ahorbinski: an imperial stormtrooper with the word "justic3" (imperial justice)
Bibliographic Data: Bradley, Keith. Slavery and Society at Rome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Main Argument: Slavery was a fundamental part of Roman society, and Bradley lays down its various fundamental aspects. As a slave society, Rome cannot be understood without considering slavery, and what it was like to be a slave at Rome.

Slavery and society at Rome )

Conclusion: Argument, Sources, Examples Slaves were subject at all times to indignity, violence, and caprice, and the fact that it was possible for freedmen to rise high in Roman society does not render the institution any less brutal.
It is a historical, objective reality that slavery was an evil, violent and brutalizing institution that the Romans themselves, across a vast interval of time and space, consciously chose to maintain, for which they themselves were responsible, whose justification they never seriously questioned and for which no apology or exoneration can now be offered. Slavery for the Romans was not a peculiar institution but the standard by which all else in society was measured and judged: it was a way of thinking about society and social categorization. To recognize this is not to depreciate the successes of elite culture or even to assign blame; it is only to bring into proper historical and intellectual focus the incalculable degree of human misery and suffering those successes cost, and to guarantee that a sanitized and distorted version of the past does not prevail. (181)

Critical assessment: By and large this book does what it says on the tin, with the added bonus of refusing to be deceived by romanticism about the Romans and their slaveowning practices. It also does a nice job of bringing out the fact that, although slaves shared the same legal status, they were in fact of vastly differing classes--i.e. the slaves in the familia Caesaris versus agricultural laborers, for example.

Further reading: Harper, Slavery in the Late Roman World; Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves


ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

August 2017

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