Topic – Slavery in Ancient Rome

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Read about slavery in ancient Rome, or click on the play button below to listen aloud.

Slavery in Ancient Rome

Aqueducts carried water into Rome. Public slaves fixed them so they would always work.

A Life of Slavery

Slaves were very important in Ancient Rome. They did most of the work that people would get paid for today.

Who were these slaves? Some were soldiers captured in battle and sent back to Rome as slaves. Some were children who had no parents.

There were two groups of slaves: public and private. Public slaves were owned by the government. They took care of public buildings. They built roads and cleaned sewers. Some worked as clerks and tax collectors for the city.

Private slaves were owned by individuals. Not all slaves did the same kinds of jobs. Some, such as Greeks, were well educated. They might work as teachers or doctors. Others were domestic slaves. They worked as cooks, maids, hairdressers, and tailors in households. Others worked on farms or in mines. Some became gladiators.

Nearly everyone who was a Roman citizen owned at least one slave. A rich man might own as many as 500 slaves. An emperor could own as many as 20 000 slaves.

My Life as a Slave

My name is Pallas. I am 12 years old. I am a slave in the household of a rich Roman named Claudius. My mother is a slave, so I am, too.

My mother is a cook. When I was very small, she started teaching me how to work in the kitchen. I cut up vegetables to go with the meat and wash the fruit for dessert.  She also taught me how to serve the family. Sometimes I get to carry in food for the main meal of the day.

I am lucky because I am a house slave. I do not have to work in the fields or in the mines. Claudius is not a cruel master but I have to do everything I am told to do by the family. If I do things right, I am not punished.

Sometimes I dream of being free. I would like to go to school and learn to read and write. I hear the family talking about places outside of Rome. I would like to travel and see those places. But I know it will not happen. My master could make me a free person, but there is no reason for him to do that. I am his property. So I try to be happy because I have a place to sleep and food to eat and a mother to take care of me.

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