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.
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).
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