Slavery in Ancient Rome

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Just like in most ancient civilization, slavery played a huge part in the culture of Rome. Much of the hard work and labour were performed by slaves who in the process helped greatly in the building of the Roman Empire and ensuring that it kept running. Quite a large percentage of people who lived in Italy and Rome were slaves. Although historians are not certain of the exact percentage of slaves in Italy and Rome, most estimate it to be somewhere between 20% and 30%(Turley). At the start of the Roman Empire, close to one-third of Rome population was made up of slaves.

There were many ways that would have made a person to be a slave in Rome. Some people became slaves when they were unable to pay back their debt. The ancient Roman government could as well also take people into slavery if they failed to pay their taxes. In some other cases, poor people would be forced to sell their children into slavery(Joshel). As the Roman Empire continued to expand, sometimes they would capture slaves from smaller kingdoms that they conquered. Some slaves would be brought by pirates and slave traders who captured them from foreign lands. Depending on the type of crime committed, sometimes criminals were forced to be slaves.

On several occasions, slaves of the ancient Roman Empire banded together and rebelled against manumission. Manumission were people who owned slaves(Joshel). Although the slaves rebelled severally, there were however three major rebellions known as the ‘servile War.’ The third servile war was, however, the most famous of them all and was led by gladiator Spartacus.

Work Cited

Joshel, Sandra R. Slavery In The Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Turley, David. Slavery. Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

November 13, 2023



Roman Empire Slavery

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Ancient Rome

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