Slavery, viewed from today, is an outdated and disgusting practice. But slavery was quite common in many ancient civilizations. In fact, slavery in Roman civilization, which had an important role in reaching the point that human civilization has reached today, was a very important and deep-rooted institution rather than a practice! Slavery was so important and widespread in the ancient Roman civilization that in certain periods, one-third of the entire Roman population was slaves. Moreover, Roman slaves had no other duty than to serve the free citizens of Rome. However, this job description was spread over a very wide area. Slaves worked in many fields, from the heaviest and most infamous jobs to those requiring extremely high qualifications. Of course, the slaves’ jobs varied according to their background and abilities. As a result, the price of slaves and their cost to their masters!
Slaves in Roman civilization played an important role in building huge structures, advanced agricultural systems and social order. For this reason, they contributed a lot to the development of civilization, albeit under duress! On the other hand, in Ancient Rome, slavery was a sign of power and wealth for free citizens. The more slaves a Roman had, the richer and more powerful he was considered. In addition, as in every period of history and in every society, slaves were subjected to inhumane practices in Rome as well. However, it is possible to say that the slaves in Rome were luckier than those living in different lands at the same time… Here is what you need to know about slavery, one of the most important institutions of Ancient Roman civilization…
Slavery was extremely common in ancient Roman civilization
So much so that in the period between 200 BC and 200 BC, one-third of the entire empire’s population consisted of slaves! At other times, it was quite difficult to find people among the citizens of the empire who did not have a family history of slavery, even if they were not slaves themselves! But where did so many slaves come from?
There were different ways of owning slaves in ancient Rome.
The most common of these was, of course, the purchase of slaves. There was a significant influx of slaves into Rome from many regions, especially Greek civilization! In addition, even free Roman citizens who were captured or kidnapped during wartime could be sold into slavery! People who were deprived of their freedom for various reasons were sold in the slave markets in Rome, so they began to lead a very difficult life. However, the Romans, who were not in good financial standing or had large debts to pay, also had to voluntarily engage in slavery!
Roman slaves were often abused like slaves in other societies.
Violence and harassment were the most common forms of ill-treatment. Also, slaves were seen as the property of their masters. Therefore, there was no law to protect them from these ill-treatment. On the other hand, slaves were forbidden to own property or marry officially! But it is not true to say that all Romans mistreated their slaves. There were also Romans, although they were in the minority, who felt that slaves should be treated humanely and treated them that way…
Slavery was one of the basic elements of Roman civilization, and slaves were the basic elements of the economy.
Roman slaves were very important to Rome, an agricultural state. Because farming and ranching were largely done by slaves. But in the eyes of a propertied Roman, a slave had no value. As valuable as a sheep was, so was a slave! On the other hand, the working areas of slaves in Rome were quite wide. There were slaves in every aspect of working life, from mining to housework, from palace services to childcare. Of course, slaves also worked in dangerous jobs with a high risk of death… However, there were also well-educated and highly knowledgeable slaves in Rome. Slaves with these qualities were giving education to the children of free citizens. Or they provided consultancy services to the noble and wealthy Romans. Of course, educated slaves cost more to their masters…
It was easier for slaves in Rome to gain their freedom than in other civilizations
Because slavery was quite common in Ancient Rome, but freeing of slaves was also common. Being freed was the most common and important practice for a Roman slave to gain his freedom. There were other avenues for a slave who wanted to gain his freedom. Another of these ways was to pay his master his debt or external freedom money. However, slaves had neither property nor the right to accumulate money. Therefore, it was quite rare for a slave to be freed by paying for it. However, another Roman who paid for a slave could free that slave if he wanted to.
Freed slaves enjoyed “almost” the same rights as free citizens.
In this respect, it can be said that Roman civilization had a much more modern understanding of slavery than its contemporaries. Still, it did not grant a freed slave the right to hold public office. On the other hand, some former slaves were discriminated against in the society even if they were freed. However, the children of former slaves were considered fully free citizens.