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Roman Slavery. I’ts not nice business!. Punishment.

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roman slavery

Roman Slavery

I’ts not nice business!


Roman slaves were seen as property under Roman Law and had no legal personhood. Unlike citezens, slaves could be subject to corporate punishment such as torture and summary execution. The testimony of a slave could not be accepted in a court of law unless the slave was tortured.


In certain periods, a great number of slaves for the Roman market were acquired through warfare. The Roman soldiers brought back captives to use as slaves

types of work
Types of work

Though you may think that slaves would only do housework like scrubbing the floor or doing the dishes. Roman slaves had jobs that varied a lot. Accountants, even teachers were often slaves. Slaves worked in a wide range of occupations that candivided into five categories: household or domestic; imperial or public; urban crafts and services; agriculture; and mining.

household slaves
Household slaves

Epitaphs record at least 55 different jobs a household slave might have, including barber, butler, cook, hairdresser and handmaid. A large elite household might be supported by a staff of hundreds.

service slaves
Service slaves
  • In urban workplaces, the occupations of slaves included fullers, engravers, shoemakers, bakers, mule drivers, and prostitutes.  Roman agricultural writers expect that the workforce of a farm will be mostly slaves, managed by avilicus (a slave who had the superintendence of the villa), who was often a slave himself.
miner slaves
Miner slaves

Slaves numbering in the tens of thousands were condemned to work in the mines or quarries, where conditions were notoriously brutal. Miner slaves were convicts who lost their freedom as citizens, forfeited their property to the state, and became slaves as a legal penalty. They were expected to live and die in the mines.