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Slaves In Ancient Rome

By Edited Apr 23, 2014 3 1

 

Slavery In Ancient Rome

The slave trade was a very interesting aspect of ancient Rome. Slaves brought wealth and poverty.How? When slaves were brought into the Roman empire they undermined the job structure of many people. Slaves could do the work the unskilled laborers did. Therefor, slaves competed with unskilled laborers. Since slaves didn't get paid it was far cheaper to have a slave working for you instead of an unskilled laborer. Based on some estimates the cost of upkeep for a slave was 37.50 a year, under Augustus rule An unskilled laborer lived on 44 dollars a year. As you can see the slaves completely destroyed the unskilled laborers wages Even to skilled laborers, the slave put a dent in the job market. There were thousands if not millions of slaves in the Roman empire. In some places there were more slaves then citizens, in Rome itself over half the population was made up of slaves. This proved to be another issue associated with owning slaves.

Slaves also provided wealth though. For the people who could afford them, slaves were a gift. Owning a slave was essentially owning free labor. All you had to do was pay for their upkeep. Many rich Romans who owned quarry's or mines had slaves. Since the labor was so cheap they made tons of money.  Many family's in Rome owned at least one slave. The return on investment for owning a slave was enormous, especially if you owned a business in which your slave worked. In everyday life in Rome, their were slaves, they did almost everything. They were the backs that supported the empire. In every single building project in the Roman empire, there was a slave presence. To build the aqueducts, thousands of slaves had to be brought in, to build the Colosseum, thousands of slaves were needed. Even to build a jail or slave house, slaves were needed. They also provided labor in other skilled services such as keeping track of money and writing.  Slaves were even used in the military. During conquest, Roman Legions, had to build roads and cut down obstacles. prisoners of war were sometimes used to do this backbreaking work. Some were even put into the army itself and helped fight against invading army's!

    Slaves undermined the social classes of ancient Rome. Because of slaves, many poor lower class Romans revolted. Even slaves themselves revolted. The rebellion of Spartacus was a notable revolt were slaves fought the Romans for freedom.  This was one of the underlying causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. With social unrest, people grew tired of being deprived and poor and started fighting. 


Slaves could be an expensive commodity. Some educated Greek slaves, could go for over 30,000 dollars while so unskilled slave could go for 100 dollars. Slaves meant to be gladiators were especially valuable. Many strong male and female slaves were made into gladiators, who fought in arenas like the Colosseum. Gladiator fights were very popular in Rome and many slaves died in these fights. The slave market is a very interesting one. Slaves came into the market in different ways. Some were captured from their native homes, some were prisoners of war, and some were enslaved because they could not pay back their debts. No matter how slaves became slaves it is important to know that slaves performed very important tasks. Some educated slaves, were accountants,scribes,guards, educators and businessmen. Gladiator slaves, were worth their weight in gold, and some were given fame and fortune.  These select few Gladiators were highly respected in Rome. Few Gladiators made it that far though. Most Gladiators were killed in camps before they even set foot in the arena. The few that made it were usually slaughtered like pigs. Only a select group of gladiators made it to be famous and rich. There are many movies devoted to the life and culture of Gladiators, one such movie is called Spartacus and one is called Gladiator, these movies capture the life and role of gladiators in society.In conclusion, slaves played an important role in Rome, and it is important to remember their contributions.

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Comments

Oct 10, 2012 1:41pm
ata1515
Interesting article. It is hard for modern people to understand that ancient slavery was so different than modern slavery.
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