Roman Slavery

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the role of slavery in the Roman world, from its early conquests to the fall of the Western Empire. The system became so entrenched that no-one appeared to question it, following Aristotle’s view that slavery was a natural state. Whole populations could be marched into slavery after military conquests, and the freedom that Roman citizens prized for themselves, even in poverty, was partly defined by how it contrasted with enslavement. Slaves could be killed or tortured with impunity, yet they could be given great responsibility and, once freed, use their contacts to earn fortunes. The relationship between slave and master informed early Christian ideas of how the faithful related to God, informing debate for centuries.

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  • Neville Morley 3 episodes
    Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter
  • Ulrike Roth No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Edinburgh
  • Myles Lavan No other episodes
    Senior lecturer in Ancient History at the University of St Andrews

Reading list

  • Free at Last!: The Impact of Freed Slaves on the Roman Empire
    Sinclair Bell and Teresa Ramsby (eds.) (Bloomsbury, 2013) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge World History of Slavery: Volume 1, The Ancient Mediterranean World
    Keith Bradley and Paul Cartledge (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Slavery and Society at Rome
    Keith Bradley (Cambridge University Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire: A Study in Social Control
    K. Bradley (Oxford University Press, 1987) Google Books →
  • Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology
    Moses I. Finley (Markus Wiener Publishers, 1998) Google Books →
  • Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine
    Peter Garnsey (Cambridge University Press, 1996) Google Books →
  • Roman Slavery and Roman Material Culture
    Michelle George (ed.) (University of Toronto Press, 2012) Google Books →
  • The Material Life of Roman Slaves
    Sandra R. Joshel and Lauren Hackworth Petersen (Cambridge University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • Slavery in the Roman world
    Sandra R. Joshel (Cambridge University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Freedman in the Roman World
    Henrik Mouritsen (Cambridge University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Greek and Roman Slavery
    Thomas Wiedemann (Routledge, 1981) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b09xnl51

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Auto-category: 937 (Ancient Rome)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. For a civilisation that valued liberty so highly, Romans had a spectacular number of slaves.