deathbed manumissions

It is a particular institution of the Old World: slavery. The Greeks and Romans practiced slavery and condoned it- for war, for luxury, and for business. But even they knew it to be evil…

Bills of sale were usually written on perishable material, so that it is only by accident that a handful, written on papyrus or wax tablets, has survived. This is a pity, because there is no other evidence from which to build a statistical picture of the racial and national composition of the large slave populations of the ancient world. But the broad contours of the picture are clear enough, and they shifted with the times. The crucial point was that there were no specifically slave races or nationalities. Literally anyone and everyone might be enslaved, and which groups predominated at one time or another depended on politics and war. Greeks enslaved Greeks when they could, Romans enslaved Greeks, and they both enslaved anyone else they could lay their hands on by capture or trade.

—The Slave Market is a painting by 19th century artist Gustave Boulanger. It depicts a Roman slave auction and appears to be intended to show the horrific aspects of human beings being for sale. It shows the marketing of seven young people, ranging in age from children to young adults, as slaves. Both male slaves, as well as two of the female slaves, bear a similarity in appearance, perhaps suggesting that they are members of a family forced into slavery by economic conditions. All are wearing tags to indicate their availability as slaves. The auctioneer adds to the sense of horror with his very casual attitude.—Read More:

The majority of slaves, however, were always “uncivilized” from the point of view of the Greeks and Romans. Inevitably, the attempt was made, therefore, to justify slavery as an institution on the ground of the natural inferiority of the slaves. The attempt failed: it had to for several reasons. In the first place, there was too large a minority that could not be squeezed into the theory. For example, after the Romans defeated the Carthaginians under Hannibal, they turned East and conquered the Greek world, bringing back to Italy in the course of the next two centuries hundreds of thousands of captives.

—A 2004 book, however, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters by Robert C. Davis has made a stab at saying how many Europeans were enslaved. David starts with the idea that slaves were taken in three ways by the Barbary slavers. A tiny fraction were wrecked on the shore of Barbary, a small number – perhaps a sixth – were actually picked up from the European shore or inland, and the rest were prisoners taken off waylaid ships .
By ‘playing’ with these numbers and constantly searching for a sensible minimum the scholar manages to come up with 1-1.25 million European captives sold in the Muslim slave markets between 1530 and 1780! Indeed, sometimes there were so many European slaves in those markets that it was possible to pick up a Christian ‘for the price of an onion’.— Read More:

Among the effects of this involuntary Greek invasion was cultural revolution.”Captive Greece made captive her rude conqueror,” said the Roman poet Horace, and it was manifestly impossible to maintain the doctrine of natural inferiority against a people who provided the bulk of the teachers and who introduced philosophy and the drama and the best sculpture and architecture into a society whose virtues had not previously lain in those directions.

In the second place, it was a common practice in antiquity to free one’s slaves as a reward for faithful service, most often, perhaps, on one’s deathbed. There were no rules abou this, but some idea of the proportions that were sometimes reached can be gathered from one of the laws passed by the first of the Roman emperor’s Augustus. He tried to put a brake on deathbed manumissions, probably to protect the interest of the heirs, and so he established maxima on a sliding scale, according to which no man was allowed to free more than one hundred slaves in his will. After centuries of continuing manumissions, who could distinguish the “naturally superior” from the “naturally inferior” among the inhabitants of Greek and Roman cities, especially in the absence of any significant distinction in skin color?

—These Scythians were slaves, and were employed by the city, as were the guardians of public buildings, and the inspectors of weights and measures in the public markets. The majority of the town heralds, constables, and clerks of the city courts and accounting departments were slaves. Those whose responsibility included the guarding of the treasury of the armed forces were slaves, as were most of those who kept and guarded the official archives of the city. At the Pnyx , slave civil servants sat directly behind the President, ready to provide him with the text of some relevant law or ruling pertaining to the matter under consideration. In fact, when it was decided that a revision of the law codes of Athens needed to be done, the responsibility for this important task was entrusted to a civil servant by the name of Nicómachus, a slave, who, as chief archivist of the courts, was the man most qualified for the job.—Read More:


( see link at end) …Prior to the 10th century, words other than “slave” were used for all kinds of unfree laborers. For instance, the old Latin word servus was used for both serfs and chattel slaves.

In Modern English, the word slave originates from “sclave” around 1290. It’s based on the Byzantine Greek “sklabos” meaning Slavic people”. The term originally referred to various peoples from Eastern and Central Europe since many Slavic and other people from these ar

were captured and sold as slaves by the Vikings and later the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I.

The enslavement of so many White Christian people is where the word slave originated….

…Although outlawed in nearly all countries, forms of slavery still exist in many parts of the world. According to Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves (FTS), an advocacy group linked with Anti-Slavery International, there were 27 million people (although some put the number as high as 200 million) who worked in virtual slavery in 2007, spread all over the world. According to FTS, these slaves represent the largest number of people that has ever been in slavery at any point in world history and the smallest percentage of the total human population that has ever been enslaved at once.

FTS claims that present-day slaves have been sold for $40 in Mali for young adult male workers and as much as $1,000 in Thailand for HIV-free females able to work in brothels. The lower limit represents the lowest price that there has ever been for a slave: the price of a comparable male slave in 1850 in the United States would have been about $25,800 in present-day terms (US$1,000 in 1850). That difference, even allowing for differences in purchasing power, is significant. As a result of the lower price, the economic advantages of present-day slavery are clear….Read More:

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