaceable and in large numbers. The average worker cannot sustain himself because he had to be paid. And for employers the choice was obvious. In the effect the most of them became unemployed and went into poverty. Later that became big problem for the city of Rome.Slaves could earn their freedom. It was not common, but it was possible. There were few ways depending on their role as a slave. Some of them could get freedom relatively easy compared to others. For example a qualified slave such as a Greek serving in a rich man's house was treated with respect and was spared from manual labor. Some other slaves on the other hand were forced to do a lot of work on farms and in provincial work. They might have been mistreated and beaten and etc.

They could get beaten and it would not be considered wrong for the owner to do so. In farm work the farmer was said to have free tools with which to work the land, which were the following: The chariot for transport, the inarticulate things such as the oxen and those with voice such as the slaves. This tells us a little about the situation which the slaves were in.

The main distinction in the law of persons," said the 2nd-century jurist Gaius, "is that all men are either free or slaves." The slave was, in principle, a human chattel who could be owned and dealt with like any other piece of property. As such, he was not only at the mercy of his owner but rightless and (apart from criminal law) dutiless. Even though the slave was in law a thing, he was in fact a man, and this modified the principle. A slave could not be a party to a contract nor own property, but he could be given to the other owner.Combatant slaves such as gladiators or chariot racers had to win their freedom in a much harsher way. The gladiator had to confront vicious animals such as lions and other animals in an arena so that the Roman citizens could entertain themselves. Gladiators were in a difficult position to get out of, as they had to fight valiantly and avoid to be killed and after a number of years without been killed they earned the status of freedman.

Chariot racers had a very dangerous job as they had to race horses on chariots, which were frail and so disintegrated easily. They had to tie the reigns of the horses around their chest so that they were attached to the horses. In case of a crash they had to cut themselves loose fast or they would be dragged along the floor and so die. They therefore carried a knife on them in case of this eventuality. In both gladiator fights and chariot races the slaves could earn a lot of money from bets on them. Slaves also had the possibility to buy their freedom from their masters. Conclusively people were not born into slavery but instead were forced into it for a number of years after which they could be freedmen with land and slaves of there own. There was one other way to be free. Slave revolt. The most famous and vicious one was a revolt led by a former gladiator Spartacus. It lasted from 73-71 BC. A

Thracian by birth, Spartacus served in the Roman army, perhaps deserted, led bandit raids, and was caught and sold as a slave. With about 70 fellow gladiators he escaped a gladiatorial training school at Capua in 73 and took refuge on Mount Vesuvius, where other runaway slaves joined the band. After defeating two Roman forces in succession, the rebels overran most of southern Italy. Ultimately their numbers grew to at least 90,000. Spartacus defeated the two consuls for the year 72 and fought his way north toward the Alps, hoping to be able to disperse his soldiers to their homelands once they were outside Italy.

When his men refused to leave Italy, he returned to Lucania and sought to cross his forces over to Sicily but was thwarted by the new Roman commander sent against him, Marcus Licinius Crassus. Hemmed in by Crassus' eight legions, Spartacus' army divided; the Gauls and Germans were defeated first, and Spartacus himself ultimately fell fighting in pitched battle. Pompey's army intercepted and killed many slaves who were escaping northward, and 6,000 prisoners were crucified by Crassus along the Appian Way.

Spartacus was apparently both competent and humane although the revolt he led inspired terror throughout Italy. It was "a wake up" call for Romans that slaves were not only their tools of every day ife.The roman dependence on slaves for everyday tasks and work. It was something that caused roman people to give up their creativity. There was no need to improve things, because everything was made by slaves. Once dynamic society evolving and expanding became decadent and lazy. They were supported by luxuries from the entire world. They were blinded by their own greatness. Massive use of slaves was only one of the things that added to their fall.

When time came to depend on themselves, Romans used to having their work done for them failed. World is constantly going forward if one wants to stay alive one has to change or bent otherwise they brake.If the Empire learned to depend more on itself than on outside sources it could survive much longer. Although some support never hurts, this wasn't only "some" support.Result was that the Romans loosed their innovative spirit that helped them achieve their conquest. Without they couldn't hold it when entire world around them was changing and new people were coming to take place of an old stiffen culture.

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