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Ludovicus

slave-master relations in Rome

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Are there are records of Roman masters fathering offspring with slave women? In such a litigious society I would think that there'd be legal language on such relationships. If Roman slaves weren't considered fully human, as many have proposed, wouldn't it have been a common practice for masters to use slave women or men for their pleasure? And what about the children of women fathered by their masters? Their legal status?

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Very interesting questions all, Ludovicus.

The subject interests me very much. We had been discussing some of it in other threads these last few days.

Hey, caldrail, is this one for us ?

 

Formosus

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Often the women were freed (by dropping nuts on their heads) and their children became roman citizens like their fathers. Using slaves for pleasure was widespread but still frowned upon.

I bet few romans would tell a slave from the imperial household that he was less then human.

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Are there are records of Roman masters fathering offspring with slave women? In such a litigious society I would think that there'd be legal language on such relationships. If Roman slaves weren't considered fully human, as many have proposed, wouldn't it have been a common practice for masters to use slave women or men for their pleasure? And what about the children of women fathered by their masters? Their legal status?

The child was a slave if any of his/her parents was a slave while the mother was pregnant.

If both parents were slaves, the issue was the property of the mother's master.

 

It was a regular method for perpetuating chattel slavery.

In generaL terms, however, the Romans seem to have been less successful than other slave societies, especially the southern United States.

Edited by sylla

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I bet few romans would tell a slave from the imperial household that he was less then human.

I bet so too.

 

Using slaves for pleasure was widespread but still frowned upon.

This reminds me of the very funny scene from 'Spartacus' (can't find a clip I'm afraid, and yes, I know it is fiction) in which his 'master' tries to seduce his young slave (the young Tony Curtis ) with a very cryptic story about some people liking oysters and others liking snails and some liking both. 'It's all a question of taste and habit, really'.

 

I would say that while sexual relations between masters and their slaves have probably always been very common, it was also more often than not the case that the slave was willing and not seldom more than willing. No doubt, having a sexual relation with their master was for slaves one of the best ways to improve their lot and in most cases that might well have been the sole or overwhelming motive. But I have no doubt either that in many cases very real affections were involved. Humans are humans. And as Henry Kissinger said 'Power is the ultimate afrodisiac'. And is anyone more powerful in the eyes of a slave than his or her owner ? Unless you are a bizarre freak, why would you like to brutalise unwilling victims all the time if there are plenty of willing partners to chose from ? Maybe someone who really likes you even, why not ?

 

No doubt there are plenty of sources that will tell of brutal rape on a large scale, let's not kid ourselves.

But there are also plenty of examples where slaves rose to the highest positions by engaging in a relation with their masters. The Ottoman Empire which, as far as I am concerned, had as legitimate a claim to being the rightfull succesor of the Roman Empire as the Byzantine had, was ruled for a few decades by the Sultana Roxelana, an ex-slave of foreign descent. Yes, she came to the harem as an 'unwilling' slave, but the love that developed between her and Suleiman is legendary. After his death she was one of the best rulers that Empire ever had and she is still very much revered today. Or closer to home, the Empress Theodora. Not exactly a slave, but as a prostitute her social status was not much higher than that.

 

 

Formosus

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The child was a slave if any of his/her parents was a slave while the mother was pregnant.

 

Are you sure it that the child wouldn't be free if the mother was free at it's birth?

 

Anyway I believe that we are putting too much weight on the word slave. I've always had the feeling that slaves should be considered more as another class in society, just as rich, poor and patricians. Live as a slave could differ just as much as life as a free man.

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Anyway I believe that we are putting too much weight on the word slave. I've always had the feeling that slaves should be considered more as another class in society, just as rich, poor and patricians. Live as a slave could differ just as much as life as a free man.

 

Indeed. Slaves vs. free it's misleading. Slaves often are like freedman and often freedman are clients of their former owner, but in Rome everybody, not only freedman, had a patron. So, slave, freedman, client are different but related. Children and wifes are also a lot like slaves.

 

And as FV mentioned most ottoman sultans were sons of slave mothers and those mothers called "valide sultan" played a huge role at the court.

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The child was a slave if any of his/her parents was a slave while the mother was pregnant.

 

Are you sure it that the child wouldn't be free if the mother was free at it's birth?

 

Anyway I believe that we are putting too much weight on the word slave. I've always had the feeling that slaves should be considered more as another class in society, just as rich, poor and patricians. Live as a slave could differ just as much as life as a free man.

Lex Aelia-Sentia, commented by Gaius (Institutiones, I, 84).

The child from a slave father was servile, even if the mother was born free.

Edited by sylla

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Anyway I believe that we are putting too much weight on the word slave. I've always had the feeling that slaves should be considered more as another class in society, just as rich, poor and patricians. Live as a slave could differ just as much as life as a free man.

 

Indeed. Slaves vs. free it's misleading. Slaves often are like freedman and often freedman are clients of their former owner, but in Rome everybody, not only freedman, had a patron. So, slave, freedman, client are different but related. Children and wifes are also a lot like slaves.

 

And as FV mentioned most ottoman sultans were sons of slave mothers and those mothers called "valide sultan" played a huge role at the court.

That would be like saying that being a Jew or a Gipsy in Auschwitz was no big deal, as you could always become the warden's lover.

 

People, you must be joking; nuff' said.

Edited by sylla

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That would be like saying that being a Jew or a Gipsy in Auschwitz was no big deal, as you could always become the warden's lover.

 

People, you must be joking; nuff' said.

 

No offence but you are wrong at this point. Being a Jew in Auschwitz and a slave in Rome isn't even comparable. I don't really know how to begin my argument and will have to return tonight when I'm back from Ostia.

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Oh, Reductio ad Nazium, elegant!

Slavery in the Old World was never like in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Also, choosing your sexual partners, especially for females, it's a recent trend and is still far from universal.

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No offence but you are wrong at this point. Being a Jew in Auschwitz and a slave in Rome isn't even comparable. I don't really know how to begin my argument and will have to return tonight when I'm back from Ostia.
Oh, Reductio ad Nazium, elegant!

Slavery in the Old World was never like in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Also, choosing your sexual partners, especially for females, it's a recent trend and is still far from universal.

No offense taken.

 

BTW, I'm not sure which one is implied to be in a worse position, the Old World slave or Uncle Tom, the slave in Rome or the Jew in Auschwitz. My own guess is that it was a quite personal issue that varied ad infinitum for any given individual.

 

Slavery is human beings considered as property, a fascinating issue that modifies virtually any imaginable aspect of the affected societies; law, religion, economy, family, politics, culture, to name a few.

 

Its diversity has been almost infinite; from the prisoners

Edited by sylla

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The child was a slave if any of his/her parents was a slave while the mother was pregnant.

 

Are you sure it that the child wouldn't be free if the mother was free at it's birth?

 

Anyway I believe that we are putting too much weight on the word slave. I've always had the feeling that slaves should be considered more as another class in society, just as rich, poor and patricians. Live as a slave could differ just as much as life as a free man.

Lex Aelia-Sentia, commented by Gaius (Institutiones, I, 84).

The child from a slave father was servile, even if the mother was born free.

Thanks for this reference to Roman law. I was certain that the Romans regulated

the status of the offspring of these unions.

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If we are judging from the moral point of view of modernity we can issue a general condemnation of slavery. If we are trying to understand the past (and the present) then we must look at that almost infinite diversity of this social issue.

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I bet few romans would tell a slave from the imperial household that he was less then human.

The point thats been lost over the recent exchanges concerning slavery is the ambivalence of the Romans toward slavery. Would a Roman say "You're less than a person?"

 

Actually, yes, they would, if they felt they had reason. A slave in the imperial household might be anything from a trusted retainer and confidant to the far more common drink dispenser. The fact a slave was in the imperial household was neither here nor there, and a view of the slaves quarters in the homes of the wealthy on the Palatine shows the restricted space and dark passages these people were kept in.

 

It might well be then that in such an enviroment occcaisionally a slave got a little above himself, especially since imperial families were even more careful about appearances than lesser folk. You wouldn't want to be seen with slaves who talk back or disobey if you're standing beside the Emperor.

 

Slavery is human beings considered as property, a fascinating issue that modifies virtually any imaginable aspect of the affected societies; law, religion, economy, family, politics, culture, to name a few.

A modern definition, though I accept the difference with the Roman model is subtle and carries with it a stronger message about the value of freedom.

 

Also, choosing your sexual partners, especially for females, it's a recent trend and is still far from universal.

Roman women in the Principate chose their own partners at will. Sex for pleasure was a method of filling in the free time these women had, and their wealth meant they weren't preoccupied with manual labour. The Romans were using contraception - abeit a little primitive. Marriage was another matter of course.

 

Anyway I believe that we are putting too much weight on the word slave. I've always had the feeling that slaves should be considered more as another class in society, just as rich, poor and patricians. Live as a slave could differ just as much as life as a free man.

I find that a suspect way of regarding slaves. Just another class? I seriously doubt many Romans saw them as such. The Roman caste system was well established and the slave fell outside it, since as property and something officially less than human, they could not be part of society (though again Roman ambivalence found such roles as convenient).

 

Hey, caldrail, is this one for us ?

Anyone can discuss it, Don't be so cheeky :P

Edited by caldrail

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