Roman Slavery Essay

Roman Slavery

Slavery  generally   refers  to  a situation  where  one  is    put  under  control and  possession  of    another  against the  natural   order. In  all  the  history  of  man kind, slavery  was   a common  thing  world wide  but   there is no  other   place  apart  from   ancient  Rome   where    slavery  was such concentrated and  which involved such huge number of slaves. These   slaves  were  been  used  for doing  the  dirty  chores  and   manual  work . In  the ancient  Rome,  the    slaves  were  being traded  in the   markets just  like  any  other  goods, while  others  were  treated as soldiers  who  were kidnapped during   war. Either, some slaves  were  children  born of   other slaves .Slavery  in   Rome  was   being  regarded  as something  usual  among the  people.

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Both the ancient Romans and  the  slaves  were all  in  consensus  that  slavery  was  the    order  of  the  day. Though   slavery was  beneficial  to  the   Romans, it  also    proved  to  be  harmful  in  various  ways. On   the   positive  side  of it,   the   slaves  were   used   in  the public  benefits for  construction,  for  agricultural  work in farms and  in  businesses. All these assisted in the creation of   wealth by   provision of cheap labor (Drescher, Stanly, 1998, 28).

The  slaves  on the  farms  were  mainly  for  doing  cultivation which contributed  to  high  production of  olives, vines, wheat and grapes  that  were  on  high  demand   by   the  wine   manufacturing  industry   by  then. The olive oil was used as soap and butter. The   slaves were  also being   used for  manual  work  like  repairing carts and  other  farm  equipments in  the  farms. On the   side of   livestock keeping, the slaves were used for looking after the cattle. The   farm  products    were  exported to various  parts  of  the   world  where  such  products  were in  shortage.

In  businesses  the  slaves  were  used basically  to transport  goods   from  one  point  to another. They also   acted as the shop attendants when the owners of the   shops were away. Under this capacity,   they could   be   involved in selling, lending money and buying of goods. While  doing  this,  their  masters  used to  stay  at  home or   go  out  to  hunt  for new  business  opportunities. The slaves could also be   involved in   barber shops and manicure   businesses. Some of the slaves could be engaged in the business activities   fulltime. In the  areas  of  public   building,  the   slaves  were  used  for  doing  the  real  construction  work  at   building  sites where  houses  were  being  constructed  for their  masters. This involved lifting   building    materials and even the masonry work. They also provided the   contractors with   water supply. Apart from participating in construction of houses.  They   also  built  bridges which  were  used  by  the   soldiers  during  the  times of  war  and  for   facilitating  trade    with  other   people.

One  of  the   unique  aspects  with  the  Roman  system of  slavery  was  that   they were  being  offered   many  benefits. They could be given some comfort and care than many   people would perceive. Some of them got partial treatments similar to those of the masters’   children. Some masters were  very  loyal to  the   slaves  to  an  extent of  trusting  them   with  their  money  without   doubting them. This  resulted  to   famous   festival that  was  known  as   the  saturnalia where  the    masters   used to  assume   the   role  of the  slaves   and  vice  versa. This  came as a celebration  organized  for the    sole  purpose  of    giving  gratitude  to the    slave  for  the  good  work  they  did  to the   masters  and   ancient   Rome   empire  at  large (Thomas, 1988, 37).

On a negative note,   slaves were being used for   prostitution. Conceptually, the  female  slaves  were  used  in businesses for  exchanging   sexual  favors  for  money   that  went  to the  pockets  of  their  masters. In  some  cases, the  slaves   where  being   beaten and  others  used  for  fighting  as  soldiers  which  were    known as   chariot  racers and  gladiators. Such  fighters  were   used for the  purposes of  defense  against  wild  animals  like  lions   and they  could  also  be used  as  entertainers  to the  Roman  citizens  as  they  fought  with  the   animals  in the arena. The  slave  could  some times   cause  many mayhems  and  strikes  as  result of   this   brutal  treatment   by  some  masters (Drescher, Stanly, 1998, 56).

While  the  Roman  people enjoyed  the  services of the  slaves, slavery  become  one  of  the    major  causes  of   the  fall   in  the   empire. This was simply because of over    reliance on the   slaves on every   aspect of live. Historians say that   the    wealthy   and   slaves masters   become over dependent on them to a point of   being bathed and   dressed by   them. When  the   time  for  the liberation of the  slaves and  civilization  came,  the  slaves  were    freed  by their  masters  to  join the    poor  class of  the  Romans  which   was   not  experienced  in  doing    manual   work to  earn a living. The  slaves  obviously  outcompeted  the  lower  class   Romans   and   this   meant  that   they were  to  rely  on the government  for  survival. This  in  turn    led  to  high  taxation  rates   in  order  to  provide  them  with   basic  the needs  hence   the  wealthy    Romans  incurred   heavy  expenditure   and  most of them   stopped their  businesses which resulted to a decline in the   government  revenue. Since the  government  had  high   expenditure on them  and  low  tax revenue  from the    rich  men,  it  failed to  have  adequate    support  for the  military  which led  to the fall in the empire. In conclusion therefore, the Roman Empire system of   slavery   was one amongst the world’s unique systems.  It can also be described as the system that led to largest civilization in the history of mankind (Thomas, 1988, 45).

Work Cited

Drescher Seymour & Stanly Engerman. A Historical Guide to World Slavery. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp.28, 56

Thomas Wiedemann. Greek and Roman Slavery. London, Routledge, 1988, pp.37, 45