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Servus

δοῦλος). I. In Greece, besides a class of serfs like the Penestae of Thessaly and the Helots of Sparta, who had come to this condition through being conquered in war, we find, even in Homeric times, actual slaves not differing greatly from freemen. They seem to have been possessed in large numbers only by princes and chieftains, who either obtained them as booty on expeditions (δοριάλωτοι), or bought them from such predatory adventurers as the Phœnicians (Odyss. xv. 483). In historic times the institution of slavery was very much developed, so that there is scarcely a State in which even the poorer citizens did not own a male or female slave to do the rough work considered unworthy of a free man (Plut. init.). In Attica, when the State was in its most flourishing condition, there were some 400,000 slaves, or about four times the number of the free citizens (Ctesicles ap. Athen. vi. p. 272 c). The Greeks justified slavery, much as did our antebellum teachers, by alleging that there were certain barbarians who had been intended by nature to be slaves. As a matter of fact, the slaves in Greece were for the most part barbarians by race. In exceptional cases, Greeks also were captured in war, and were thus reduced to permanent slavery; but, as a rule, they were exchanged or freed on the payment of a ransom. The countries of Asia Minor, Thrace, and the northern regions comprehended under the name of Scythia sent the greatest numbers to the slave-markets, of which the most important were at Delos, Chios, and Byzantium. Athens also had a slave-market, especially used by citizens who wished to expose undesirable slaves for sale. Most of the slaves in Attica were such as had been born from female slaves. The wealthy sometimes possessed several hundreds of them, of whom, naturally, only a part would be kept in the house. Some of the remainder worked on farms in the country, while others served on the merchantmen as rowers or sailors, others in the mines at Laurium, while others again, either singly or in numbers in a manufactory and under a superintendent, were engaged in some trade on their master's account. The owners also sometimes let out slaves to others, as in our Southern States before the war. Domestic slaves were employed in every conceivable kind of occupation in the house, and were also intrusted with the education of the boys, whom they had to accompany everywhere, especially to the school and to the palaestra; such slaves were called παιδαγωγοί. Indeed, as a rule, even the commonest Greek, if he could possibly manage it, never went out unescorted by a slave; while, if he was rich, a number of slaves followed him. At the same time, no Greek seems to have had the vast collection of slaves that many Romans had under the Empire. Fifty was regarded as a large number, though Nicias owned as many as 1000 or more (De Vect. 4). The chief difference, however, between the Greek and Roman view of slavery is that the Greeks regarded the slave as a labourer and an industrial necessity, while the Romans used him chiefly as a minister to their personal pleasures. See the remarks at the end of the present article, and cf. Athen. vi. p. 272 e.

Their treatment differed according to the character and the pecuniary position of the owner, and also depended upon their own good qualities and usefulness. In general, the Athenians were noted for showing more kindness to their slaves than did the rest of the Greeks. There were laws also that referred to them, and protected them against excessive caprice and harshness. But they had no legal rights; they could neither bring a charge nor appear as witnesses. It was only when they were put to the torture (βασανίζειν) that their evidence had any weight attached to it. But the master could not kill a slave unless the latter had been condemned in a law-court; otherwise he had to pay a penalty to some divinity. If cruelly treated, a slave could seek protection, usually in the temple of Theseus, and claim to be sold to another master. In case of maltreatment by a stranger, the master could bring a legal action, and obtain heavy damages. Slaves had no particular dress prescribed for them by law; but they were not allowed to let their hair grow long. They were not prohibited from entering temples and sanctuaries or from taking part in the public religious festivals; but they were excluded from the use of the gymnasia and from the assemblies of the people. Manumissions were not rare, especially such as were made by a clause in the owner's will, or if slaves bought their freedom with the savings made by permission of the master. Sometimes manumission was a reward for giving information about grave crimes, or for distinguished service in war; for slaves were not unfrequently employed in military service, especially in the fleet as rowers and sailors, or as marines. (See Navis.) (For the position of the liberated slaves, see Libertus.) At Athens there was also a special class of public slaves (δημόσιοι). Chief among them were those called Scythae or archers, at first 300, then 600, and finally as many as 1200; the name Speusinii was also given them from a certain Speusinus, who is said to have established this institution (Pollux, viii. 132, and the Etymologicum Magnum). They served as police, and their duties were at first confined to the market-place, but afterwards were extended to the Areopagus. They were further employed for military purposes, like the similar corps, also consisting of public slaves, of 200 mounted archers (ἱπποτοξόται). The lower servants of the State officials, such as criers, scribes, jail-keepers, and hangmen, were mostly (the last-mentioned always) public slaves, and so were the workmen at the mint. Their position was one of much greater freedom than that of the private slaves, and did not differ greatly from that of the μέτοικοι. See Demosii.

II. The Romans, like the Greeks, possessed slaves from the earliest times; but their number was at first trifling, on account of the small households of the old Romans and their simple manner of life. But great estates gradually became frequent, and slaves were used by preference for agricultural work, because they were not subject to levy for military service. Luxury became more general, and a number of wants, previously unknown, were created by it; and in course of time the custom of employing slaves for industrial purposes was borrowed from the Greeks. All this caused a continual increase in the number of slaves, until in some cases they were collected in several thousands. Some of these were born in the house, and were called vernae; they were regarded as particularly faithful and trustworthy, and enjoyed certain liberties accordingly. The remainder were for the most part acquired among the spoils of war, or were introduced from other countries where slaves were kept. Those taken in war were sold by the quaestor either on the spot immediately or at the nearest market-place, or, according to the technical terms, either sub hasta (“under the lance”) or sub corona (“under the wreath,” which was placed on the head of captives in war to show that they were for sale). For this purpose slave-dealers (mangones), whose profitable trade was regarded with contempt, were always represented in the train of Roman armies. They also bought slaves in great numbers at the principal slave-marts, as at Rome and Delos. At Rome, the aediles superintended this kind of business, on which the government levied a tax for import and a further tax on the sale. The slave was placed on a platform (catasta), with his feet whitened with chalk or gypsum, if he had just come across the sea (Juv.i. 111), and with a label (titulus) round his neck, showing his home, age, abilities, and bodily defects, if any, the vendor being responsible for the correctness of these statements; if he would not bind himself in any such way, this was shown by placing a cap (pilleus) on the slave's head. (See Pilleus.) Slaves distinguished for their beauty, their skill, or their literary or musical accomplishments, were not exhibited publicly, but in special places, and to such as were able to pay the prices for them, which frequently ran very high. Those born in the house were also sold by private agreement, without being exposed. There were slaves of every nationality, and on this depended in general the names by which they were called and the work which was assigned them. The familia (a designation including all the slaves, or famuli, belonging to the same master) was generally divided into that of the country (familia rustica) and that of the town (familia urbana).

The work done by the slaves was of the most varied character, and the great diversity of their occupations is partly explained by the fact that almost every kind of work required a special slave, and it was considered not consistent with good breeding, and a sign of poverty, if the same slave was intrusted with several different duties. Thus there were in the country special slaves for the various branches of agriculture, horticulture, and the tending of cattle, the cultivation of olives and vines, the keeping of bees and of poultry, and for the preserves and fishponds. These slaves were under the supervision of the vilicus (farm-bailiff) or actor (steward), who had to render the accounts to the master or his representative.

The number of town-slaves was not due to actual requirements, but depended upon the luxurious fashions which became more and more prevalent in the last two centuries of the Republic. In older times the house and everything belonging to it was in charge of the aedituus (“major domo,” “steward”), who managed all household affairs, received and spent money, negotiated sales and purchases, and disposed of the stores. When the extension of the household made it necessary to keep a special person to control the expenditure, the steward's functions were limited to seeing that the house and furniture were properly cleaned and in a good state. Besides him there were subordinate servants for the various dwellings, the spare rooms for visitors, the shrine of the household gods, the images of the ancestors, the various kinds of furniture, the art collections, and the wardrobe; and there was also a porter (ianitor or ostiarius), who, according to an old custom, was chained like a dog (De Rhet. 3; Columel. 1 pr. 10; Ovid, Amores, i. 6, 1).

The kitchen was in charge of a special slave, an even more expensive one than the vilicus; and under him were a host of assistants, wood-carriers, market-men, pastry-cooks, etc. The service at table also necessitated a numerous attendance of dressers, servers, carvers, fore-tasters, cup-bearers, table-clearers and others, who similarly were under a special foreman, the tricliniarcha, who saw to the general arrangements and to the lighting. The master and mistress of the house were served by special valets (cubicularii), who also had to announce visitors (nomenclatores), and pages and chambermaids and special servants for the bath and the toilet. It was considered of especial importance that, when the master or mistress of the house left it on foot or in a litter, the slaves following them should be numerous and richly attired. Some slaves went before their master (anteambulones), especially the nomenclator, who informed his master of the names of the persons they met; others followed (pedisequi); others, again, were told off for attending their master with torches and lanterns on leaving parties in the evening. The litter of each member of the family was carried by from six to eight lecticarii, particularly strong men, and by preference Cappadocians. For travelling across country there was always a large escort, consisting of crowds of equerries, outriders, grooms, etc. The most important position among the servants was occupied by those whom the master himself chose to assist him in his business or his recreations, as, for instance, those who attended to money matters and to the supervision of the slaves, secretaries, physicians, readers at meals or during the bath or before going to sleep, literary men (litterati), librarians, and transcribers of books. For other kinds of recreation there were also slaves who had received a musical training, pantomimi, fools, and jesters. See Nanus.

The various classes of slaves had each its special foreman, with a substitute whom he either received from his master or bought with his savings (peculium). These formed the class of the ordinarii, who enjoyed the special confidence of their master; this class included such servants as looked after the food, clothing, and medical attendance of the slaves, the maintenance and watching of the various buildings, the accounts of the household (cellarius), and the expenses of the master (dispensator). Young slaves were trained for the various requirements of the household; according to their abilities, they were taught some trade or art, or had practice given them either in keeping accounts or in learned studies. Under the Empire, those who were destined to be pages received their education in special paedagogia or establishments, kept not only by the emperor, but also by private citizens. As in Greece, trained slaves were established in some trade by themselves, or let out on hire; such was the case even with slaves who were artists or men of learning. Even posts of independence, such as the administration of an estate in the country, or of a bank, or the command of a ship, were intrusted to slaves, who received a share in the profits, or paid interest on the capital invested, or a fixed sum of money when the capital was their own. For the slaves were allowed to acquire a private fortune (peculium) from what they saved on their allowances and from the regular profits of their service. The masters regarded this arrangement with favour, especially as it represented a kind of caution money in case any damage was done. See Peculium.

The Roman slave was, in the eyes of the law, a mere chattel (Varro even styles him “a speaking tool” [instrumentum vocale]), and hence absolutely without any rights and completely exposed to the caprice of his master. The latter could compel him to do the meanest and most shameful things, could torture or kill him, or cast him out when he was old or weakly; and as this treatment was legally permitted, it was carried out in practice when occasion offered. Especial cruelty was experienced by the country-slaves, who worked in chains in the greater part of Italy, and were kept in a guarded work-house (ergastulum) at night; some of them were branded, or had half of their heads shaven. It was therefore a severe punishment for a town-slave to be sent into the country.

When the slaves were less numerous and were restricted to the drudgery of farm life, and when the consul himself had but one or two personal attendants, their treatment was, as has been said, the treatment accorded to animals. “Let the slave sleep or work,” says Cato in his terse book of rules, implying that his working hours must all be devoted to toil. “Speak to slaves in monosyllables,” says another writer (Seneca). “Treat them like wild beasts and subdue them by lashing. You will have as many enemies as you have slaves.” And throughout the whole period of Roman history, the mere labourers fared as might have been expected among a people who followed out these harsh measures. A slave's life was long a matter of no concern to the State. It belonged wholly to his master. The elder Cato used not infrequently to put one of his slaves to death in the presence of his fellows to cow them into absolute subservience. There was no feeling of humanity visible in the treatment accorded to them. Pollio, the friend of Augustus, used a slave to feed the eels in his artificial lake. Augustus himself crucified a slave for killing a favourite quail. For worse offences worse punishments were devised. Men were lashed to death, crushed between two millstones; had their hands, feet, nose, lips, and eyes cut out and were then flung upon the bare ground to die; or they were suspended by hooks of iron to be devoured by the birds of prey. If a slave killed his master, not only he but all his companions were tortured and put to death; yet the killing of masters was not infrequent. Pliny in one of his letters gives one instance (iii. 14): “Largius Macedo, a man of praetorian rank, has suffered a dreadful fate at the hands of his slaves; a harsh master he was, too. While he was taking a bath at his Formian villa his slaves of a sudden surrounded him. One seized him by the throat, another struck him in the face; another bruised his breast and stomach, and when they thought him dead flung him on the heated marble to see whether he still lived.” So Tacitus ( Ann. xiv. 42) describes the murder of the city praefect, Pedianus Secundus, by his slaves, on which occasion four hundred innocent slaves were put to death with the guilty. Often the slaves, driven to desperation by their masters, banded together in a frantic struggle for vengeance. On one occasion several hundred broke out into the city, and rushing through the streets slew without discrimination every one they met, until they were themselves cut to pieces by a detachment of the Guards.

It was not until the influence of Christianity began to be felt that the Roman conception of humanity became sufficiently enlarged to embrace the slave as well as the freeman. Gradually the way to emancipation was made more and more easy. Gradually, too, the law began to throw some safeguards around the person of the slave, forbidding excessive cruelty on the master's part. At last, under Justinian, any slave could gain his freedom by becoming a monk or “spiritual person” ( Nov. v. 2, 1; cxxiii. 7, 35).

The usual mode of killing slaves was crucifixion (see Crux), which was put down by the Christian emperors. If a slave dared to wreak vengeance on his master, every slave who was under the same roof at the time was put to death with him. This cruelty of treatment, which grew continually in the last centuries of the Republic, brought on repeated and terrible insurrections of the slaves. Under the Empire they received some legal protection; in its very beginning, the master's right to condemn his slaves to fight with wild beasts was taken away from him and transferred to a regular judge—the praefect of the city at Rome and the procurator in the provinces. These officials were also empowered by Antoninus Pius to receive the complaints of slaves about cruel treatment, and to sell the slaves to another master, in case their complaints were found to rest on truth. Hadrian deprived the owners of the right of killing and torturing slaves at their pleasure, or of selling them to keepers of gladiatorial schools or to procurers; and, finally, Constantine placed the intentional killing of a slave on a level with murder. A kind of married relation between slaves, called contubernium, was permitted at an early time. Under the Empire, it became a rule to regard it as lasting and indissoluble, and even to celebrate the marriage of slaves by wedding festivities. Having no legal rights, the slave could not give evidence in a law court, and, as in Greece, only what he said when under torture was deemed worthy of credit. The Roman, like the Athenian, government had public slaves (servi publici), who, on the whole, had the same legal position as the private slaves. They lived in public buildings assigned to them by the censors, and received from the public chest a yearly sum to pay for their board (cibaria). They were partly employed as custodians of temples and public buildings (aeditui), partly as servants to the various priesthoods and to those magistrates who had duties relating to the police—namely, the censors and aediles who under Augustus had under their control a body of 600 servi publici for the prevention of fires (see Vigiles), the overseers of the water supply and of the prisons, and those who had to see capital offences carried out. The slaves of the latter included the hangman (carnifex), who was intrusted with the special duty of executing slaves, and who had to live outside the Esquiline Gate.

There was no distinctive dress for Roman slaves. It was once proposed in the Senate to give them a distinctive costume, but it was rejected since it was considered dangerous to show them how numerous they were (De Clem. i. 24). Male slaves were not allowed to wear the toga or bulla, nor females the stola; but otherwise they were dressed in nearly the same way as the poorer people, in tunics and cloaks of a dark colour (pullati) and slippers (crepidae), or in the country sculponeae or clogs (vestis servilis, In Pis. 38, 93).

The prices of ordinary slaves was low by reason of the great number of them on sale at Rome. The struggles of Rome with Pyrrhus, with Perseus, with Hannibal, with the Sicilians, with the Gauls, the Cimbri, and the Germans, all ending in the success of the Roman arms, turned the metropolis into a great slave-market whither the prisoners fresh from the field of battle, and representing every country, civilized and barbarian, poured in one continuous throng. Scipio Aemilianus is said to have sold nearly 60,000 Carthaginians into slavery. Marius made serfs of 140,000 Cimbri. Aemilius Paullus handed over 150,000 men, women, and children to the military quaestors who accompanied his army, and who acted as the fiscal agents of the government. Cicero received a sum of money equivalent to $500,000 from the sale of his prisoners of war. Gracchus is said to have enslaved so many Sardinians that the very name Sardus became a synonym for “slave.” Popilius Laenas carried off 20,000 Statielli (Liguria) at once. Pompey and Caesar are roughly estimated to have sold at various times a million of human beings into slavery. The whole world was laid under contribution to supply the market for human chattels. “Long lines of chained prisoners from Germany, Gaul, and even Britain,” says Duruy, “were led to Rome. Utica and Egypt furnished blacks; Numidia, swift runners; Alexandria, grammarians; Sidoné and Cyprus, those intelligent, docile, and corrupt Asiatics so highly prized as house servants; Greece, her handsome boys and girls; Epirus and Illyria, the most experienced shepherds; Germany, Gaul, and Thrace, the most savage gladiators; Cappadocia, the most patient labourers. Slave-dealers (mangones) accompanied every army, and the clash of arms had hardly ceased when the battle-field resounded with the sharp cries and sordid bustle of an auction-room.”

How cheaply these newly-made slaves were rated is seen from the fact that Lucullus once sold a large number of prisoners at an average price of four drachmae—eighty cents—apiece. At Rome, the slave-market, as already stated, was under the supervision of the aediles; and the sales were usually at public auction, though slaves of great beauty or remarkable accomplishments were sometimes reserved for private sale, as we learn from Martial (ix. 60). The chief points of inquiry regarding an ordinary male slave were as to whether he was given to thievery, subject to epilepsy, of a suicidal tendency, and whether he had ever tried to escape. The slaves when on exhibition were often obliged to strip naked, and to jump, run, and move about to show their paces for the information of the intending purchasers. Medical experts were sometimes called in to give their opinion of the soundness of the slave.

In certain cases the law allowed a free person to be sold as a slave—e. g. those who attempted to evade public burdens by not having their names entered on the census (incensi), or who shirked military service, and the insolvent debtor under the old law of execution by manus iniectio. According to the old law, a thief caught in the act (fur manifestus) was adjudged (addictus) to the person whose property he had stolen. A free man over twenty years of age who collusively allowed himself to be sold as a slave in order to secretly share the purchase-money with the vendor was as early as the time of Mucius Scaevola refused his proclamatio in libertatem by the praetor, and so in effect adjudged a siave. By an enactment of Claudius also (Claud. 25), a freedman who had misconducted himself towards his patron might be again enslaved. Under the emperors it was established that a free man who was condemned to death, to penal servitude in the mines, or to fight with gladiators or wild beasts, became and died a slave.

The prices at which slaves sold at Rome varied, of course, very much with the time, the characteristics of the slave, and the requirements of the purchaser. In the time of Horace, an ordinary male slave cost about $90; somewhat later, $125. This was the price of a day labourer. More valuable were those who possessed some special accomplishment, who had a knowledge of medicine, or who were literary men.

Thus M. Scaurus bought a grammarian named Natius for 700,000 sesterces, or $28,000; boys sold for 100,000 sesterces ($4000) to 200,000 sesterces ($8000). A fool (morio) brought an average of 20,000 sesterces ($800) (Mart.viii. 13).

Good-looking girls were sold for immoral purposes for an average price of $1000; but if they were known to have already lost their virtue $25 was considered a fair price. Of all slaves, negroes and eunuchs were the most costly, the latter being largely sold for immoral purposes; so that Pliny records that Seianus, the minister of Tiberius, sold a eunuch named Paezon to Lutorius for the extraordinary sum of 50,000,000 sesterces, or $2,000,000. In later times some attempt was made to pass a sumptuary law regulating the prices of slaves. Justinian fixed a regular tariff, eunuchs running from $150 to $350.

It is obvious that between the ordinary slave and his master there existed no ties of affection, and no feelings of gratitude that could lead to closer intimacy. This, however, was not true of the class of slaves who were sold as house-slaves, as personal attendants, as paedagogi, actors, teachers, and artists. These, coming often from the most polished communities of Greece, or often from the luxurious cities of Asia Minor, were infinitely the superiors of the Romans in intellectual training and accomplishments; and they could not fail to make themselves influential, and if not respected, at least felt. We can scarcely conceive of the ascendency which they attained at Rome. Everything was in their hands. They managed the estates, they kept the accounts, they arranged their masters' pleasures and kept them amused; they wrote their books, they painted their pictures, they controlled their fashions, they taught them music—and, more potent than all, they reared and trained their children. They swarmed in every household, and being keen-witted, intelligent, pliable, plausible, utterly shameless, and morally corrupt, they became a great plague spot in the heart of a community that had once been self-respecting, pure-minded, and devout. It is quite impossible to conceive of anything more demoralizing than such an influence, so widely exerted and so powerful for evil. It is not surprising to find a single century converting the Romans into a semi-Asiatic people living like Eastern voluptuaries, their houses glittering with gold and silver and jewels; their tables loaded with luxuries and crowded with sycophants; their halls swarming with human beings who won favour only by pandering to the most revolting vice and by stimulating jaded desire; their lives given over to gluttony and lust; their old ambition, their once strong intellects, their national pride, and their personal honour all flung away and turned to rottenness by the taint of that system which degrades and blights its victim by forcing him to be the unwilling instrument for the ruin of his fellow-men.

See Becker-Göll, Gallus, ii. 99-154; Charikles, iii. pp. 1-47; Lehmann, De Publica Romanorum Servitute (Leipzig, 1889); Wallon, Histoire de l'Esclavage, 3 vols. (2d ed. Paris, 1879); Gurowski, Slavery in History (New York, 1860); Lecky, Hist. of European Morals, i. 102 (note), 235, 262, 300-306 (Amer. ed. New York, 1884); Ingram, Hist. of Slavery (London, 1895); and the articles Libertus; Mancipium; Manumissio; Mediastinus.

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