AMANUENSIS, or AD MANUM SERVUS, a slave, or freedman, whose office it was to write letters and other things under his master's direction. The amanuensis must not be confounded with another sort of slaves, also called ad manum servi, who were always kept ready to be employed in any business.
Not much seems to have changed since then for secretaries. They are expected to work long hours, do work which is outside of theri job description, write letters for the boss and generally do any kind of shitty work without complaining. For if you complain you are not 'flexible' or you do not have the 'team spirit' and are therefore not fit to be employed. It seems that a secretary, especially in an investment bank, is viewed as a brainless, inannimate object, someone to do all the donkey-work while at the same time maintaining a smile on her face (I say 'her' because unfortunately secretaries are always female, which also points to teh fact that we still live in a patriarchal society...).
Slaves in Ancient Rome held positions such as pedagogue, water carrier, treasurer, goldsmith, chamberlain, reader, secretary, wetnurse, caterer, midwife, doorkeeper, baker, masseuse, doctor, cupbearer, musician and gardener. Slaves were expected to perform their duties efficiently and without complaint. If for some reason the slave did not meet expectations, then the master had to determine the cause of the poor performance. Seneca advises:
"If a prisoner of war suddenly thrown into slavery keeps some traces of freedom and does not jump at the idea of performing degrading and laborious tasks; if he is slow because he is unfit and does not keep up with his master’s carriage; if in the midst of his daily duty he falls asleep; if after being transferred from the city with its holidays to the farm with its hard work, he either refuses to work on the farm or does not tackle it energetically; in all these cases we should find out whether the slave cannot do the work or simply will not do it."
Suetonius was emperor Hadrian's private secretary and no wonder he wrote about the lives of the Caesars, exposing all their filth, exploitation and cruelty.
Procopius, who wrote the Secret History, (see post about Theodora), was also private secretary to the Byzantine general Belisarius and his writings are full of bile and caustic criticism.
Notice that in those days at least, mostly men were secretaries, which is certainly not the case today...