The Roman Guide to Slave Management: A Treatise by Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx [NOOK Book]

Overview

Marcus Sidonius Falx is an average Roman citizen. Born of a relatively well-off noble family, he lives on a palatial estate in Campania, dines with senators and generals, and, like all of his ancestors before him, owns countless slaves. Having spent most of his life managing his servants—many of them prisoners from Rome’s military conquests—he decided to write a kind of owner’s manual for his friends and countrymen.

The result, The Roman Guide...
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The Roman Guide to Slave Management: A Treatise by Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx

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Overview

Marcus Sidonius Falx is an average Roman citizen. Born of a relatively well-off noble family, he lives on a palatial estate in Campania, dines with senators and generals, and, like all of his ancestors before him, owns countless slaves. Having spent most of his life managing his servants—many of them prisoners from Rome’s military conquests—he decided to write a kind of owner’s manual for his friends and countrymen.

The result, The Roman Guide to Slave Management, is a sly, subversive guide to the realities of servitude in ancient Rome. Cambridge scholar Jerry Toner uses Falx, his fictional but true-to-life creation, to describe where and how to Romans bought slaves, how they could tell an obedient worker from a troublemaker, and even how the ruling class reacted to the inevitable slave revolts. Toner also adds commentary throughout, analyzing the callous words and casual brutality of Falx and his compatriots and putting it all in context for the modern reader.

Written with a deep knowledge of ancient culture—and the depths of its cruelty—this is the Roman Empire as you’ve never seen it before.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
07/14/2014
In this creative text, Toner (Roman Disasters), classicist at Churchill College, Cambridge, “translates” a work of Marcus Sidonius Falx, a fictionalized average Roman citizen from a well-off noble family who offers his rationale for owning slaves, how to procure them, and how to treat them. Falx relates the story of when a small hoe banged his leg and a slave had the audacity to smirk. Falx ordered the slave’s legs broken, but a guest from a German tribe, who found slavery distasteful, asked Falx to show mercy. The event was so thought provoking for Falx that he composed this treatise, written in a tone that feels both educated and archaically brutal. After each of Falx’s chapters, Toner offers commentary and explanations for modern readers, and the text as a whole is full of details on the history of the slave trade in the Mediterranean, how slaves came to be slaves (by owing a debt or being captured from a conquered land), the expenses incurred in owning slaves, and the prestige that came from being a slave master. Toner doesn’t condone Falx’s views, but his history and commentary provides context for the dirty institution upon which modern civilization is built. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“Thought provoking . . . written in a tone that feels both educated and archaically brutal . . .  [Toner’s] history and commentary provides context for the dirty institution upon which modern civilization is built.” —Publishers Weekly

“By turns charming, haughty, and brutal . . . Toner, a classicist, comes up with an ingenious device.  He creates Marcus Sidonius Falx, an ancient-Roman nobleman and the imagined author of a treatise on how to buy, breed, and train a slave."  —The New Yorker

“Captivating . . . Toner draws on Seneca, Pliny the Younger and various Roman chroniclers to create in Falx a credible portrait of the affluent slaveholder—smug, smart, sardonic.” —Bloomberg.com 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781468310276
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 9/11/2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 219,275
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Jerry Toner is Fellow and Director of Studies in Classics at Churchill College, Cambridge. He is the author of Roman Disasters, Homer’s Turk, and Popular Culture in Ancient Rome.



Mary Beard is a Cambridge professor and author of more than a dozen books, including Confronting the Classics.
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Read an Excerpt

Copyright

FOREWORD

I HAVE NEVER COME ACROSS Marcus Sidonius Falx before, but I know his type. The Roman world had plenty of people just like him who owned huge numbers of slaves and who, for most of the time, did not give slavery a second thought. It was completely normal, a natural part of the social order. But the Romans did think about slaves in their own way: how they could control them, and how best to show them off to their friends. And the smarter ones (and that might include Falx here) could actually be a bit scared. They worried about what the slaves were up to behind their backs, and where the battle lines of ancient Roman culture were drawn. ‘All slaves are enemies’ ran one famous Roman slogan, well known to Falx. And on a notorious occasion in the reign of the emperor Nero, a Roman plutocrat was murdered by one of his 400 household slaves. It didn’t, as you will see, make Falx rest entirely easy in his bed, but the whole household was put to death as punishment.

I am a bit surprised that Falx and Toner got on so well. Falx is an aristocrat whereas Toner’s family – so he assures me – has its roots in those classes oppressed by the British elite (‘from an Irish potato field’ I’m told). But it is to the credit of both of them, I guess, that they seem to have hit it off, despite their political differences. Of course, there were slave owners of a very different sort from Falx, There were thousands of small traders and craftsmen who owned just one or two slaves. And very many of them were freed – and actually married those who had once been there owners, both male and female. Even in Falx’s league, there were a few favored slave secretaries and PA’s who lived better than poor free Romans trying to make a living on day labour at the docks, or selling cheap flowers in the Forum. Interestingly some of the free poor got onto the streets to demonstrate, unsuccessfully, against the (strictly legal) punishment of those 400 slaves. But Falx is talking about the use of mass slave labour.

It is hard for us now to understand all the dimensions of the relations between free, and slave, and ex-slave (and it was hard then). But we do have a few glimpses of what the rich Romans thought of their ordinary slave-workers; and Falx is one of the most reliable guides we have to what Romans would have seen as a proud tradition of ‘slave management’. He is trying to help everyone share the benefits of his wisdom, and he is a good place to learn.

Thankfully the world has moved on. But his text offers an authentic insight – as authentic as you can get – into a fundamental aspect of life in Rome and its empire. If it had been published 2,000 years ago it would have topped the management charts. Modern readers may have trouble mastering their prejudices; but underneath the buoyant rhetoric, they’ll maybe find Falx not a wholly bad man, by the standards of his day at least.

And Falx points the finger at us too. Do some of his insights still help us manage our own ‘staff’. For are we sure that ‘wage-slaves’ are really so much different from ‘slaves’? How different are we from the Romans?

Mary Beard

Cambridge, April 2014

AUTHOR’S NOTE

MY NAME IS MARCUS SIDONIUS FALX, of noble birth, whose great-great-grandfather held a consulship, and whose mother hails from an ancient senatorial lineage. Our family was given the name Falx – ‘the Claw’ – for our stubborn refusal to let anything go. I served with distinction in the Legio VI ‘Ironclad’ for five years, campaigning mostly against troublesome oriental tribes, before returning to Rome to run my affairs and my substantial estates in Campania and the province of Africa. My family has owned countless slaves for countless generations. There is nothing we do not know about the management of them.

In order to write for a non-Roman audience I have been compelled to use the services of a certain Jerry Toner, a teacher in one of our miserable northern provinces, who knows something of our Roman ways but shares few of our virtues. Indeed a man so soft I have never encountered outside the servile class: he has not once fought in battle, can scarce drink a small amphora of watered wine, and even stoops so low that he himself will clean his baby’s backside rather than leave such foul tasks to the slaves and womenfolk. He is, however, most blessed to be married to a wife of great beauty and intellect (though she is perhaps more forward with her opinions than a woman ought to be), to whom I am most grateful for ensuring that the meaning of my text is clear for you barbarian readers.

Marcus Sidonius Falx

Rome, pridie Idus Martias

COMMENTATOR’S NOTE

MARCUS SIDONIUS FALX’S existence may be the subject of academic debate, but the reality of his opinions is beyond doubt. They provide a Roman’s-eye view of slavery. Slavery was a core institution of the Roman world for the whole of its existence. It was so central that it never occurred to anyone that it might not exist. Owning slaves was as normal as voting Republican in Texas or Democrat in New York. We have to remember that slavery was seen as acceptable in the USA and Britain until only two centuries ago. Even freedom-loving Founding Fathers, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, owned slaves themselves. Falx’s guide tries to let us understand something of the mentality of that thankfully long-gone world.

Sadly, we don’t know what the Romans’ slaves thought themselves, because their views didn’t matter. But we know plenty about what their Roman masters thought of them. The substance of Marcus’s words survives in a variety of Roman texts on slavery, although he has not followed them slavishly. These sources are often obscure or quite hard to interpret. This single text is his clear and simple manual for managing slaves the Roman way. Needless to say the fact that I have helped bring it to publication does not mean I approve of it.

Marcus has been a difficult author to work with. He holds many strong and unpalatable views which he refuses to acknowledge may be wrong or immoral. But by Roman standards, Marcus was a decent man. His text shows how the Roman world, for all its apparent familiarity, can be almost casually shocking. It also shows how complex an institution was slavery.

Marcus has refused to reveal his age: his opinions are often an amalgam of views from across the centuries, although he appears to have taken them mostly from the Empire of the first and second centuries AD. I have added brief commentaries to his words at the end of each chapter to give some context to his advice and (at least partly for the sake of my own reputation) to contradict some of his more unreconstructed views. These, with the further reading at the end of the book, will point those who are interested in digging deeper towards the underlying primary sources and modern discussions.

Jerry Toner

Cambridge, July 2014

   INTRODUCTION   

BE THE MASTER

A REMARKABLE THING happened to me in the gardens of my villa some months ago. It was an event so strange and thought-provoking that it caused me to write this book. I happened to be entertaining a guest from one of the German tribes, an Alan to be precise. You may well wonder what a man of my rank was doing playing host to a miserable barbarian, but this man was no normal German. He was a prince who had come to our great city of Rome as part of an embassy to the emperor. Tired of having to find small talk concerning the benefits of trousers, and other such tedious issues which interest their sort, our great leader had asked me to house his foreign visitor until his return to that foul swamp he calls home.

We were taking a casual walk in the extensive parterre at the back of my villa and I was explaining to my guest, in simple Latin so as not to confuse him, what various mythological heroes the many marble statues represented. Then this happened. Concentrating my attention on the statuary, I failed to notice a small hoe lying in the pathway. As I stood on the metal end, the wooden handle sprang up into my shins, causing me to cry out, more in alarm than pain. A certain slave, who was standing nearby and whose tool it was, smirked as he saw me hop about on one leg. Naturally I was outraged that this worthless idiot, a man who is himself nothing more than a tool that can speak, should laugh at his master’s mishap. I summoned the bailiff.

‘This slave thinks that injuries to the leg are amusing. Let us break his legs and see how much he laughs.’

That wiped the smile from his face. Ignoring the pitiful begging which slaves always resort to when faced with their just deserts, the bailiff and two sturdy attendants pulled the man down to the ground, while a fourth ran over with a heavy iron bar. Just as he was raising the implement above his head, my barbarian guest cried out, ‘No!’

Turning to confront him, I saw that he was as white as a freshly sulphured toga.

‘What is the matter?’

He hesitated. I pressed him:

‘Surely you would treat your slaves the same way?’

‘We do not have slaves,’ was his extraordinary reply.

Imagine that? A society without slaves! Who has ever heard of such a thing! How would it function? Who would perform the basest tasks, those that are beneath even the lowest-born free man? What would you do with all those captives acquired in wars of conquest? How would you display your wealth? With my mind turning over all these imponderable questions, I found my anger softening.

‘Please, master, I beg you …’ whimpered the slave.

‘Oh all right …’

I told the bailiff to stop and let the slave off with a light beating with rods. I know, I know, I am too soft. But so many owners today are far too quick to punish their slaves brutally for very minor offences. It is always better to count to ten before you act.

Leading my troubled guest back towards the house, it occurred to me that this German barbarian might not be alone in being unused to owning slaves. With so many in the world now addicted to vulgar equality, it became clear to me that people no longer understand how to treat their slaves and underlings properly. I decided, therefore, to set down the principles with which any free person can ensure the efficient running of their attendants.

This is a vitally important task. The man who devotes himself to personal advancement through the acquisition of power and wealth should understand everything that will help him in this endeavour. It never ceases to amaze me how many in authority today have no inkling of how best to treat those who are so fortunate as to serve them in their ambition. Instead, desperately seeking to ingratiate themselves with those whose loyalty should be in no doubt, they fawn and pander to even the lowest sort of humanity. I have even seen a leading politician smile warmly at a woman working in the street in a pathetic attempt to win her worthless support. Knowledge of how to treat the basest in society, which can be acquired from the careful study of this work, will, by contrast, provide the wherewithal to achieve glory. It will teach the means to attain the goal of a household that is fully in accord with its master’s wishes. This will provide a secure power base from which to rise in society. The book will impart the social skills with which to command those who will come to report to you as your reputation burgeons. Accordingly, any attentive head of a household, whose heart is set on pursuing a leadership role, is strongly advised to take special pains to consult my work, which is the fruit of one of the most experienced heads of the ancient past.

I believe that there is a science of how to be a master, which proves that running a household and controlling slaves is the same as being a leader in wider society. Whether leaders and masters are not also born is impossible to answer with any certainty. Some Greeks have argued that all men differ from each other according to their inner natures. Those who do manual, physical work are slavish by nature, and it is better for them to come under the control of people such as myself who are in possession of natures of a higher sort. For a man who is capable of belonging to another person is, by nature, a slave; and that is why, the argument goes, such a man belongs to someone else. Nature, they say, clearly also intended to make the bodies and souls of free men different to those of slaves. Slaves have bodies that are strong and well suited to the kind of physical services they have to do. Their souls are less capable of reasoning. The bodies of free men, by contrast, are upright and not much use for that kind of manual work. But their souls are intelligent. They are suited for the purposes of partaking in the life of the community, whether it be political or military. Of course, nature sometimes makes mistakes and the opposite happens – slaves are given the bodies of free men, free men only the souls and not the bodies of free men. But on the whole, the Greeks said, nature does not make mistakes. She makes sure that each is allotted a nature suitable to his fate in life.

But most Romans disagree with this. They believe that controlling another human being is contrary to nature. So many of us Romans who continue to rule a great empire are now descended from slaves that it would be ridiculous to believe that slaves are inherently useless. Roman thinkers argue that it is only social convention that leads one man to own another as a slave. They say that there is no natural difference between the two. It is a simple injustice, one that is based on the use of force. They also rightly point out that many slaves have acted in a brave and noble way during times of great crisis, which shows that they are not all slavish by nature. And if slavery is not natural then neither is being a master. It must be learnt!

Rome is full of slaves. I have heard it said that as many as one in three or four of the inhabitants of the Italian peninsula are in servitude. Even in the vast expanse of the empire as a whole, whose population cannot fall far short of 60 or 70 million persons, perhaps as many as one in eight is a slave. Nor are these slaves only to be found in the rural areas. Rome is teeming with every kind of slave activity and its servile population is as high as anywhere. Perhaps a million live in the capital city, and some claim that at least a third of them are slaves. While such estimates represent little more than the informed guesswork of those with overactive imaginations, it tells you how important an institution slavery is for the Roman world. We Romans need our slaves.

You may well ask how this situation came about. What were the advantages in using slaves instead of free labour? Let me explain. In the past, during the republic, whenever the Romans had conquered a region of Italy, they took part of the land for themselves and populated it with Roman settlers. They intended these colonies to act as garrison towns. But much land was left empty and unfarmed as a result of the fighting. This was either because the owners had been killed or had fled while fighting in the army against us Romans. The senate proclaimed that anyone who wanted to farm this land could do so in return for a payment of 10 per cent of the annual harvest of cereal crops and 20 per cent of the fruit crops. The aim was to increase the population of Italy, who would, by dint of their hard work, produce more food for cities and also act as soldiers to fight for Rome in times of war.

Such fine intentions! But the result was the very opposite of what they sought to achieve. What happened was that the rich got hold of most of that land which was not distributed as allotments, and, once they had grown used to owning this land and felt comfortable that no one would snatch it back from them, they persuaded the poor peasants who owned smallholdings next to their own to sell them. Or, if the peasants refused, they sometimes simply seized the land violently. There was nothing that a poor farmer could do to defend himself against such a powerful neighbour, often because he was himself away on active service. Bit by bit, the large holdings grew until they became vast estates instead of simple farms. The estate owners did not want to rely on the very farmers they had dispossessed to farm their land, nor did they wish to employ free men to labour for them since they would almost certainly be called away at some point to serve in the army. So they bought slaves and relied on them. This proved to be a very profitable exercise, in particular because the slaves bred and produced many children. And the beauty of it was that none of these slaves was liable for military service, since the army naturally cannot rely on slaves to serve in defence of the state. The estate owners became extremely wealthy. At the same time, the number of slaves grew rapidly. But the number of Italians became fewer and those few that there were grew poorer, oppressed as they were by taxes and by the burden of long military service. Even during those brief periods of leave when they were not on military service, the freeborn could find no work because the land was owned by the rich and they used slaves to work it instead of free labour.

Naturally, the senate and the Roman people grew anxious that they would no longer be able to call upon enough Italian troops and that this great body of slaves would destroy their masters. But they could also see that it would be neither easy nor equitable to take these huge estates away from their owners, since they had been in their possession now for generations. How do you dispossess a man of a tree that his grandfather planted with his own hand? Some of the tribunes of the people brought in laws to try to limit the size of such estates and force the great landowners to employ a certain proportion of free men. But no one took any notice of these laws. As to the threat of slaves, the worry was not so much that they would revolt, but that they would eradicate the freeborn peasant, on whom the Roman elite relied to serve in the army and keep them in power. So it was decreed that no citizen over twenty years of age and under forty should serve in the army outside of Italy for more than three years at a time in order to give them a chance to keep control of their smallholdings at home.

Thankfully, the slave owner today need not trouble himself with such concerns. The army is now professional and it is many, many years since there has been a great slave revolt. Today’s slave owner needs to worry only about keeping control of his own household. These are matters that I picked up at my father’s knee. As a lad, I learnt to command authority, issuing my string of attendants with their orders: ‘Bring me my cloak!’, ‘Wash my hands!’, ‘Serve me my breakfast, boy!’ were the commands that punctuated my daily life. And as a callow youth, my father taught me how to instil respect into even the most recalcitrant slave.

The household is the cornerstone of society and, indeed, all human life. No kind of civilised existence is possible at all without the acquisition of the basic necessities that the household provides. But a household is just a house if it has no slaves. To be sure, a family needs a wife and children. Indeed, we can profit from their work. But it is the slaves who provide the bulk of the services. This is particularly beneficial because it means the master of the household does not have to rely on outsiders to provide those services. We all know how degrading it is to have to ask others for help and how tiresome to bring in external contractors to do jobs for us. They never turn up when instructed to, take liberties with their fees, and, taking little pride in their work, carry out their tasks shoddily. With slaves, however, we can be sure that work will be carried out in just the way that we want it to be done. The slaves, therefore, turn the family unit into a much more significant unit, that is to say, the household.

The household is like a miniature version of the state itself, with its own structure, hierarchy and leadership and its own sense of community. Husband/wife, father/son, master/slave are the basic building blocks of social life. As such, slavery is one of the key principles of social organisation. The slave is at the complete disposal of the master of the household, in the same way that the citizen must obey the commands of the state. But slavery is a state of absolute subjection. The slave has no kin, he cannot assume the rights and obligations of marriage, his very identity is imposed by the owner, who gives him his name. Slavery is the same as social death in this respect. Complete submission is expected. Regrettably, slaves sometimes have to be coerced and worn down into obedience. Their spirit has to be broken. It is for this reason that some of the prouder tribes refuse ever to surrender when defeated in battle. The Cantabri in Spain, for example, killed themselves after the failure of their revolt rather than suffer enslavement.

All slaves share the same lack of legal rights. But we should not assume that they only perform tasks that are beneath the free man. In fact, as we shall also see, many slaves have acquired positions of influence on account of the power of their masters. Equally, many poor free men have to carry out the most loathsome tasks in order to put bread before their families. Slaves are also used to carry out a bewildering array of tasks. Whether it is the old retainer keeping watch on the front door, or the young boy serving water at table, or the comely slave girl attending in the bed-chamber, slaves carry out a wide variety of jobs within a large household that minister to the master’s every need.

My father taught me what slaves were also for – showing off! Slaves may be morally worthless, mere things and possessions, but despite this they confer high status upon their owners. In the same way that a fine horse reflects well upon its rider, so a well-mannered and deferential slave highlights the merits of its owner. And if there are four hundred of them in the household, then how much greater is the glory which is displayed! Who but the highest in society can afford to maintain so impressive and prestigious a retinue?

For slaves might be dullards but they serve the noblest. If you want to learn how you too should treat those slaves who accrue to you as your good fortune grows, then read on. For however much the practice of your own times is at variance with the principles of the ancient world, that should not discourage you from learning from them. For in the works of the ancients far more is to be found to merit your approval than your rejection. Read and learn.

   COMMENTARY   

The story that the Alan tribe did not have slaves shows how remarkable such a fact was to a Roman writer. The fourth-century AD historian Ammianus felt it was worth recording precisely because it would have struck his Roman audience as curious at best. There are no examples of Romans arguing that slavery should be abolished. It was a simple fact of social life, in the same way that owning a car or a cat is today. Wealthy Romans saw slaves as being necessary for a high standard of living, just as we view modern domestic appliances. Slaves did all the things that you would not want to do yourself – washing, cleaning, even wiping your backside – as well as providing a whole range of other services. But not all slaves were alike. There was a big difference between domestic slaves in the city and the slaves working in the fields. Urban slaves were as much about status as efficiency, in much the same way as are many modern household possessions (do we really need that 100-inch plasma TV?). Even country slaves may not always have been kept primarily for economic reasons, even though their roles were crucial, especially in the large estates of the rich.

The Greeks held a stronger view of the nature of slaves than did the Romans. Aristotle famously argued that slaves were naturally slavish, and it was right for them to be owned by the superior Greeks. Athenian society maintained a strong divide between citizen and slave, which made it difficult for slaves to be assimilated into society even when they were freed. A completely different model operated in Rome, where large numbers of outsiders were habitually assimilated into its ranks of citizens. One of the main reasons for Rome’s great success was its ability to incorporate all manner of foreigners and their gods. This allowed it to expand its pool of manpower along with its territory. In such a society, it made no sense to exclude slaves permanently from becoming Roman. Instead it seemed more sensible to think of slavery as a temporary state, after which, if the right attitude had been shown, a slave could achieve Roman citizenship. Somewhat surprisingly, Roman slavery was as much about social mobility as structural rigidity.

Slaves had few legal rights in Roman law but this was not adhered to rigorously, especially in urban households. It was usual for city slaves to be allowed to own money and possessions, even if this peculium legally remained the property of the owner. Although slaves could not marry, in practice they were often allowed to form partnerships. They acquired more legal rights during the empire: for example they could appeal to the emperor’s statue for sanctuary from an abusive master. But this increased level of imperial interest did not mean that the emperors wanted to improve slaves’ conditions. As supreme leaders, they simply came to interfere in all kinds of issues. People looked to them to provide guidance and rulings about what was legally acceptable in all manner of domestic matters.

Numbers regarding the quantity of slaves in the Roman world need to be treated with caution. They are informed guesses at best. The surviving evidence is poor and also pretty thin. You can find discussion of the numbers and degree of social mobility of slaves in Roman Italy in Walter Scheidel’s ‘Human Mobility in Roman Italy, II: The Slave Population’, in the Journal of Roman Studies, 95 (2005), 64–79, and ‘The slave population of Roman Italy: speculation and constraints’, in Topoi, 9 (1999), 129–44.

For the story that the Alans were notable for not having any slaves, see Ammianus Marcellinus 31.2.25. Seneca complains that owners who get angry are too quick to punish their slaves with whippings and by having their legs broken for very minor offences such as answering back or giving them cheeky looks: see On Anger 3.24 and 32. The explanation for Marcus’s aims of this book is based on the preface of Columella’s work, On Agriculture. The legal status of slaves can be found in the Digest 1.5. Aristotle Politics 1.2 contains the discussion about the household, slaves as tools, and whether slaves are so by nature. For the ancient analysis of why slave numbers increased in Italy, see Appian, Civil Wars, 1.1; this can be usefully compared with the modern analysis of Keith Hopkins in the first chapter of his Conquerors and Slaves.

   CHAPTER I   

HOW TO BUY A SLAVE

IF A SCULPTOR WISHES to make a great work of art he begins by searching out the piece of stone that most perfectly suits his purpose. So too the slave owner must realise that it is only from the right kind of human material that he can ever hope to fashion slaves who display the desirable characteristics of cheerfulness, hard work and obedience. It is vital that he takes the greatest care in selecting the best slaves in the market, ensuring that they are free from defects, whether physical, mental or moral. Here I shall instruct you how best to go about the difficult task of buying a slave.

Firstly, the where. Many will tell you to go to the Roman forum, behind the temple of Castor, but you would do well to ignore their advice. Only the lowest and roughest sorts of slave are offered for sale there. Far better are those to be found from the slave traders who operate in the Saepta Julia, close by the Pantheon. This is particularly so if you are seeking to buy a soft boy, or something from one of the more exotic regions of the empire or even beyond, from such places as Ethiopia. All of these are to be found among the traders there, although you must be sure to ask them directly if they have anything special tucked away in the back of their shops. They always keep their best hidden from public view so as to retain them for their premium customers. You will have no trouble finding a castrated boy there too, if that is your desire, even though the law in theory prohibits such a trade.

Legally speaking, slaves are either captives from war or descended from female slaves but in reality there are other avenues into servitude. Some of the destitute illegally sell themselves into slavery to clear debts, or they might sell one of their children to help feed the remaining offspring. It is common practice for people to abandon unwanted babies at the rubbish dump on the edge of town and people sometimes raise these abandoned infants as their own slaves, even though such children technically remain freeborn. It is also to be suspected that slave dealers often buy their wares from traders who have simply kidnapped their goods, using pirate raids to snatch adults and children from far-flung coastal regions.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 7, 2014

    Life on the underworld

    This is well researched and both knowledgeable and engaging book. Jerry Toner writes from the voice of an unknown or imagined Roman of wealth and an owner of slaves. By giving us a "first-hand" experience we have detail of slaver in the Roman world that are different than the salacious Hollywood versions. Or maybe not. Falx speaks in the book of Egyptians being good slaves and the young men as good partners. This is a books for the general reader as well as giving hints for those with more academic inclusions. I also would recommend it for book club discussion, perhaps with 12 years a slave.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2014

    Great!

    Amusing and informative!

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