Slavery and work
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SLAVERY AND WORK . In the Roman World. Slavery is a ubiquitous feature of the Ancient World. Ancient Slavery is NOT racial. Anyone can become a slave regardless of racial features or ethnic origin. It is circumstances that make someone a slave

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Slavery and work


In the Roman World

Ancient slavery is not racial
Ancient Slavery is NOT racial

  • Anyone can become a slave regardless of racial features or ethnic origin.

  • It is circumstances that make someone a slave

  • Some philosophers (e.g. Aristotle) tried to provide biological and political explanations of slavery, but these views never became mainstream

  • Slavery was a the cornerstone of ancient economies, and this was the only necessary justification.

  • Falling into slavery was seen as the ultimate misfortune, as slaves were objects, with no rights, and the only protection afforded to them was on account of their monetary value.

Recruiting grounds for slaves
Recruiting grounds for slaves

  • Wars: often entire cities were destroyed and their populations sold into slavery

  • Slave-traders: they captured peoples from the fringes of the Mediterranean world and sold them in the slave markets

  • Slaves in the Greek world were often blond (Xanthias) or red-heads (Pyrrhias) from the black sea regions.

  • The police of Athens, the Scythian Archers, were public slaves from the Black sea regions

  • In the Roman period slaves often come from Gaul, Germany and Africa. Greek slaves are often in a better position as they are used for tutoring Roman children (paedagogus).

  • Sometimes slavery was imposed as a penalty for an offence.

  • Anyone could be captured and become a slave, although enslaving a free person was illegal in the Graeco-Roman world.

  • Sometimes free people were ransomed by their families.

Uses of the slaves
Uses of the slaves

  • Farms

  • Households

  • Businesses

  • Military (as auxiliary staff)

  • Mines

  • Quarries

  • Ships

  • As personal valets

  • In building projects

  • The slaves were the raw labor of the ancient economy.

  • They run every aspect of it

Suitable occupations for a high born roman
Suitable occupations for a high born Roman

  • Politics

  • Business (run by slaves)

  • Farming (run by slaves)

  • Civil Service

  • Military

  • Law

  • Church (after the 4th century)

  • Empire government posts