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The Slavery Story of Ancient Roman Civilization

| 27.3.22 |
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The Slavery Story of Ancient Roman Civilization

 The Roman environment was filled with slaves. The number of freemen and slaves was almost the same. The life of a Roman slave could vary greatly based on the tasks assigned and what their masters did. Slaves could be gladiators, miners, prostitutes, managers, or even potters. Almost every Roman job could be done by slaves. Do they also have rights and get paid? The life of a Roman slave was not ideal, but sometimes it could be more comfortable than expected. However, there was never any guarantee that a slave could have a good life.

Slave life

Usually, slaves would sleep on haystacks with blankets on them, either in the kitchen, hallway, or attic. Of course, the charmingly beautiful slave girl had to submit to her master's sexual desires. At times, the mistresses would make the slave girl's life very difficult. Just because they suspect the slave is 'sleeping' with her husband. Juvenal, a satirical poet, tells the story of a slave girl named Pescas who was often beaten by her master. This is because her employer thinks she is serving her husband's sexual needs. Slaves could do nothing but mutter a few words, steal food, spread false rumors, and similar little things.

Slave rights in law

Legal rights meant nothing in the life of a Roman slave. They don't even have the legal right to marry. Although they could start a family, their master could separate the couple or sell them if they wanted. Children born of slave marriages belonged to their masters. They can be separated from their parents and sold by the Master. In the 5th century CE, Theodosius' Code of Law stipulated that if slaves were separated from their families, they should be reunited and placed with one owner. Slaves could be promoted to high positions such as managers, bailiffs, debt collectors, merchant ship captains, and other professions. They can have a more independent life. But that does not mean they can be free from severe punishment. The Romans employed slaves to manage the affairs of their masters as managers, bailiffs, debt collectors, or captains of merchant ships. Why did the Romans hire slaves for the position? The reason was that the master could severely punish the slave for being dishonest or incompetent. This is what they cannot do with citizens. A qualified Greek slave could easily become a doctor or a teacher. The Greeks had an excellent reputation in these two positions and the Romans trusted them very much. Slaves could also work as potters, painters, or other craftsmen. For women, prostitution is also an ordinary job. Prostitutes usually live in nightmare conditions. They start working before puberty and are subjected to all manner of verbal and physical abuse.

Probably, most prostitutes hoped that one of their rich clients would fall in love and set them free. While it may seem bittersweet, some jobs are even worse. The life of a Roman slave was worst if they ended up on a farm, mine, or quarry. Farm slaves usually slept in chains in the ergastulum – prison – and literally worked to death. Pliny the Elder, who owned more than 4,000 farm slaves, was proud of the fact that he did not bind his slaves. For this reason, the majority of the rebellion was carried out by agricultural slaves. The greatest and most famous rebellion was carried out by Spartacus from 73 to 71 BC. The number of his rebel forces must have been between 70,000 and 120,000. Mining slaves had living and working conditions so poor that they had no power to rebel. Some slaves belonged to the state. They perform tasks such as repairing roads, maintaining waterways and loading and unloading cargo at ports. Most of these slaves also slept in chains.

A master can kill his slave without trial. They even had a crucifixion team that had all the equipment: boards, ropes, chains, nails, and other necessities. The whip team was tasked with stripping the slaves naked, whipping them until they bled, and then nailing them to the cross. They would break the slave's legs so he would feel acute pain all the time trying to stand up. The life of a Roman slave in such a situation could end after a maximum of 48 hours. The body was left for the vultures and dogs for a while, as a warning to the other slaves. Being burned alive and being fed by a lion is not an agonizing death. The life of a slave can vary in terms of misery and end very painfully.


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