Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Slaves in Rome

As would be expected, slaves have been abused and mistreated all throughout history. In Ancient Rome, they were even given demeaning names, such as Laughter, Silly, Sexy, Pleasure and Desire. As is apparent from these names, slaves of both sexes, were more often than not, abused sexually. It is worth mentioning that in Roman society a man only committed adultery if he had sexual relations with another Roman citizen’s wife – sex with a slave did not count. Of course, not all such relationships were abusive – think of the Emperor Vespasian’s long-standing affair with Antonia-Caenis, who became a freedwoman.

As a rule though, slaves were seen as property and therefore their owner had no second thoughts with regards to his ill treatment of them.

Slavery in Rome


Peter said...

There's some fascinating coverage of slavery in Rome in Matt Ridley's book 'The Red Queen', noting how much history has tried to skate over the more unpleasant facts of the matter, which stare one in the face. It been claimed, for example, that men preferred to buy young girls - they always fetched a high price - simply to breed more slaves to be sold, rather than because they hoped to purchase a young mistress of sorts, or to build up a harem. As Ridley notes, that doesn't explain very well why male slaves were forced to remain celibate, unless her sexual fidelity was also an issue. Nor does it explain why virgin slaves were valued so much more and - most detrimentally - already pregnant slaves so much less. Men essentially used female slaves to spread their genes, and would free young male slaves born in their households long before economic benefit or necessity would suggest it was sensible: they were freeing their own children.

Alterior said...

Thanks Peter, I will have a look at that.
Women and children have always been the ones most exploited all throughout history. It is worth noting though that male slaves were abused sexually, just as much as women in ancient Rome. Men often had homosexual relations and indeed it was expected of a young man to have 'encounters' with other males. Of course, once he was married this was not really acceptable. The role of agressor was seen as superior and therefore male slaves were often subjected to anal penetration, whether they liked it or not.

Peter said...

Best to look at the whole book. :) It's more scentific than historical, but it is one of those books that permanently changes one's view of the world.

Alterior said...

Thanks :-))