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Slavery In Greece And Rome Essay

3289 words - 13 pages

Slavery in Greece and Rome

The issue of slavery has been debated since its early inception. In recent times, there has been considerable debate as to the definition of slavery. Western scholars have attempted to justify slavery of the New World by comparing it to the slavery that existed in Biblical times as well as Greco-Roman and African slavery. Some argue that there can be no international definition of slavery. Others try to define by a few words that apply to every instance of slavery. The only true way to define slavery is according to each society in which it was based. Webster's dictionary defines slavery submission to a dominating influence or the state of a person who is a chattel of another. Though Webster's gives this very general definition, there are many other meanings that may come to a person's mind depending on the region of the world that one is speaking of. In Rome, there were different forms of slavery and slavery was not based on any particular thing such as color. Where did these slaves come from? It has been said that "slaves are either born or made." During the Republican period one of the principal sources of slaves had been prisoners of war. There was significant number of Jewish slaves acquired as a result of the crushing of the Jewish rebellion by Vespasian and Titus (AD 66-70) The steady expansion in Britain continued to supply British slaves onto the market. Great numbers of prisoners of war reached Rome from the Dacian wars of Trajan. Also, after the Jewish revolt led by Bar-Cochba in AD 132-35 an additional number of Jews were sold as slaves. As well as prisoners of war, there were other groups of people who were made slaves. There were those who were kidnapped and sold into slavery. There were also persons that were made slaves as a result of piracy. This practice was considerably restricted when Pompey crushed the pirates after the passing of the Lex Gabinia in 67 BC. Piracy was also restricted later when the piratical Illyrians were defeated at the conclusion at the battle of Actium in 31 BC. Another source of slaves was purchase from over the boundaries of the empire. Roman soldiers involved in frontier wars and rebellions had many opportunities to buy prisoners of war as slaves at disposal auctions. Although this is not mentioned in the contemporary literature, this information can be found in papyrus, which reveals that soldiers did indeed own slaves. There were other ways by which slaves were obtained. The sale of offspring by parents was one of the ways that slaves were obtained. This occurred particularly in hard times when parents attempted to ease their burden. There is evidence that this practice did take place during the first centuries of the empire. However, the practice is unlikely to have been widespread. There are even accounts of how the Frisians in Lower Germany, being subjected to an excessive tribute by the Romans, were forced eventually to sell their wives and children into slavery....

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