How did the position of slaves differ in ancient Rome and in ancient Greece?

Ancient Roman slavery was essentially identical to ancient Greek slavery. Slaves are “talking tools,” not people. Slaves are used for productive labor, thereby freeing free citizens who can engage in war, government policy, and other interesting matters. Slaves in the ancient world are always someone’s property, and not just social status, as for example in the Indian sudra caste. Slaves belong either to a specific person or to the policy as a whole (municipal slaves).

The sources of the slaves are also the same for the ancient Greeks and Romans. First of all, it is a war of conquest, during which sometimes the whole population of entire cities turned into slavery. The second main source is the slave markets, for which goods were brought by slave traders. They, in turn, bought slaves either from pirates who sold their captives, or from barbarians who also sold prisoners of war captured in local conflicts. Debt slavery, which over time began to be limited by law, was common to ancient Greece and Rome.

Another similar feature in ancient Greek and Roman slavery is the phenomenon of domestic slaves. Slaves trained as secretaries, hairdressers, governesses, teachers, etc. appreciated much more. They were carefully chosen, sometimes bought from other slave owners, who were forced to sell their property, including slaves, due to the difficult financial situation. Such slaves were cherished, used exclusively according to their specialization, they tried not to punish in particularly cruel ways. If a home slave has long served his masters, then he was treated almost like a family member. After the death of such a slave, they were buried in a decent cemetery and the grave was decorated with a high-quality tombstone.

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At the same time, there were significant differences between ancient Greek slavery and ancient Roman. In ancient Greece there was no phenomenon of large latifundia, on which thousands of slaves worked at the same time. In addition, there were craft workshops in Rome, with a large number of slave labor involved. The Romans knew well the principle of the division of labor and actively applied it in the mass production of the same type of product, for example, of a military nature – arrows, helmets, plates for armor, etc. Slaves in latifundia and in large workshops had the worst of all, labor was hard and monotonous, and the owners tried to spend as little as possible on the maintenance of these slaves.

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Another significant difference between Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece was a much more thorough study of the legal side of the issue. Slavery in ancient Rome was clearly regulated by legal acts. It was determined that a full-fledged Roman citizen could not be enslaved. It was also possible to let slaves go free only according to the law, according to the established procedure. Roman laws shared the legal status of a non-Roman, such as “Peregrine” (personally a free foreigner) and a freedman (former slave). And in Ancient Greece both those and others were in equal status of “meteks”.

Another fundamental difference was the single legal space of the entire Roman state, in contrast to the Greek polis system. A slave remained a slave in any city of the Roman Empire, as did a free citizen. But in ancient Greece, a free citizen of one of the policies could very well be enslaved in another policy, because there he was a stranger and had no legal protection.

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And finally, a striking cultural difference was the absence in ancient Greece of gladiator games and gladiator slaves. The legal status of the gladiators differed from the usual slave, in the gladiators of the slaves were sold either according to the appropriate legal procedure, or free citizens by a court verdict. In the latter case, there was a special wording “sentenced to the sword”.

The sword in Latin is “gladius”, hence the name “gladiator”, literally translated “swordsman”. One way or another, the gladiator was just a slave, but very specific, and was not used in ordinary slave jobs. Now this is a purely Roman phenomenon that was absent in ancient Greek policies.

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