An exploration of the types of slavery in the Roman Empire

An exploration of the types of slavery in the Roman Empire and how each group contributed to the revolts

An exploration of the types of slavery in the Roman Empire and how each group contributed to the revolts

People kidnapped in combat and brought back to Rome to be sold as enslaved people were known as “slaves.” Slavery under the Roman Empire was not based on race as it is now, and most enslaved people were foreigners. Prisoners of war, pirate-captured sailors, and enslaved people purchased from beyond Roman territory were all examples of enslaved people in Roman times. In ancient Rome, it was common for the Roman army to return prisoners as a token of gratitude for their participation in wars. In addition to imprisoning or executing some defeated warriors, some were brought back as enslaved people and brought in a lot of money. A father might even sell his children into slavery if he needed money. This was legal. In addition to being enslaved, street children might be enslaved. More than a million enslaved people from all across Europe and the Mediterranean were brought in to work in the slave trade during the reign of Alexander the Great. In Gallia Cisalpina, it was illegal to enslave Romans or Italians. Wholesalers who dealt directly with the Roman army were the first to obtain newly enslaved people. The slave trade was a significant source of income for many of these traders, many of whom were Jewish. Slave traffickers once bought the whole population of a captured province in Gaul, which numbered over 53000 people, from Julius Ceasar (Babler, 1929). Here in this research you will find original essay and deep research about slavery of the Roman Empire.

More common slave sales occurred at public markets, while more expensive enslaved people were sold privately. Roman fiscal authorities known as Quaestors were in charge of monitoring the sales (Cary, 1928). In some instances, the slave dealers constructed circular platforms where the enslaved people stood, and they put around their necks a plaque detailing each enslaved person in terms of their origin, health, intellect, character, and any other information that would assist the buyer make a transaction. Some sales have been known to have fetched thousands of dollars in today’s money based on age and power. Slave purchasers were given a six-month warranty period during which the dealers would take back the enslaved person or refund their money if any flaws were discovered. Without a guarantee, enslaved people were forced to wear a cap at the sale.

Enslaved people waged a series of wars against the Romans, the third of which was known as the Servile Wars. Spartacus led the Third Servile War in Roman Italy, the most renowned slave insurrection in Europe. The 6,000 remaining rebel enslaved people were crucified on the principal routes leading into Rome due to this fight. A gang of enslaved people armed with smuggled weapons stormed a fort at a plantation named Coral Bay and killed several Danish troops. St. John’s other farms were soon overrun by another 150 conspirators, who killed numerous white colonists and finally took control of the island (Smith, 2011).

Slaves’ experiences differed widely depending on their location and the individual who owned them. It is impossible to say how prevalent slave abuse and severe treatment were during the period, although there were numerous allegations. According to a statement made by Cato the Elder, he removed any elderly or ill slaves from his home. Some warriors the Romans had defeated took their own lives rather than being captured as slaves by the Romans. As a Roman writer, Seneca was convinced that a well-treated enslaved person was more productive. Cicero’s slave, the Tiro, was an example of an enslaved person’s unique experience.

The Roman saying “as many enemies as slaves” was well known. This justified the most potent means of self-defence since many residents thought there was a continual threat of servile uprising. When one enslaved person murdered his owner, all of the enslaved people in that family were put to death by the authorities. Anyone who misbehaved in the past, regardless of age or sex, was punished by beating or burning with an iron. In most cases, enslaved people sought freedom by fleeing their masters’ estates. History’s “obsession with escaping slaves” was highlighted by historian Moses Finley. It was against the law to keep slaves in Rome. Therefore, the city engaged professional slave catchers to find those who had escaped. Advertisements for fugitive slaves were plastered around the country, with some offering incentives for information leading to their capture. They were severely punished and had the letter “F” tattooed on their foreheads if captured, which stood for “fugitives.” “I have run away.” is written in Latin on the collar of an enslaved person with a metal chain welded around his neck. Catch me if you can. You’ll be rewarded if you return me to Zoninus” (B. WAGNER, 2021).

In ancient Rome, the legal position of enslaved people was well established. Owners of enslaved people had absolute power over them, and enslaved people were treated as property. Having dominium over a piece of property meant having complete control over its use and disposal. First and foremost, enslaved people were not allowed to have families. Slave women decided to murder their infants rather than subject them to slavery, and any offspring produced by enslaved people were immediately slaves. There was no legal authority for enslaved people to preserve the ties they made with each other. It is also important to note that enslaved people had no respect or dignity, and the core of being a slave was being unable to defend one’s body (George, 2002).

In conclusion, Slavery was also characterized by lacking the right to a fair trial and appeal before a person was punished with bodily harm. They could physically and sexually abuse their slaves as they pleased and even demand that their slaves of any sex engage in intercourse. The simple fact that a person could not defend their own body from assault was demeaning in and of itself. Despite his master’s and his family’s admiration and devotion, Tiro remained an enslaved person, just as Cicero was. No one knows how many enslaved people there were in the Roman Empire. Even when Rome’s glory days were over, some estimate that up to a quarter of the population in Rome was enslaved. Slavery was not abolished overnight under the Roman Empire; various types of cheap labour gradually replaced it as the economy changed.



WAGNER, B. (2021). “Hold Me Or I Will Run!” Roman Slave Collars Came With A Warning. Retrieved 13 June 2022, from

Babler, O. (1929). Slavery under the Roman Empire. Notes And Queries, CLVII(dec07), 413-413.

Cary, M. (1928). Slavery in the Roman Empire – Slavery in the Roman Empire. By R. H. Barrow. Pp. xvi + 259; 10 plates. London: Methuen, 1928. 15s. The Classical Review, 42(4), 141-142.

George, M. (2002). Slave Disguise in Ancient Rome. Slavery &Amp; Abolition, 23(2), 41-54.

Smith, J. (2011). Who Abolished Slavery? Slave Revolts and Abolitionism: A Debate with João Pedro Marques. Slavery &Amp; Abolition, 32(2), 317-318.