Concerning freedmen, as concerning slaves, our information mostly relates
to Athens; but we have reason to believe that there was a general
likeness between all the Greek states in this respect, though Sparta had
some distinctive peculiarities. When we remember that slaves in Greece
were mainly (though not exclusively) taken from non-Greek and more or
less barbarous nations, but yet were not distinguished (like the negro)
by any special external mark, we shall see how natural was the position
that Aristotle took; namely, that some men were fitted by nature to be
slaves, while yet the prospect of freedom as a reward for good work
ought to be held before them (Polit.
1.5, ed. Bekker). Emancipation,
then, formed a cardinal point in the philosophic view of the subject,
and mitigates the force of Aristotle's approval of slavery.
Emancipation was of course generally the act of the master of the slave;
but sometimes the state would give freedom as a return for important
public services, compensating (as it would seem) the master (Plato,
xi. p. 914). Thus the slaves who fought in
the battle of Arginusae received freedom and even citizenship as a
reward (Aristoph. Frogs 33
); and the same promise was made to the slaves who fought
at Chaeronea (Dio Chrysost. 15.21). Other historical instances are
known; and slaves who revealed a dangerous conspiracy were always set
free at Athens (Lysias, pro Call.
5; περὶ τοῦ σηκοῦ,
16); it is clear that such
a rule gave dangerous facilities to an accuser.
When an individual master set his slave free, it would either be from
gratitude or affection, or because the slave purchased his freedom.
Slaves could often earn money on their own account; at the same time
they could not personally make any contract with their masters that the
law would recognise. Hence the procedure was for the slave to deposit
the money in some temple; the god to whom the temple was dedicated then
bought the slave from his master, and in the contract thus made the
provision for the freedom of the slave was inserted. Numerous
inscriptions, embodying such contracts, have been discovered at Delphi
and elsewhere. Conditions are in most cases found attached to the
emancipation; certain duties to be performed, or payments to be made, by
the freedman for his former master; or, in case the freedman dies
without children, his former master is to be his heir (this even without
special contract was, it appears, the rule at Athens: Rhetor. ad
Alex. 1.16; Isaeus, de Nicostr.
9; and compare Bunsen, de Jur. hered. Ath.
p. 51); or perhaps even the freedman has to serve his master until the
death of the latter. It is worth notice that the inscriptions record
nearly twice as many female slaves liberated as males. It was not
unfrequent for a master to emancipate his slaves by testamentary
disposition; directions of this kind are contained in the wills of the
philosophers Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Straton, Lycon, Epicurus,
as communicated to us by Diogenes Laertius (3.30
;--5.1, 15; 2, 55; 3, 63; 4, 72;--10.21).
For the security of the freedman, the act of emancipation would often
take place in a theatre (Aeschin. c. Ctes.
or other public place, that there might be as many witnesses [p. 2.62]
as possible. There was, however, no recognised
form of emancipation; and the state as such took no interest in it,
though for fiscal purposes lists of the freedmen would in some states be
kept (Curtius, Anecd. Delph.
p. 13 sqq.
When the emancipation was complete, and all conditions fulfilled, the
freedman (except in special cases, as in that of the slaves who fought
at Arginusae) took the status of a μέτοικος,
or resident alien; and as such was bound to choose
as his patron (προστάτης
) the master
who had set him free. He had then certain duties towards his patron
(beyond, it would appear, those of the ordinary μέτοικος
), on the transgression of which he was liable
to be proceeded against at law [APOSTASIOU
DIKÉ]; the most serious offence would be choosing
for himself another patron. (Meier and Schöm. Att.
p. 473, &c.; Petit, Leg. Att.
p. 261; compare Plato, de Leg.
xi. p. 915.) He had to pay
or tax of 12 drachmae
yearly, and a triobolon besides; this triobolon was probably the tax
which slaveholders had to pay to the Republic for every slave they kept,
so that the triobolon paid by freedmen was intended to indemnify the
state, which would otherwise have lost by every manumission of a slave.
(Boeckh, Publ. Econ.
p. 331 = Sthh.
3 1.403.) Whether the relation between a patron and
his freedman extended to the children of the latter, is unknown; but in
one of the Delphic inscriptions it is specially stated that if any of
the children of the freedman die childless, the patron is to be the
heir. A freedman was said to be καθ̓
(Dem. pro Phorm.
p. 945.4), and the
expression χωρὶς ᾤκει
c. Euerg. et Mnesib.
p. 1161.72, is plainly
synonymous with “he had been emancipated;” probably in Dem.
i. p. 50.36, τοὺς χωρὶς
means the same thing, though from the context
some difference is clearly implied between these and the μέτοικοι,
due no doubt to the imperfect
character of the emancipation of many freedmen.
Freedmen, like the resident aliens generally, appear to have taken much
to commerce; and two of the bankers whose names we know best in all
Athenian history, Pasion and Phormio, had both been slaves, and some
years after their emancipation received the Athenian citizenship. In the
case of Pasion, this was the reward of services rendered to the state.
We have no mention of any emancipation of public slaves at Athens; and
since these generally worked in the mines, and were more hardly treated
than others, it is not likely that their emancipation was frequent. But
at Sparta the emancipation of the helots (who were, properly speaking,
not slaves, but serfs) was frequent. They were called Neodamodes when
emancipated (Pollux, 3.83), and formed from B.C. 421, when they are
first mentioned (Thuc. 5.34
), to B.C. 369,
when they are last mentioned (Xenoph. Hellen.
6.5, 24), not an inconsiderable part of the Spartan
armies. The emancipation of the helots required the action of the state,
and could not be carried out by an individual (Ephorus, in Strabo viii. p.365
). Another class of
emancipated slaves at Sparta were the μόθακες
were children brought up with the children of citizens. (Phylarchus in
. See Miller's
2.3.6.) Other classes are named in the same
chapter of Athenaeus as ἀθέται, ἀδέσποτοι,
served on board the fleet; of the other
classes nothing is known. (See especially in relation to this subject
Büchsenschütz's Besits und Erwerb im
pp. 168-181, to which this article
is much indebted.)
Freedmen are defined by Gaius, 1.11, and Justinian, Inst.
1.5, pr., as those “qui ex justa servitute manumissi sunt.”
As a class they are denoted by the term libertini,
but each freedman, in relation to his late master,
is called libertus
). In the time of the censor Appius Claudius,
and for some time after, libertinus
the son of a libertus
(Suet. Cl. 24
); but this is not the meaning
of the word in the extant Roman writers.
Originally there was but one species of libertini,
viz. liberti cives:
they possessed in substance all the rights, private and public, of a
free-born citizen of Rome. In other words, if a full owner of a slave
ex jure Quiritium
set him free in one
of the three civil or statutory modes of manumission (vindicta, census, testamentum
), he became a oivis:
any other kind of manumission, or even
civil manumission by a merely “bonitarian” owner, left him
a slave in the eye of the law, though protected by the praetor in the
actual enjoyment of freedom (Gaius, 3.56). The children of liberti cives
Legislation under the first two emperors had the effect of creating two
new classes of freedmen. The Lex Aelia Sentia, A.D. 4, enacted that
slaves who had been put in chains by their masters or branded as a
punishment, or convicted of crime after torture or imprisoned, or made
to fight in the arena, or entered at the gladiatorial school, should, if
subsequently manumitted, have no higher status than that of enemies who
had surrendered at discretion ( “peregrini dediticii,
” Gaius, 1.13). The Lex Junia
A.D. 19, gave a legal status to
slaves manumitted under circumstances which prevented their becoming
without being dediticii,
the number of whom must have been largely
increased by other clauses of the Lex Aelia Sentia (Gaius, 1.18, 38);
they were to have the rights of Latini Coloniarii (i.e. commercium
), though the statute expressly disabled them from
making a will, being testamentary guardians, or taking under the will of
another person either as heirs or legatees (Gaius, 1.23, 24: see
LATINITAS): they were called Latini Juniani. Hence Ulpian writes in the
third century (Reg.
1.5): “Libertinorum genera sunt
tria: cives Romani, Latini Juniani, dediticiorum numero.”
were capable of owning property so
far as other peregrini
were, but it went
inevitably to the patron on their decease, as they could not make a
will, and had no sui heredes
they might not live within 100 miles of Rome, or be manumitted a second
time, under penalty of being made slaves again; and there was no means
by which they could rise to any higher civil condition (Gaius, 1.15, 26,
27). The rights of Latini Juniani, and the modes in which they could
rise to the status of civitas,
under LATINITAS. [p. 2.63]
Both of these classes were
abolished by Justinian, who thus restored the simplicity of the early
law and made all manumitted slaves citizens of Rome
1.5, 3; Cod. 7, 5; 7, 6).
The main point in which a libertus civis
inferior to an ingenuus
was his relation to
or quondam master. Towards him
he a was bound to show obsequium
as a child towards his
father (Dig. 37
), and on that account he could bring no
action against him without the praetor's permission, while he could not
bring an actio famosa
circumstances whatever (Dig. 37
; ib. 7, 2; Gaius, 4.183;
4.16, 3): for breach of this duty he was liable
“in servitutem revocari” (Suet.
; Dig. 37
, pr.). He was also bound to
provide the patron, his parents, and children with alimony, if their
circumstances became reduced; and he could bind himself to perform
certain services (operae officiales
the patron by mere oath (jurata promissio
), which between ordinary persons would create no legal
obligation whatever (Dig. 38
though this was not extended so far as to reduce him to a dependence
inconsistent with freedom (Dig. 44
). Finally, the patron had certain rights of inheritance in
respect of the freedman's property, if he died intestate, leaving no
issue of his own; and if it exceeded a certain minimum, he had a claim
to receive a specific proportion of it under his will. This subject is
too long to be entered into here, but it is treated at length in Gaius,
The rights of the patron devolved on his decease upon his children
(Gaius, 3.58; Dig. 38
), and, so far as they related to
could not be bequeathed
away by will to an outsider, because they were based upon the fiction of
relationship. But a Senatusconsultum Ostorianum (Inst.
3.8) enabled the patron to assign a freedman or any number of them to
any child in his power, either by declaration in his lifetime or by
testament; and if the child was still in the father's power at the
latter's decease, he became sole patronus
of the liberti
so assigned to the exclusion
of the other children.
The patron might lose his rights, either in whole or part, by their abuse
), or by neglect of his own duties
towards the freedmen (Dig. ib. 5, 1; 38, 2, 14, pr.). By special
imperial favour, too, a libertus
and this in two ways. By a
grant of the jus anulorum aureorum,
acquired the position of an ingenuus
relation to all men except his patron, the latter's privileges remaining
unaffected (Fragm. Vat.
40, 10, 6). By natalium restitutio,
in every respect, the
relation of freedman and patron being extinguished (Dig. 40