Slavery in Ancient Rome.

Essay by bigjoesmith1969College, UndergraduateA, September 2005

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Sextus Julius Frontinus, Aqueducts of Rome, Book II: 116-117 (Shelton pg.168)

The topic identified in the primary source is slavery in ancient Rome. This topic will be discussed with the summaries of three sources:

Madden, J. (1996) 'Slavery in the Roman Empire Numbers and Origins', Classics Ireland Vol.3:


This article is an analysis of the overall demographic of slaves in ancient Rome. The methodology of the author is research based. The author amalgamates evidence from many sources in order to come to sensible conclusions about the "number of slaves and their origins."

The article is upfront in stating the limitations in ascertaining accurate estimates of the number of slaves in the Roman Empire. The conditions varied from time to time and from place to place, yet an estimate, although difficult, is tabulated. This formulation takes into account the great numbers in the imperial household and in the civil service; including the normal staff on the aqueducts (700 slaves).

As well, "certain rich private individuals too had large numbers - as much for ostentation as for work." Meanwhile, other areas in the Empire had comparatively few slaves. "The evidence from papyri suggests that in all likelihood slaves in Egypt never rose much above 10% of the population and in poorer areas there dropped to as low as 2%." Taking into account such points such as the preceding details, "16.6%-20% of the estimated entire population of the Empire in the first century AD, i.e. one in every five or six persons would have been a slave." However the author acknowledges this is still very much a speculation.

The origin of these slaves is also a main focus of this article. The author poses two questions from which the discussion is conducted. "What number of new slaves was needed...