The Roman Law of Slavery: The Condition of the Slave in Private Law from Augustus to Justinian

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The semifree could no longer be sold at the block. Servitude developed both in countries in which slavery lasted until the end of the Middle Ages or well beyond, i. The transition from slavery to servitude was first accomplished in Western Continental countries, but slavery continued alongside servitude in the maritime regions where Christian peoples were in contact with heterodox populations, as well as in central and eastern Europe, where the Slavs, still pagan, were often reduced to servitude. Even in Great Britain , prisoners taken during the wars among the Anglo-Saxons, Welsh, Irish, and Scots were for a long time reduced to slavery.

As late as a council held in London saw fit to decree: "Let no one hereafter presume to engage in that nefarious trade in which hitherto in England men were usually sold like brute animals. When political unity was accomplished, slavery disappeared just as it had in other western European nations that had been inhabited by several different peoples but governed by a central authority.

Slavery, III (History of) |

Evolution of the Term in the Middle Ages. The Latin word sclavus — common source of the words slave, esclave Fr. Medieval slavery was then the heir of the ancient institution, the continuity of which was still in question. The slave was still the servus, the mancipium, as in Rome. It was not until slaves began to be recruited from entirely new sources that new terms appeared to describe those who were not free.

Among these terms sclavus, derived from the ethnic name of the Slavic peoples, was widely accepted. In its Latin form it first appeared in Germany in the tenth century. In the 13th century, however, sclavus, meaning slave, reappeared in Italy, whence it spread over Europe. At this time the Italians were in effect at the beginning of a new trade route that served especially the Mediterranean world.

Enslaved Slavs from southeastern Europe and the shores of the Black Sea began to be imported into Italy. The Slavs once again became the object of a very active trade, with the result that their name was soon used to describe all the nonfree. From Italy, Slavic slavery spread through the south of France into eastern Spain, where the Catalan sclau came into general use in the 14th century.

On the other hand, there were never any enslaved Slavs in the Castilian political complex or in Portugal, since these countries participated very little in Mediterranean economic life. As a result the term slave appeared there only much later. Origins of the African Slave Trade. Enslavement following a war against unbelievers was very common on the Iberian Peninsula as long as the Christian kingdoms were at war with Muslim nations.

In central Spain the struggle lasted until the conquest of Granada in , the year America was discovered.

Ancient Roman Slavery and American Slavery

Even later, however, Muslims captured at sea were regularly sent to slave markets in Spain, as on their side the Muslims took Spanish and other Christian captives to North Africa. Also, until the middle of the 13th century, prisoners taken in frontier raids between Christian Portugal and her Muslim neighbors were enslaved. However, when the Portuguese reconquest became an accomplished fact and no independent Moors remained in the country, slaves could be obtained only outside the boundaries of the kingdom.

During the 14th and 15th centuries, when a number of African islands were discovered, the search for slaves was immediately renewed. Portuguese and Castilians sought the Guanches, a Canary Island people now extinct; but they bought still more slaves who were natives of the interior of the African continent. For a long time these black slaves were brought across the Muslim territory of Africa into southern Europe.

During the 14th century a special caravan route was opened from the Sudan across the Sahara as far as the peninsula of Barca in Cyrenaica. The Portuguese, just as they later established a direct maritime line for the spice trade in the time of Vasco da Gama , now established an African slave route under Henry the Navigator , eliminating the need for intermediaries along the caravan routes or in the North African ports.

The Portuguese themselves loaded the slaves at their ports of call in Senegal or Guinea. Beginning in the 15th century, the Portuguese government granted asientos, or permits, for the slave trade. The slave trade continued for four centuries in spite of its condemnation by the papacy, beginning with Pius II , on Oct. The trade along the African coast at the end of the Middle Ages underwent a transition to colonial slavery in America. Since the American aborigines who had been reduced to slavery at the beginning of Spanish colonization in the West Indies died out very quickly, they were replaced by Africans imported according to the rules established by the permits of the Middle Ages.

The change from medieval slavery in the Mediterranean and in western Europe to colonial slavery in America was hardly noticed; it was a matter of simple continuity. Slavery in Spanish America. In America the problem of the enslavement of the native inhabitants arose almost immediately. In Spanish America, as in Spain during the last centuries of the reconquest, native slavery quickly became a phenomenon characteristic of the frontier, that is, of any region adjacent to a still unsubdued indigenous population. At the same time, as in Spain itself, slaves originally taken on the frontier were imported into the interior of the imperial territory.

This did not particularly surprise the subdued native peoples, since the tribal societies of America, like others, knew slavery as a consequence of war. Nevertheless, as the unsubdued areas gradually disappeared and the bulk of the native population was integrated into the Spanish empire, enslavement of the native peoples following frontier wars diminished and finally disappeared altogether.

In one instance, in southern Chile, however, the Spanish Crown acted contrary to its general policy of suppressing the practice of subjection of the natives. The frontier war against the indomitable Araucanians continued to the end of the 17th century, and yielding to the plea of the local colonists, the Crown permitted the enslavement of prisoners. In general, however, the Spanish government envisaged colonial peace as its goal. Just as it saw no place within its realm for internecine war, it saw at the same time no advantage in slavery; and through the efforts of the Dominican friar Bartolome de las casas and the theologians F.

This is not to say that it did not continue to treat the indigenous population very badly, but at the time the European peasant class did not always fare better. There were similar conditions of servitude or its derivatives on both sides of the Atlantic. These conditions in America and especially in Spanish America, affecting practically the entire native population, differed from those prevailing in Europe in that the racial differences between the colonist or proprietary landowner and the Indian who tilled the soil were associated with the perpetuation of colonial customs that kept the semifree natives in a condition of hardship long outmoded in all, or most, of Europe.

Slavery and Colonization. Buckland descibes in minute detail the complexity of the slave's position in the eyes of the law, outlining how they are treated both as animals and as free men. If you know the book but cannot find it on AbeBooks, we can automatically search for it on your behalf as new inventory is added.

If it is added to AbeBooks by one of our member booksellers, we will notify you! This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. The Christian writers, however, inculcate the duty of acting towards them as we would be acted by Clem. Justinian did much to promote the ultimate extinction of slavery; but the number of slaves was again increased by the invasion of the barbarians from the north, who not only brought with them their own slaves who were chiefly Sclavi or Sclavonians whence our word Slave , but also reduced many of the inhabitants of the conquered provinces to the condition of slaves.

But all the various classes of slaves became merged in course of time into the Adscripti Glebae or serfs of the middle ages. The chief sources from which the Romans obtained slaves have been pointed out above. Under the republic one of the chief supplies was prisoners taken in war, who were sold by the quaestores Plaut. Consequently slave-dealers obtained them for a mere nothing. In the camp of Lucullus on one occasion slaves were sold for four drachmae each.

The trade of slave-dealers mangones was considered disreputable, and expressly distinguished from that of merchants mangones non mercatores sed venaliciarii appellantur , Dig.

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The slave-dealer Thoranius, who lived in the time of Augustus, was a well-known character Suet. Slaves were usually sold by auction at Rome. Newly imported slaves had their feet whitened with chalk Plin. The slave-market, like all other markets, was under the jurisdiction of the aediles , who made many regulations by edicts respecting the sale of slaves. The character of the slave was set forth in a scroll titulus hanging round his neck, which was a warranty to the purchaser Gell.

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The vendor might however use general terms of commendation without being bound to make them good Dig. The chief points which the vendor had to warrant, was the health of the slave, especially freedom from epilepsy, and that he had not a tendency to thievery, running away, or committing suicide Cic.


The nation of a slave was considered important, and had to be set forth by the vendor Dig. Slaves sold without any warranty wore at the time of sale a cap pileus upon their head Gell. The value of slaves depended of course upon their qualifications; but under the empire the increase of luxury and the corruption of morals led purchasers to pay immense sums for beautiful slaves, or such as ministered to the caprice or whim of the purchaser. Eunuchs always fetched a very high price Plin. Slaves who possessed a knowledge of any art which might bring in profit to their owners, also sold for a large sum.

Thus literary men and doctors frequently fetched a high price Suet. Female slaves, unless possessed of personal attractions, were generally cheaper than male. We have seen that in the time of Justinian the legal value of female slaves was equal to that of males; this may probably have arisen from the circumstance that the supply of slaves was not so abundant as at earlier times, and that therefore recourse was had to propagation for keeping up the number of slaves.

But under the republic and in the early times of the empire this was done to a very limited extent, as it was found cheaper to purchase than to breed slaves. Slaves were divided into many various classes: the first division was into public or private. The former belonged to the state and public bodies, and their condition was preferable to that of the common slaves. They were less liable to be sold, and under less control than ordinary slaves: they also possessed the privilege of the testamenti factio to the amount of one half of their property see above, p A , which shows that they were regarded in a different light from other slaves.

Scipio, therefore, on the taking of Nova Carthago, promised artizans, who had been taken prisoners and were consequently liable to be sold as common slaves, that they should become public slaves of the Roman people, with a hope of speedy manumission, if they assisted him in the war Liv.

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Public slaves were employed to take care of the public buildings cf. Thus the Aediles and Quaestors had great numbers of public slaves at their command Gell. Private slaves were divided into urban familia urbana and rustic familia rustica ; but the name of urban was given to those slaves who served in the villa or country residence as well as the town house; so that the words urban and rustic rather characterized the nature of their occupations than the place where they served Urbana familia et rustica non loco, sed genere distinguitur , Dig. The familia urbana could therefore accompany their master to his villa without being called rustica on account of their remaining in the country.

Those called Vicarii are spoken of above p B. Ordinarii seem to have been those slaves who had the superintendence of certain parts of the housekeeping. They were always chosen from those who had the confidence of their master, and they generally had certain slaves under them.

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To this class the actores , procuratores and dispensatores belong, who occur in the familia rustica as well as the familia urbana , but in the former are almost the same as the villici. They were stewards or bailiffs Colum. This class also included the porters Ostiarii , the bed-chamber slaves [ Cubicularii ], the litter-bearers lecticarii [ Lectica ], and all personal attendants of any kind. Complete lists of all the duties performed by slaves are given in the works of Pignorius, Popma, and Blair, referred to at the close of this article.

The treatment of slaves of course varied greatly according to the disposition of their masters, but they appear upon the whole to have been treated with greater severity and cruelty than among the Athenians. Originally the master could use the slave as he pleased: under the republic the law does not seem to have protected the person or life of the slave at all, but the cruelty of masters was to some extent restrained under the empire, as has been stated above p B.

The general treatment of slaves, however, was probably little affected by legislative enactments. In early times, when the number of slaves was small, they were treated with more indulgence, and more like members of the family: they joined their masters in offering up prayers and thanksgivings to the gods Hor. They also obtained an allowance of salt and oil; Cato R. They also got a small quantity of wine with an additional allowance on the Saturnalia and Compitalia Cato, R.

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