Related Content

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • History
  • Regional and National History


Show Summary Details



Quick Reference

 Emancipated slaves were more prominent in Roman society than in Greek city‐states or Hellenistic kingdoms (see slavery). Lat. lībertus/a designates the ex‐slave in relation to former owner (patronus/a), lībertīnus/a in relation to the rest of society. In Greek communities, freed slaves usually merged with other free non‐citizens. In Rome, the slave freed by a citizen was normally admitted to citizenship (see citizenship, roman). A slave might be released from the owner's control by a fictitious claim before a magistrate with executive power (imperium) that he/she was free, by being ordered to present himself to the censors for registration as a citizen (public authority attested citizen status and made it impossible for the slave to be a slave), or by will (implementation of the owner's command was postponed until he/she died and depended on acceptance of the inheritance and public validation). A slave freed informally lacked citizenship and other rights, but was protected by the praetor, until Augustus introduced Latin rights, with the possibility (expanded by later emperors) of promotion to full citizenship. Augustus also regulated the previously untrammelled right to manumit.

In Greece, the ex‐slave might be bound to perform services while the ex‐owner lived; in Rome, continuing dependency took the form of part‐time services, possible remunerated work, the obligation of dutifulness. Freedmen were usually registered in the four urban voting tribes (tribus), excluded from major public offices and military service, but given a role in local elective office and cult. Children born after their mother's manumission were free‐born and under no legal disabilities, though servile descent might be remembered (esp. by the upper classes) for several generations. Freed slaves document their activity in urban trades and crafts; the most prominent, rich, and envied were usually freed by the upper classes: literature emphasizes the exceptions—writers such as Terence, the fictitious millionaire Trimalchio (see petronius arbiter) or the bureau‐chiefs of the early emperors such as Narcissus and Antonius Pallas.

See names, personal, roman.

Reference entries

View all reference entries »