Thursday, August 30, 2007

Roman Slavery and the Rate of Manumission

It seems that very time the Roman Empire is discussed someone always points out the number of slaves that were exploited by Roman citizens as if the Romans invented slavery. One thing that was unique about Roman slavery compared to slavery in other parts of the ancient world is the Romans had a structured process of social advancement that provided a means for slaves to become freedmen through the procedure called manumission. Scholars have debated just how often manumission was used in Roman Society and how many slaves were freed as a result.

Today, I noticed this post up at About: Ancient History:

"In 357 Rome passed a law called the Lex Manlia imposing a manumission tax. Freeing slaves from then on would incur a 5% fee. Because 5% is one twentieth, the tax was referred to as a Vicesima. (Livy VII.16)

H.H. Scullard, in A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC. (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1980) says that based on records of these taxes, by 209 B.C., an estimated 1350 slaves may have been manumitted each year."
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