previous next


The legal act by which slaves and persons in mancipii causa were released from the manus of their masters and presented with freedom. There were three kinds of manumission: (a) vindictā, (b) censu, (c) testamento, on which classification see Gaius, i. 17.

a) Manumissio by vindicta was probably the earliest form (Livy, ii. 5), and was the assertion before a magistrate of the slave's freedom to which the owner made no defence, whereupon the magistrate declared the slave a freeman. The ceremony was as follows: The master brought his slave before the praetor, since it was his province to exercise jurisdiction in civil causcs. The praetor's lictor, who came to be used as adsertor libertatis, in order to save the trouble of bringing a person to take this part, holding a rod (vindicta or festuca) with one hand, and with the other laying hold of the slave, said, Hunc ego hominem ex iure Quiritium liberum esse aio, at the same time touching him with the rod; the master then using the same formalities, and turning the slave round and releasing his hold of him, as seems to have been the custom (Hor. Sat. v. 78), admitted his freedom, either expressly or by his silence, which was followed by the pronuntiatio of the magistratus, Quandoque Numerius Nigidius non contra vindicat, hunc ego hominem ex iure Quiritium liberum esse dico.

Addicere is the technical term to express this act of a magistrate by which he pronounced in favour of a right, in this case a right to freedom (Ad Att. vii. 2). This form of manumission derived its name from the vindicta or rod, otherwise called festuca, which was used in the proceeding (Plaut. Mil. iv. 1, 15).

b) Ulpian (1, 8) thus describes manumissio by the census: “Slaves were formerly manumitted by census, when at the lustral census (lustrali censu) at Rome they gave in their census at the bidding of their masters.” The slave must of course have had a sufficient peculium, or the master must have given him property, so that he might become a taxpayer.

c) The Twelve Tables confirmed freedom that was granted by will (testamento). There were three kinds of testamentary manumission—when the master freed the slave by will and made him a heres; when the master gave his slave his freedom as a direct legacy; and when a person requested his heir or legatee to manumit the slave.

Manumission according to legal form not only freed a slave, but made him a citizen. There were other informal ways of manumitting—e. g. inter amicos, which was a declaration by the master in the presence of witnesses that the slave was free. An invitation to dinner sent to a slave was regarded as such a declaration. For restrictions on manumission, see Servus.

The legal act of manumission was often followed by a religious ceremony in the temple of Feronia, where the freedman appeared clad in the toga or dress of a Roman citizen, and with a pileus, or particular kind of cap, on his shaven head. This last circumstance explains the expression servos ad pileum vocare (Liv.xxiv. 32), which means to promise slaves their liberty in order to induce them to join in some civil disturbance (cf. Plaut. Amph. iii. 4, 16; Poen. v. 2.2; Serv. Ad Aen. viii. 564). The pileus was still worn in the time of Justinian, since he declares that slaves who attend the funeral of their master with the cap of freedom on their heads (pileati) become Roman citizens.

hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Plautus, Poenulus, 5.2
    • Horace, Satires, 5
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 3.4
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 4.1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 32
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 5
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: