Slavery in Ancient Rome

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Freed person in ancient Rome was man or woman released from slavery legally by their owner through the formal process known as manumission. It is thought that most emancipation took place for men by around age thirty and for women toward their end of their childbearing years.But exceptions were always possible.Since there is no statistics the number of slaves freed and their age is not exactly known.Manumission was far more popular and numerous under the Emperor Augustus.The cap of freedom, red conical hat, was symbol of a freed person.This cap, however, was not worn as an everyday covering, it was a ceremonial one.

Once the man or women slave become free they don’t go back to where they came from originally instead become a full member of the Roman society.Freed person were considered as plebeian class which is one of the social classes in early Rome.They become a citizen of Rome with all the rights and restrictions and get a three part name as free Romans.The name consisted of the master or mistress name as praenomen, their slave men and cognomen usually based on professions.The restriction on a freed person was determined by economic circumstances, individual ability, and ambition, not by social restrictions.One of their rights as a Roman citizen was the right to vote.

A freed person does not break ties with his or her familia rather increases them since they took on the role of a client with you master or mistress as your patron. The relationship between a patron and client was expressed by a ritual where the freed person had to visit the Patron’s house and reswear its loyalty and in return the patron would give a symbolic gift like food or toga.The client and patron had mutual benefits.As a client, a freed person was assisted by their patron by either receiving money, getting business advice, legal assistance or could also be an introduction to someone they want to know from business related matters.Therefore, the patron would benefit both socially and financially.

Freed person had to do what the patron asks from them and this could be either by voting for them or by offering their service for free or a lower price.Sometimes they used to overwork for the patron and be abused therefore was stated that a freedwoman over fifty years old could not be forced to provide labour for her patron.In other ways the patron could control future behaviour of freedman by forcing to accept a large loan which binds him to the patron through debt or forcing him to remain unmarried to inherit the freeman’s estate rather than his children.In short, patrons often used legal or illegal means to bind freedmen.

Freedman or freedwomen in the Roman society were the backbone of the imperial economy and civil services.They were usually skilled workers.Even though they had similar rights as a freeborn but after a while a law was introduced stating that a freedman they can have the same rights except that he can’t run for senate if his previous three generation were free.The status of freeman in the Roman society increased under the rule of emperors.There were poor plebeians, middle-class plebeians and wealthy plebeians. A freedman coming out of slavery most often had a trade or occupation that he had learned or trained in as part of his slave experience.Usually, a freed person worked the same jobs as plebeians as craftsmen, midwives or traders.Some freedmen were gladiators,actors ,lawyer ,doctors, artists, and architects.

They were active in a wide range of occupation.A freed person can also have great wealth from their own business like owning a successful bakery or if they had a powerful patron involved in politics by working for them and the last one is if their master or mistress made them the designated heir because they have no family or the freed person had a high place or relationship with the owner. Very few freed people worked as prostitutes which were considered as a lower status job.One of the highly successful freedman who made a lot of money as a bakery contractor was Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces. If a freed person was an imperial slave then to freedman they had access to wealth than any other Roman citizen too.These freedmen were different from ordinary freemen.The imperial freedmen were relied upon the machinery of the empire which was thought of as a great household by the emperor and to be managed like any other estate.There were also times where the wealthy and higher class of the society had to bow to them when bowing to the emperor if they were agents to the emperor.

They received hatred from the elite people since they didn’t want a former slave to have as equal or sometimes more wealth than they had. Freedmen had friendships or rivalries with other freedmen too.Despite their competitions they usually associated with other freedmen.It was also stated that they formed their own association but it was rare. The most significant social accomplishments of freedmen were freedom for himself and his family.Not for all them but with ones who had relationships in slavery it was important in freeing the wife and offspring.The child of a freedman would have the same rights as a freeborn too.They not only found identity in their freedom and families, but also in their work.

In terms of religion freedmen had a rich religious life. Both men and women were involved in religious associations in common with slaves and free men, especially in households.Some freedmen were also priests.They were active in many cults like the cult of Vestal virgins.An example would be Decimus Licinius Astragalus; freedmen of Decimus, was the priest of vestal virgins.They did not do their religion different from free borns, and it was done the same way as others.They worshiped gods of Roman religion like Jupiter.Generally, freedmen levied under stigma because of their previous status in the Roman society and that usually stayed with them for life, no matter how successful.A typical freedman was multifaceted, smart, informed and economically prepared.

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Slavery In Ancient Rome. (2022, Feb 06). Retrieved June 25, 2024 , from

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