Rome’s dependence upon slaves has been well established in terms of economics and general society. This paper, however, seeks to demonstrate this dependence, during the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire, through detailed examples of slave use in various areas of Roman life. The areas covered include agriculture, industry, domestic life, the state, entertainment, intellectual life, military, religion, and the use of female slaves. A look at manumission demonstrates Rome’s growing awareness of this dependence. Through this discussion, it becomes apparent that Roman society existed during this time as it did due to slavery. Rome depended upon slavery to function and maintain its political, social, and economic stranglehold on the Mediterranean area and beyond.
It’s no fun being a slave. And it’s not just the work But knowing that you’re a slave, and that nothing can change it. (Slave character in Plautus, Amphitryo c. 200 B.C.)
While it is known that ancient Rome was dependent upon slaves, not enough has been done in English scholarship to demonstrate this dependence on the ground level, instead of focusing on economics and slavery in general. This paper is an attempt to demonstrate this dependence during the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire using detailed examples of slave use in various areas of Roman life. After an overview of Roman slavery, the areas of Roman life discussed will include agriculture, industry, domestic life, the state, entertainment, intellectual life, military, religion, and the use of female slaves. Through these examples, I will attempt to show Rome’s day-to-day dependence upon slaves. Even Romans themselves had a growing awareness of their dependence on slaves, and thus changed their behavior towards slaves in an attempt to keep them compliant. One specific change in behavior was that of manumission, where good working slaves were freed.
Master’s Thesis, East Tennessee State University, 2008