Plautus and Roman Slavery

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John Wiley & Sons, May 21, 2012 - History - 229 pages
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This book offers both a complete history of Roman slavery and an investigation into finding and interpreting evidence of it. Evidence on Roman slavery for the period is minimal. To get at its mechanics and underpinnings, we must look at it indirectly. Slavery is a relationship of power, and to study slavery—and not simply masters or slaves—we need to see the interactions of individuals who speak to each other, a rare kind of evidence from the ancient world.

Plautus’ comedies could be our most reliable source for reconstructing the lives of slaves in ancient Rome. By reading literature alongside the historical record, we can conjure a thickly contextualized picture of slavery in the late third and early second centuries BCE, the earliest period for which we have such evidence.

The book discusses how slaves were captured and sold; their treatment by the master and the community; the growth of the conception of the slave as “other than human,” and as chattel; and the problem of freedom both for slaves and society.

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Human Property
Enslavement or Seasoning Slaves
Violence Private and Communal
Release from Slavery
The Problem of Action

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About the author (2012)

Roberta Stewart is Associate Professor of Classics at Dartmouth College. She is the author of Public Office in Early Rome: Ritual Procedure and Political Practice (1998).

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