Explain the economic and social contribution of slaves and freedmen to Roman Society. AUTHOR: PETER LI

Essay by pli2003High School, 12th grade November 2004

download word file, 2 pages 4.5

Downloaded 29 times

Rome is an Agrarian society; its economy is based on agricultural production. Evidently, the majority of the elite invested the majority of their wealth in land. All agricultural industries were driven by slave labor. Elite owned agricultural estates such as large farms and vineyards often have large numbers of slaves working in chain gangs and housed in slave prisons, which were notorious for their severity. An overseer would be chosen among the slaves to run the estate on behalf of the master. Slave breeding was encouraged on rural estates. From Columella, "... a mother of three children received exemption from work, a mother of more, her freedom as well." Slaves working in mines were harshly treated, as it was cheaper to replace then than taking care of them. A master selling a slave to the mines is considered as a death sentence. Some slaves were literate and highly skilled.

These slaves were highly prized; they ran workshops for their masters and could eventually buy their freedom. Urban and domestic slaves working in aristocratic homes performed every conceivable task in the home; some were professionals like teachers, doctors and accountants.

Freedmen are former slaves who had been manumitted by a citizen or have purchased their freedom. Even though legally free they remain bound to their former masters and became their clients. Urban and domestic slaves generally were much better treated and much more likely to be freed. Slaves who ran workshops once freed became partners of their former masters. Many skilled freedmen became successful businessmen and became very wealthy.

Socially slaves were considered as chattels merely economic units or tools with voices. The law gave them limited rights that recognized them as human. Once freed, a freedman could not join the elite orders, the army or marry a senator; and...