Slavery in Rome


Slavery in ancient Rome was vital the economy and the social fabric of the society. The slave population has been estimated at 1/4 to 1/3 of the population of the city as a whole—350,000 of the 900,000 total inhabitants.  (See pic of slave collar)

Slaves were obtained through conquest, particularly when western Europe fell millions of slaves were transported to Rome, the Italian countryside and Latin colonies all over Europe. Roman soldiers were awarded captives after successful conquests as an extra source on income. Fathers could sell their children, Romans could sell themselves or their children into slavery, debtors could be enslaved and the children of slaves were slaves. Slaves were sold at a slave market or in private shops. Captives were often purchased by wholesale dealers after a battle-one of Caesar’s battles netted 60,000 slaves.

Slaves worked at many jobs. Enormous plantations owned by the aristocratic elite required slave labor. Household slaves worked in homes of the wealthy, tending the wealthy or educating their children. Slaves also worked in mines, military workshops, fought as gladiators or worked for the state.

Slaves could earn their freedom by purchasing it from their owner or by being granted freedom for service. A felt cap, the pileus, was worn by former slaves as symbol of manumission. Many talented former slaves (liberti) became wealthy. They still owed fealty to their owners and were expected to visit often and render service as required. (See pic of funerary monument of freed couple) They were denied full rights of the Roman citizen but their children possessed full citizenship. BTW, TODAY you can check out a pic of Martin Luther King, Jr as you’ve never seen him at my Heroic Hunk in History at ( AND my post at The Writer’s Vineyard ( “Rewriting History” where I reveal how and why history is being rewritten. Tomorrow, The Slave Market Goes Bust    Rita Bay


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2 responses to “Slavery in Rome

  1. Adore learning about ancient history. Keep it going, great blog.

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