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University of Toronto St. George

Slaves and Freedmen Sunday, 8 December, y A Technical or Scientific View patria potestas pater familias Slavery was by no means only a Roman practice in the ancient times in Eurasia • They were different forms of it, sometimes people would be slaves for only a period of their lives • They would find themselves in debt and work to pay off that debt by becoming a slave for someone for a period years (voluntarily became a slave) • Roman slavery was only different from slavery in Greece or ancient Egypt because of its scale, everything in Rome is simply bigger compared to previous societies • The empire is larger, the population was bigger, and city of Rome was the biggest city ever invented by the time of the emperor Augustus • Roman slavery was also unusual because Roman slaves were able to be set free and become a Roman citizen • He had the full rights as any other citizen • A slave could work, vote, serve in the army, and have children that were considered Roman citizens • His family over a couple generation could be completely inseparable to the people that in slaved him • One of the results of this was that during the imperial period, the number of people in the city that were slaves former slaves of the children of slaves far exceeded the number of citizens living in the city • As a society Rome was very complex, as a city with its city • By the 1800 the vast number of the Roman population was slave or slave descendants • All these people over time would likely merge within the native population and become indistinguishable • Jones and Sidwell draw attention to the fact that when Rome was a small city and its empire was growing the majority op people were speakers of Latin, By the time of people like Seneca or Nero most people spoke Greek as their native language Greek was used as the common language • • The city of Rome required vast amounts of labour, that labour came from slaves, mainly from the East; Greek was the common language spoken in the East • When the Christian church started to organize itself in Rome they used Greek as there common language Where did slaves come from? As the empire was growing many of them come from conquest It is estimated that when Julius Caesar invaded France, the population was around 10 million, by the time he left one million were dead and one million were enslaved • The empire provided many hundreds of thousands of slaves 1 • After a while Rome stopped expanded • After about 1850 ad, the bulk of Roman slaves did not come from conquest but from trade and commerce • Slave came from children of slaves, criminals, highways robbery ( people who stole your money with violence, kill you, or sold you as a slave) • Many people volunteered to be slaves, it was part of Roman culture that slaves who did a good job and masters who were reasonable would be set free (it is was not a guarantee) For families with no birth control and children that they could not feed slavery was a • good option • It meant that they children would have accommodation and something to eat; slaves were expensive so you kept them alive • People also went into slavery with the hopes that after about 20years they would be set free and then become Roman citizens • Their is no accurate number of the amount of slaves in Rome, the Romans kept census but they only counted the adult males citizens who were heads of the household • Slaves, women, and children were not of the state but of the father of the householf • Anyone who came under patria potestas was the responsibility of the pater familias • Jones and Sidwell know that you will be horrified and misinformed by the idea of slavery • Roman were equal opportunist when it came to slavery, it didn't matter your race language or skin color • Roman slavery was a legal status that was no associated with any type of religious belief or prejudice What could slaves do? • Many thousands and slaves lived and died without leaving a single mark in the historical record, slaves that left their record were unusual, if they had enough money to get their name written on a tombstone then they were probably successful • The slaves who worked in mines and farms were uneducated and could not read • The slaves that were on record were the ones that were successful and educated There were classes of slaves • Country slaves were uneducated and worked digging and looking after the animals • Town slaves could not read and write but whose job was to clean, cook, and keep house • They were special slaves whose education was better than the average Roman low class and did things such as look after the masters accounts, book keeping, and acted like a citizen and PA • The ones who could read wee mostly the ones that would be set free and be able to have a trade • Roman aristocrats hated that they had to go through a slave to talk to someone powerful like the emperor or someone in the Senate 1 • A technical classification of the tools needed to work a farm or estate would have three parts: the kind of tool that is articulate, the inarticulate, and  the mute. The kind that is articulate comprises the slaves, the inarticulate  comprises the cattle, and the mute comprises the carts. Varro, On Agriculture, 17. 1 • What kinds of tools do you need to tend your farm • articulate=slaves • inarticulate=castle • mute=wagons/ carts • This passage expresses the bottom line of Roman slavery, a slave was equal to a cart • It is the possession of someone • No Roman systematically thought like this everyday, but it does highlight the bottom line of slavery, what ever ways in which you may humanize slavery, in law a slave was equivalent to a cart, it was something owned by someone else with no legal standing • If you kick a cart it cant take you to law and neither can a slave • If your business then it must make some kind of money, if your running a farm then there is no point holding on to it unless its doing you and your family some kind of benefit A Pragmatic View He (i. e. your farm manager, probably a slave himself) should make a sale.  He should sell the oil, if it can fetch a decent price; he should sell whatever wine  and grain is left over; he should sell worn­out old oxen, cattle with blemishes,  sheep with blemishes, old iron tools, the wool, the hides, an old cart, an old slave,  a sick slave, and anything else that is superfluous. A pater familias should be a  seller, not a buyer. Cato the Elder (‘the Censor’), On Agriculture 2 • The farms primary purpose is to feed the family, not to make money  • The slave to Cato is on the same level of as a farm animal or broken spade • Apater familias should be a seller, not a buyer. • Cato has no sentimental relationship with the slave, contradicts what is said by Jones and Sidwell( the say that many Romans did have a sentimental attachment to their slaves • Cato view is very dramatic, but we cannot tell how many Romans had this view • In the country side slaves who cannot work are simply a burden If the farm is large enough, if its owned by a small time operator, holding on to slaves • like holding on to cattle cannot not work, it is something that will leak into your profit 1 • This is a world with no fridges and cold with, if you ran out of food you could die • Holding onto to slaves might seem like a nice thing to do but if your farm does not make enough money it might mean that your children were hungry • Cannot is not being cruel he is trying to give dramatic advice to a pater familias whose main job is to look after everybody • To be sentimental about a slave or ox might run the risks that your children will starve A Sadistic View Vedius Pollio, a Roman equestrian, a friend of the emperor Augustus, found that  lamprey eels offered him an opportunity to display his cruelty. He used to toss  slaves sentenced to death into ponds of lampreys, not because wild animals on  land were not capable of killing a slave, but because with any other type of  animal he was not able to enjoy the sight of a man being torn to pieces,  completely, in one moment. Pliny the Elder, Natural History 9. 39. 77 (Tr. Jo­Ann Shelton, As The Romans Did. A Sourcebook in Roman Social History, New York and Oxford, 1998, p.  174). • Very rich, kept a fish farm stocked with lamprey eels • Romans found this delicious, and kept them stocked if they had a large enough  pond Why would you sentence slave to death? • If they committed some sort of a crime When Vedius was alive the usual procedure was to had the slaves over to the  • state for their punishment • He would then be executed in the amphitheater during the wild beat hunts • Vedius Pollio wanted to take care of the slave on his own  • Choose not to hand the slave over to the state • To what extent could the law stop him? • Technically it could not Vedius was a parter familia executing  his patria potestas over his family • If he decided that a slave deserved the death penalty it was his job  to decide how to execute the death penalty • His cruelty makes his way into the food chain, these fish ate  slaves which he then fed to his guest • From Vedius were are also shown the limits of the law when it  faces social custom, he was a friend of the emperor Augustus, we  are told that one day he invited him to dinner • During the dinner a slave dropped a glass, Vedius immediately  ordered the slave to be put to death by the eels 1
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