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Slavery in the Roman Empire Essay

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Updated: Feb 6th, 2019

The Roman Empire had mixed complexities with ruthlessness and could suddenly heave from civilization, dictatorship, and extreme greed. Besides, it had different leaders who exercised their powers in unusual ways. Consequently, the unworthy empires abused their offices by infuriating their subjects. They employed several ways of ruling over the Roman Empire (Gordon 94).

For instance, the emperors established the top most social order in Rome where the less privileged especially the poor and the slaves were discriminated. As a result, the administration interfered with the social status of many citizens negatively (Duiker and Spielvogel 83). Actually, they rarely had freedom since others who felt that they were highly placed in the society could mock some of the subjects.

Apparently, there were several conflicts and anxiousness among the citizens within the Roman community. Certainly, this was because of the social classes that were in place between different groups of people. The elite were the rich people, and majority of the population that comprised of the common farmers, artisans, and merchants known as the plebeians occupied the low status (85).

Slavery in the Ancient Roman Empire was highly abusive and degrading. Joining the likes of Ancient Greece and Egypt, Rome practiced slavery that was not based on race. The empire had captured sailors, prisoners of war, and pirates who could be mistreated, branded and whipped.

The harsh treatment is evident in the manner in which their owners possessed them as properties, and could sell or kill them at will, with no punishment for human right’s violation.

Even though the concept of slavery was wholly accepted within the empire, Seneca, a poet and philosopher, held that slaves, just like other humans, should be given fair treatment. The empire practiced manumission in which slaves could either buy their freedom or get outright release from their masters (Gordon 95). Such slaves were accorded fewer rights since the manumission was informal.

However, slaves who were freed formally had to go to the magistrate, and were given rights to become full citizens of Rome, but could not hold public offices. On the other hand, their off springs had full rights of citizenship. So orchestrated was the slavery aspect within this society that even after full freedom, former slaves could not overcome the slavery stigma.

Since the Roman population was incredibly sensitive about the social status of every individual, it was made up of various groups and domestic slaves, which were the fundamental groups in the society. In fact, the less advantaged had no right to influence the decisions made by other people considered great in the society and, subsequently, the older citizens sold most young citizens into slavery.

Worst of all, some were even killed especially those who attempted to oppose the actions by the elders and the most respected people in the society (105). On the other hand, this form of inequality resulted into a governance structure where there was a shared advantage among the citizens.

For instance, most of the rich showed a lot of respect to those whom they employed; they could go with them to the social places and business forums. The Roman Empire preferred slave labor to any other job. Consequently, most people who were arrested and detained during the war became slaves in the Empire. Most bosses exploited the slaves, as they worked in large agricultural firms and were beaten up ruthlessly.

Besides, Greek slaves were in high demand because most of them were professionals. Businesspersons also employed them as shop assistants and artisans. However, most slaves from other regions were household workers who could cook and take care of gardens (Gibbon 202). As a result of the exploitation, there was an episodic slave revolts revolutions which was founded to help them come out of the bondage .

The movement was led by Thracian Gladiator Spartacus; he succeeded in overpowering most of the Romans. Nonetheless, the Roman government later killed him. Even though most of the girls in some well-to-do families went to primary schools to where they received basic education, they were forced into early marriage at their teens. This culture led largely to discrimination on women. Definitely, they had no voice in the community and they could not question any move by men (Duiker and Spielvogel 95).

Further, most men viewed them as children and even the law required the males to be their advocates. They could not even own property or even attend any function presided over by men. The Roman law considered slaves as personal properties that owners could possess, mistreat, and dispossess at will. With poor living and working conditions, slaves contributed to the growth of the Ancient Rome’s economy.

There are several reasons for the fall of the empire. Some of the combined dramatic events that led to the fall of Rome include political incompetence, invasion by the Visigoths and Huns tribes from central and northern Europe respectively, corruption, inflation and military overreach (Gordon 99). Historians have suggested that the infighting within the army coupled with the infiltration of Germanic tribesmen into the ranks diluted and weaken the once powerful force. Moreover, the extraneous expenses by the military in defending the borders of the empire from barbarian attacks drained the government.

With such overspending in the military, the government could not provide vital services, such as public housing and maintain quality roads (Gibbon 245). Frustrations set in among the Romans and they went on to lose the need to fight for the interests of the empire. Sensing lose of desire to defend the Empire, the government hired soldiers from foreign nations and unemployed city mobs. The new crops in the army were not only unreliable, but also expensive to maintain, thus pushed up inflation.

The increase in prices of essential commodities that began after the reign of Marcus Aurelius arose due to less gold to mint coins, as the Romans were spending them to pay for luxury items. The coins lost value due to the reduction in the number of gold, thus forcing merchants to increase the prices of their products.

Wealthy men carried out large-scale farming in large estates, latifundia, and used slaves as the source of labor (Duiker and Spielvogel 100). The large-scale aspect made it difficult for citizen farmers to compete with the low prices. Consequently, they abandoned farming and moved to cities with unemployed people.

Evidently, unemployment among the working class became rife in the Roman Empire; it went on to cause instability in the operations of the empire. Nevertheless, the Roman Empire later failed due to inadequate support from a section of citizens who were disappointed by the manner it carried out its duties. Evidently, the subjects of Justinian were the most affected group. The Empire experienced poverty; this was after the monks took over Europe and Asia (Gibbon 240). Acts of oppression are evident in the fall of the Roman Empires.

Works Cited

Duiker, William J., and Jackson J. Spielvogel. The Essential World History. 7th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth;, 2013. Print.

Gibbon, Edward. “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” International Journal Political Thought 140 (1977): 200-250. Print.

Gordon, William D. “The Nationality of Slaves under the Early Roman Empire.” Journal of Roman Studies 14 (1924): 93-111. Print.

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