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CLAS 3207 Roman Slavery Primary Sources and their problems
Primary Sources for the Study of Greek and Roman Slavery n Primary sources: documents and non-documentary evidence dating back to antiquity n Main Problems: 1) fragmentary and uneven: 2) nothing written by slaves themselves (literature and legal material authored by elite males). n 3) Not concerned with slavery as a topic (exception: a few philosophical works). n must be evaluated in historical and cultural context and each type of evidence in conjunction with other types of evidence. n n n
Literary Evidence n n Variety of genres: epic poetry; lyric poetry; drama (tragedy, comedy); satire; historical writings; philosophical treatises; Political speeches; legal speeches; Legal documents (collections of laws, judgments; edicts; imperial rescripts, etc. ) Papyri from Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: census reports; marriage contracts listing dowries, divorce settlements, sales contracts, petitions to officials and responses, apprenticeship contracts, private letters, etc.
Evaluation of Primary Documents Questions to ask of each document n n n n What is the nature of the evidence? (i. e literary, inscription, etc. ) If literary – what genre does document belong to? (i. e. epic poetry, tragedy, legal speech). In what ways do rules of genre impact the content of document? Context: when was it written (historical, political context) Who wrote it, for what purpose? What biases are contained in document? What kind of evidence about slavery can we extract from the document?
Papyrus Pieces from a census report. n Census reports: declaration of property, members of household, including slaves with ages and gender. n
P. Berlin, Leihg. , 15 (189 CE) n . . property I am registering in the house-byhouse census of the aforementioned village. . (date, etc) I (the declarant), named Isidora, 60+ years of age, and my slaves (lit. slave bodies): Philoumene, 45 years old, and her offspring Diskouros, 8 years old, and Athenarios, 4 years old; and another slave, Elephantine, offspring of Demetria, 20 years old, and her offspring Eudaimonis, 5 years old, and Isaurous, 1 year old; and another female slave, Helene, who has run away, 68 years old; and Ammonarion, 42 years old, and Herakleia, 38
n Years old, who have also run away. I thus declare in year 29 of our Lord Emperor Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Caesar, Mesore 19 (c. mid-August).
The Girl Abaskantis (P. Turner 22) n n In the consulship of L. Cuspius Rufinus and L. Statius Quadratus, at Side, before L. Claudius Aspicatus, demiurge and priest of the goddess Roman, on 26 Loos, Pamphilos, otherwise known as Kanopos, son of Aigyptos, from Alexandria, has purchased in the marketplace from Artemidoros, son of Aristokles, the slave girl Abaskantis, or by whatever other name she may be known, a ten-year old Galatian, for the sum of 280 silver denarii. Continued….
continued n M. Aelius Gavianus stands surety for and guarantees the sale. The girl is healthy, in accordance with the Edict of the Aediles …. is free of liability in all respects, is prone neither to wandering nor running away, and is free of epilepsy…”
How do we evaluate this document?
n What is it? - Sales Contract n Roman document (how do we know), dated (where is the date? ) n What information about slavery does the document provide? n How reliable is it?
Digest 21. 1. 8. n “The question arises whether one whose tongue has been cut out is healthy. This problem is dealt with by Ofilius in respect of a horse. His opinion is in the negative. ”
Pliny, letter 3. 14 (Wiedemann #209)
Roman Comedy Plautus, 1 st Roman playwright 254 -184 BCE n Slave stock characters: i. e. servus callidus (the scheming, clever slave) but loyal; n They use trickery, need to be beaten to be good slaves n Bradley, Slaves and Masters: probably based on a popular conception that slaves, in reality, were deceitful and conniving, and such a conception can have only derived from the observed behaviour of slaves in everyday life. . . the troublesome slave. . has been converted by Plautus into innocent entertainment…. but …hardly minimises the historical substratum from which the playwright was woking (p. 29) n
Non-Literary Evidence n Inscriptions: Official inscriptions: edicts, tribute lists, manumission lists, inventory lists, honorary inscriptions, n Private tombstone inscriptions (the only extant direct evidence from lower classes including slaves)
ILS 1519 (Wiedemann # 33) n “To Titus Flavius Euschemon, Freedman of Augustus, who had been secretary for correspondence and also procurator of the Jewish poll tax. Flavia Aphrodisia set this up for her ex-owner and husband, who well deserved it. ”
Archaeological Evidence n Buildings (housing, etc. ), tombs, columbaria n Artifacts: tools, jewellery, household goods, etc. , n Sculptures, reliefs, wall paintings n coins
Tombstone of the Baker Eurysaces – a freedman Inscription indicates that he also held a minor magistracy. n What does it tell us about Marcus Livius Eurysaces, freedman of Marcus? n
Plautus, Pseudolus 139 -158 Ballio (a pimp) storms out of his house, brandishing a whip and round up a miscellaneous gang of slaves: n “Come along there, out here, the lot of you – idle rascals, scurvy scoundrels, not worth your keep!. . . If I didn’t keep them up to the mark with this (the whip) I should never get a day’s work out of them – Asses – more like asses than any men I ever saw – with hides tanned till they can’t feel it any more. …They’ve only one rule of life: watch your chance to steal, rob, plunder, loot, eat and drink, and do a bunk…. ” n (for more examples see Bradley, Ch. 1, footnote 44) n Link to complete play is on course home page. n
The gossiping slave Roman wall painting, depicting a scene from Roman comedy. n The gossipy slave – stock character n
Slaves in the kitchen
A freedman’s tombstone
tombstones n Late Republic Early Imperial Period, freed particularly common in setting up epitaphs often with reliefs – n Expression of their desire to be good Romans, sharing important social values: marriage, family, freeborn children -
n ILS 7420 a (Rome) n Psamate, Furia's personal house slave, who lived 18 years. Mithridates, baker, slave of Flaccus Thorius, made this.
n ILS 7539 (Rome) n Gaius Tullius Crescens, dealer in the marble trade, from the Galban Warehouse district, made this for himself in his lifetime and for Tullia Primilla, his beloved fellow-freedwoman, and for their own freedmen and freedwomen and their posterity
n CIL vi 9213 (Rome) n Inscription from an eating-place? n Flacceia Lais, freedwoman of Aulus; Orbia Lais, freedwoman of a woman; Cominia Philocaris, freedwoman of Marcus; Centuria Thais, freedwoman of Quintus, set up a kitchen for Venus, at their own cost; concession revocable.