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In ancient Rome, did a lot of people feel guilty about owning slaves?

In ancient Rome, did a lot of people feel guilty about owning slaves?

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Do we have historical evidence which shows whether significant number of people felt guilty about owning (without necessarily abusing) slaves in the ancient Roman era, e.g. 1-2 century AD?

According to The Dawn of European Civilization by G. Hartwell Jones (1903), slaves in Rome were "looked upon as fit for nothing but the cross, the stake, or the arena" [for gladiatorial combat]. In Rome, the "principle that the slave was destitute of legal rights" applied. Improvements in their status were slow to come.

The position of the home-born slave, verna [… ] generally the offspring of slaves, leaves on the mind an impression far from disagreeable. Like his Greek counterpart, as in the case of Eumseus, the verna was often brought up with his master's children. In later days, as the pages of the Latin poets testify, the vernulce (a diminutive and familiar form) were often objects of favour, if not of affection. They became acquainted with all the household management, and often took liberties with their masters.

1878 oil painting by Fyodor Andreyevich Bronnikov, "The damned box. Place of execution in ancient Rome. The crucified slaves" [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Subsequently slaves fared sometimes better -- being allowed to acquire property to save up for the purpose of purchasing their freedom -- and sometimes worse:

Slaves were obliged to submit to the branding iron, a significant custom which betrays the sentiments entertained concerning slavery, and is eloquent of the condition of these unfortunate beings. Their masters saw no intrinsic value in humanity. Like cattle they were "animate property."

[… ]

[I]t is clear from the abundant evidence afforded by the pages of Martial and Juvenal that the degradation and demoralization of the slave class was one of the darkest features of the early Empire, the most corrupt age in the annals of Rome.

Yet the Emperor Hadrian had a law passed "forbidding the masters to kill their slaves, and enacting that they should be tried by the laws provided against capital offences". This followed on the heels of humanitarian advances, chiefly due to the efforts of the Stoics.

Seneca is said to have followed the primitive practice of taking meals with his slaves.

But while giving due credit to Stoicism, Hartwell Jones thinks that the breakdown of slavery (as opposed to its melioriation) is owed to Christianity:

To the lasting honour of Stoicism it did what it could to remedy the evil, but the evil remained. The truth is, this school only appealed to an aristocracy of intellect, and even to the Stoics the enterprise of Christian teachers, who taught and enforced a universal brotherhood, would have appeared too vast and visionary. At best they only heralded the coming of a brighter day. But the Christian Church, by the introduction of new ideals of humanity and sympathy, shed its consolations, extended its protection over serf and slave, and gradually effected a complete revolution of public opinion.

Hartwell Jones does not discuss what, if any, guilt the Romans may have felt over the institution of slavery. It is likely, however, that the intermittent moves to ease their plight and grant them personal rights, as well as the annual feast called Saturnalia in which the roles of master and slave were reversed, indicate at minimum an awareness of the moral issues connected to slavery.

That view may be colored by Jones' background as a theologian and minister, however. Earlier, in Zur Geschichte der antiken Sklaverei published in Deutsche Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft (1894), Ludo Moritz Hartmann notes that St. Augustine, while maintaining that the Lord did not desire for man to rule over man, nonetheless explained that slavery emerges as a consequence of sin and that it is the unfathomable decision of the Almighty that some nations should lose wars and their people be cast into servitude. Patiently wearing the chains of slavery in this life increased one's chances to be elevated in the afterlife. And indeed, bishops, abbots, and even the Pope owned slaves. Horace, son of a freedman. Statue in Vicenza, Italy. Image credit: by D.N.R. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hartmann thinks that the fresh supply of slaves in Rome dried up because of the consolidation in the borders of the Empire, i.e., fewer wars and raids that ended with abductions into captivity. However, he does not comment on why the Romans did not then return to the ancient custom of "debt slavery".

Freed slaves would often remain beholden to their former owner as "clients", a relationship based on mutual obligations but surely not to the disadvantage of the patron.

When a slave was manumitted, the former owner became his patron. The freedman (libertinus) had social obligations to his patron, which might involve campaigning on his behalf if he ran for election, doing requested jobs or errands, or continuing a sexual relationship that began in servitude. In return, the patron was expected to ensure a certain degree of material security for his client. Allowing one's clients to become destitute or entangled in unjust legal proceedings would reflect poorly on the patron and diminish his prestige. Wikipedia

Clientism was but one of the sociological phenomena in the gradual movement away from slavery. There was no clean break after which all slavery ended. Another phenomenon was the "colonate", a form of dependant farming that preserved some elements of slavery while incorporating aspects of autonomy for the dependents.

In a 2011 term paper, Julia Muhlnickel quotes from a late-Empire decree:

Granted that they seem, in status, to be free men, nevertheless they are thought to be slaves of the ground for which they have been born and they have not the capacity to depart whither they wish.

On the other hand, she writes:

Technically free, a colonus was allowed to marry, have a family, and live without fear of his landlord.

Summarizing current scholarship on the question of slavery and whether it was supplanted by the colonate, Muhlnickel writes that the earlier view of a straightforward replacement has been largely abandoned.

Most importantly, slavery cannot be said to have ended in Europe until the High Middle Ages. Serfdom, the successor to the colonate, did not end until the 19th century in Europe. And in parts of the world, slavery is still being practiced. In his novels and travelogues, writer V.S. Naipaul portrays slaves and their owners, finding that slaves born into that status are not necessarily unhappy with it.

One thing I have been unable to find during my (far from exhaustive!) research is a John Brown-like figure in Ancient Rome, a vocal abolitionist with a significant following. Although Rome saw slaves rise up in the famous Spartacus Revolt, there never was anything approaching the raid on Harpers Ferry. I suggest, therefore, that asking whether a lot of people in Ancient Rome felt guilty about owning slaves may be a red herring, a notion called forth by our inculturation which abhors the institution of slavery as criminal and inhumane. This notion would have appeared alien to the Romans and indeed, does appear alien to some people in parts of the world even today.

I think the short and simple answer is "No". Seneca in one of his letters recommends treating slaves kindly, as "friends, humble friends but friends" - but says nothing about not having any. Earlier, Cicero was writing to Tiro (I'm fairly certain before the latter's manumission) with great concern for his, Tiro's, health, calls him "best and kindest of men", etc - yet at the same time asks his friend Atticus to send him some library-slaves, as we would ask to borrow a neighbour's lawn mower.

And I think Christianity has claimed/been given too much credit for softening/ending slavery. St Paul's famous exhortation of "Slaves, obey your masters… " suggests no ethical dilemma. He did not say - "Masters, free your slaves."

The Roman adage "Quod servi, quod hostes" - meaning that you had as many enemies as you had slaves, suggests a philosophical acceptance of a fact of life, like traffic accidents. You needed slaves to do the grunt work; they might kill you, but - well, what could you do? A necessary evil, maybe, but not a source of guilt.

For a slave-owner, if he felt sympathy for his slaves, it was natural to improve their conditions and not to abuse them.

Freeing the slaves was also very widespread because it became a powerful means of political manipulation: a rich slave-owner would free a mass of slaves before an election so that they could vote for him. This led to a state prohibition of mass slave freeings, imposing some quotas on slave-owners (I think this started with Augustus).

The legal protection of the slaves was improving over time, including prohibition of inhumane treatment and requirement to free slaves who were unable to work.

So, the slave owner would have no reason to feel any guilt: if he did feel anything similar, he could free the slave(s) and if he was prohibited from doing so by the state, he could feel not guilty at all. He also was free to improve slaves' conditions beyond what was normal and even beyond freemen if he wished.

Manumission was quite common in Ancient Rome.

And while the freedman became a client of his ancient Master, that doesn't change much in relation to Roman society, because clientism was common across ALL of Rome and all social classes. Even a patrician could become a client of another patrician. Meaning that men living in Rome were clients of someone, so had the slave never been a slave, but also been living in Rome, he would probably be a client of someone too.

And dishonoring your patron was considered a HUGE loss of honor.

A famous example of a freedman slave was Sulla's slave Chrysogonus, who had been freed and took charge of the proscriptions and became incredibly rich through illegal means (like putting innocent men on the proscription lists so he could get their property).

Later, Chrysogonus was considered guilty in one of the most famous advocacy cases in history, in the trial Cicero won, risking his life by challenging the proscriptions.

I don't recall examples of people actually feeling guilt about owning slaves, but it was not very uncommon for the better sort of slaveowner to include manumission of most or all of his slaves in his will. This does count a bit, I think…

Ancient Greece may well have become a byword for high civilization but its people could be as barbaric as any other, not least when it came to thinking up cruel and unusual punishments. And no punishments were more disgusting than those reserved for those individuals judged to have broken societal rules. Whether free or enslaved, cause upset or break the moral code of the time and you could expect to have something inserted where the sun doesn&rsquot shine.

As we know, the Ancient Greeks, as well as the Romans, often treated their slaves no better &ndash or sometimes even worse &ndash than their animals. So, the practice of ‘gingering&rsquo a stubborn horse was inevitably adapted to use on slaves. Without going into too much gory detail, an incompetent or disobedient slave girl could be punished by having a skinned piece of garlic inserted into her. This would cause an intense burning sensation, not to mention an intense feeling of humiliation, and could be repeated without the subject getting used to the feeling.

But again, such disgusting practices were not simply reserved for slave girls. Even men of good-standing could be subjected to punishments that can only be regarded as barbaric. Men found guilty of adultery were the most likely to be made to feel a mixture of shame and pain. Indeed, should one man learn that his wife had been with another, it was his right to punish him with radishes. And you can only imagine where the radishes were supposed to go…The practice even has a name. It&rsquos known as ‘Rhapanidosis&rsquo, with the historian Aristophanes mentioning it as a means of punishing not just adultery but also other crimes and misdemeanours such as homosexuality and promiscuity.

This was far from the only cruel and unusual punishment dreamt up by the Ancient Greeks. Who can forget the Brazen Bull, a bronze hollow bull into which a man was inserted alive and a fire set under it? The screams of the man being roasted alive came out of the bull&rsquos mouth to amuse the watching crowds. Or how about the practice of dousing a person&rsquos toga in a flammable liquid and then setting them on fire? Or making a poisonous concoction and forcing them to drink it? Yep, the folk of the Hellenistic era certainly had a novel approach to crime and punishment.

Roman Citizen

Who were the citizens in ancient Rome? If you had lived in ancient times, you could have applied to become a Roman citizen. Would you have wanted to become a Roman citizen?

The ancient Romans were very different from the ancient Greeks. The ancient Romans were down-to-earth realists, not idealists. You can see this in their statues. The Greeks made statues of perfect people. The Romans created real life statues. A statue of one of the Roman emperors is a good example. His nose is huge! The ancient Greeks would never have done that. The ancient Greeks had roads, but they were not built nearly as well, and their roads did not connect in any particular order. Connect to what? Each Greek city-state was its own unit. In ancient Rome, Rome was the heart of the empire! Unlike the Greek city-states, Rome had a central government.

There were two types of people in ancient Rome - citizens and non-citizens. Roman law changed several times over the centuries on who could be a citizen and who couldn't. For a while, plebians (common people) were not citizens. Only patricians (noble class, wealthy landowners, from old families) could be citizens. That law changed. For a while, plebians could not marry patricians. That law changed. For a while, any children born from two parents who were not both citizens could not be citizens. That law was adjusted so that people could apply to become a Roman citizen. Rome was after purity. But they kept adjusting the laws to suit the times.

Were women citizens? That's a really good question. There is not a very clear answer. In ancient Rome, women fell into their own category. There were three classes of women - full citizen, foreign (alien) and slave. Women, whether they were a "full citizen" or not, could not vote or hold office. For hundreds of years, women could not own property, inherit goods, sign a contract, work outside the home, or run a business. They could not defend themselves in court. They had no rights. A woman was under the full authority of her husband's head of his family (oldest male) and had no legal say in much of anything. So, although women might be given the title of full citizen, they did not have the rights of a full citizen. The title was mostly for the purpose of marriage. The purpose of marriage in ancient Rome was to produce citizens. If a Roman citizen (male) wanted his children to automatically be Roman citizens themselves, he had to marry the daughter of two Roman citizens. There were other ways for his children to become citizens, but that was the easiest.

Were slaves citizens? No.

Were children citizens? That depended upon the status of their parents. If both parents were Roman citizens, then yes. Otherwise, no. That law was relaxed as well as time went on for example, children of freed slaves could apply to become citizens. Even if both parents were Roman citizens, children had no rights. Boys of Roman citizens went though a ceremony when they were 16 or 17, depending upon how close their birthday was to March 17th, and at that time became citizens of Rome with full benefits. Girls put away their childhood things on the eve of their wedding day, and may have been given the title of citizen, but like their mothers, did not have the rights of a citizen.

Being a citizen of Rome carried legal and social advantages. Some of those advantages included:

  • The right to vote
  • The right to hold office
  • The right to make contracts
  • The right to own property
  • The right to have a lawful marriage
  • The right to have children of any such marriage become Roman citizens automatically
  • The right to have the legal rights of the paterfamilias of the family
  • The right not to pay some taxes, especially local taxes
  • The right to sue in court and be sued
  • The right to defend oneself in court
  • The right to have a legal trial with a judge the right to appeal a decision
  • No Roman citizen could be tortured, whipped, or receive the death penalty (unless found guilty of treason)

The question remains - would you have wanted to become a Roman citizen? You might have. The ancient Romans invented more games than any other ancient civilization! Explore Daily Life in Ancient Rome and decide for yourself.

Written and unwritten law

The Romans divided their law into jus scriptum (written law) and jus non scriptum (unwritten law). By “unwritten law” they meant custom by “written law” they meant not only the laws derived from legislation but, literally, laws based on any written source.

There were various types of written law, the first of which consisted of leges (singular lex), or enactments of one of the assemblies of the whole Roman people. Although the wealthier classes, or patricians, dominated these assemblies, the common people, or plebeians, had their own council in which they enacted resolutions called plebiscita. Only after the passage of the Lex Hortensia in 287 bce , however, did plebiscita become binding on all classes of citizens thereafter, plebiscita were generally termed leges along with other enactments. In general, legislation was a source of law only during the republic. When Augustus Caesar established the empire in 31 bce , the assemblies did not at once cease to function, but their assent to any proposal became merely a formal ratification of the emperor’s wishes. The last known lex was passed during the reign of Nerva (96–98 ce ).

The earliest and most important legislation, or body of leges, was the Twelve Tables, enacted in 451–450 bce during the struggle of the plebeians for political equality. It represented an effort to obtain a written and public code that patrician magistrates could not alter at will against plebeian litigants. Little is known of the actual content of the Twelve Tables the text of the code has not survived, and only a few fragments are extant, collected from allusions and quotations in the works of authors such as Cicero. From the fragments it is apparent that numerous matters were treated, among them family law, delict (tort, or offense against the law), and legal procedure.

A second type of written law consisted of the edicta (edicts), or proclamations issued by a superior magistrate ( praetor) on judicial matters. The office of praetor was created in 367 bce to take over the expanding legal work involving citizens later, a separate praetor was created to deal with foreigners. Upon taking office, a praetor issued an edict that was, in effect, the program for his year in office. The curule aediles, who were the magistrates responsible for the care and supervision of the markets, also issued edicts. During the later stages of the republic, these praetorian and magisterial edicts became an instrument of legal reform, and leges ceased to be a major source of private law.

The Roman system of procedure gave the magistrate great powers for providing or refusing judicial remedies, as well as for determining the form that such remedies should take. The result of this magisterial system was the development of the jus honorarium, a new body of rules that existed alongside, and often superseded, the civil law. The edicta remained a source of law until about 131 ce , when the emperor Hadrian commissioned their reorganization and consolidation and declared the resulting set of laws to be unalterable, except by the emperor himself.

A third type of written law was the senatus consulta, or resolutions of the Roman senate. Although these suggestions to various magistrates had no legislative force during the republic, they could be given force by the magistrates’ edicts. In the early empire, as the power of the assemblies declined and the position of the emperor increased, senatus consulta became resolutions that endorsed the proposals of the emperor. As the approval of the Senate became increasingly automatic, the emperor’s proposals became the true instrument of power. Consequently, emperors ceased referring proposals to the Senate and, not long after the early imperial period, ended the practice of legislating through the Senate.

A fourth type of written law consisted of the constitutiones principum, which were, in effect, expressions of the legislative power of the emperor. By the middle of the 2nd century ce , the emperor was, essentially, the sole creator of the law. The chief forms of imperial legislation were edicts or proclamations instructions to subordinates, especially provincial governors written answers to officials or others who consulted the emperor and decisions of the emperor sitting as a judge.

The last type of written law was the responsa prudentium, or answers to legal questions given by learned lawyers to those who consulted them. Although law, written and unwritten, was originally a rather secretive monopoly of the college of pontiffs, or priests, a recognizable class of legal advisers, juris consulti or prudentes, had developed by the early 3rd century bce . These legal advisers were not professionals as such but men of rank who sought popularity and advancement in their public careers by giving free legal advice. They interpreted statutes and points of law, especially unwritten law, advised the praetor on the content of his edict, and assisted parties and judges in litigation. Augustus empowered certain jurists to give responsa with the emperor’s authority this increased their prestige, but the practice lapsed as early as 200 ce .

During the early empire, numerous commentaries were written by the great jurists on individual leges, on civil law, on the edict, and on law as a whole. In the 5th century a law was passed stipulating that only the works of certain jurists could be cited. Legal scholarship declined in the postclassical period.

If You Owned a Dog in Ancient Rome, It Revealed Quite a Lot About You

The pages of history are littered with dogs from all walks of life.

Pub quizzers among you will no doubt have heard about the Russian dog, Laika who became the first animal to orbit the Earth in 1957, but have you heard about a Pug named Pompey who foiled an assassination attempt on the life of William The Silent, Prince of Orange?

From guard dog to confidante, throughout history dogs have played the role we’ve needed.

But a new book written by Dr Iain Ferris takes a fresh look at this subject and explores what dogs meant to Romans and just what owning a dog said to the world outside.

My newly-published Amberley book 'Cave Canem: Animals and Roman Society' presents an analysis of the place and role of animals in ancient Roman society and of their meaning and significance in cultural terms. Animals, including pets, were highly significant and important.

Statues of Molossian hounds in the Vatican Museums, Rome (Photo Credit: I. Ferris)

There is a considerable amount of evidence for the keeping of animals as pets or companion animals in the Roman world in the form of written sources, funerary monuments and their accompanying inscriptions, and statuary.

What’s in a name

In some cases, the names of these pets have come down to us through these channels, the naming of an animal, bird, or another creature, is an important symbolic step towards the breaking down of any culture's self-imposed inter-species barriers.

As very few of the recorded named Roman pets were given human names - Brutus or Livia, for example - we can interpret this as a distancing mechanism while naming being at the same time a bonding exercise between human and animal.

Not surprisingly, the most commonly attested pets in the Roman world were caged birds, dogs, and cats. However, I will concentrate on dogs here.

From guard dog to companion, and in between

In towns and cities in the Roman period, large dogs would have been kept principally as guard dogs, but this does not necessarily mean that they were not also regarded at the same time as pets by their owners.

The same dual role may also have been played by hunting dogs and animal herding dogs. There would not appear to have been the same social cachet involved in keeping dogs as pets as applied to the keeping of birds in Rome and Italy.

A guard dog on leash on a small mosaic panel from Pompeii, on display in Naples Archaeological Museum (Photo Credit: I. Ferris)

In the absence of a police force, dogs provided security

There are a number of black and white threshold mosaic panels from houses in Pompeii depicting guard dogs/pet dogs, including the most famous example, the Cave Canem-Beware of the Dog pavement from the House of the Tragic Poet which gives my book its name. The large shaggy black dog depicted there, with white on its limbs and head, is chained up but is caught barking and snapping at someone at the door.

Another chained dog on a mosaic protects the House of Paquius Proculus and a dog with a studded collar, secured by a rope, appears on a portion of pavement, is now on display in the Archaeological Museum in Naples. A fourth Pompeian dog mosaic comes from the House of Caecilius Iucundus, though in this case, the hound lies curled up sleeping.

Statue of a dog washing in Naples Archaeological Museum (Photo Credit: I. Ferris)

An attentive guard dog, sat up ready on his haunches, was also painted on a pillar at the entrance to the Taverna of Sotericus. A dog lies sleeping in a busy metalworking shop on a stone relief from the town.

If we project the common use of guard dogs at Pompeii to cover their use in Rome and in cities and towns throughout the Roman empire, then it can be argued that dogs played a crucial and highly significant role in the household and urban security in the absence of organised police forces at this time.

The tragedy of the dogs of Pompeii revealed

Of course, we cannot leave the topic of dogs at Pompeii without making mention of the skeletal remains of dogs excavated at the site over the years and particularly of the very well known plaster cast of a dying dog found during excavations in 1874 at the House of Marcus Vesonius Primus. The poor creature, restrained by a bronze studded collar on a leash, lies on its back, doubled up in evident agony, its legs in the air, as it doubtless writhed on the ground gasping for air in its death throes.

This is a pathetic relic of the tragedy which overtook Pompeii and which killed its pets and resident wildlife, as well as its human inhabitants. Further skeletal remains of dogs have been recorded at a number of other locations within Pompeii, the most interesting of which would appear to be the bones of a large dog lying on its side, shut inside the House of Menander, a creature that seems to have survived being buried by ash but which sadly then would have died from asphyxiation.

Touching epitaphs written in ancient Rome reveal popular dog breeds

Roman statues of dogs, tombstones of pet dogs, inscriptions or epitaphs naming pet dogs, and depictions of dogs on their owners' funerary monuments occur in sufficiently large numbers to suggest that they were popular pets at this time. The dog breeds included huge Molossian hounds, dogs like Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhound or Lurcher type dogs, smaller Maltese like dogs, and tiny lap dogs.

A marble grave relief dedicated to Helena, a Greek name very rare in Rome, is in the collection of the Getty Museum, Los Angeles and dates to A.D. 150-200.

On it is depicted a small but plump Maltese dog framed within a small shrine. It is uncertain whether the dog was named Helena and was thus a pet being commemorated here or whether Helena was the dog's proud owner who went undepicted on her own funerary monument for some reason, being represented symbolically by the depiction of her beloved pet dog.

The inscription on the stele reads in translation as 'To Helena, foster child, soul without comparison and well deserving'.

Interpretation of this stone hinges on the inter-relationship between image and text. The depiction of a dog on its own on the stele suggests a pet memorial, yet the word alumna used quite carefully and deliberately in the inscription refers to the Roman system around foster children, sometimes freeborn and sometimes freed slaves, chosen for special treatment and fostering in elite homes.

Totally unequivocal in its being an epitaph for a pet dog is a marble tablet with a lengthy inscription acquired by the British Museum, London in the eighteenth century and otherwise being without precise provenance. However, there is no question of its authenticity as a genuine ancient piece.

The epitaph for Margarita-Pearl-is written in verse, as if penned by the dog herself.

In it can be found a number of clever allusions to well-known lines from the poet Virgil's funerary epitaph and from poems of Ovid in his 'The Art of Love and The Art of Beauty'. The text in full, in translation, reads:

'Gaul gave me my birth and the pearl-oysters from the seas full of treasure
my name, an honour fitting to my beauty.
I was trained to run boldly through strange forests
and to hunt out furry wild beasts in the hills
never accustomed to be held by heavy chains
nor endure cruel beatings on my snow-white body.
I used to lie on the soft lap of my master and mistress
and knew to go bed when tired on my spread mattress
and I did not speak more than allowed as a dog, given a silent mouth
No-one was scared by my barking
but now I have been overcome by death from an ill-fated birth
and earth has covered me beneath this small piece of marble.

Margarita resoundingly represented an animal that played a dual role in its owner's life, principally a trained hunting dog but one that had become pampered and as much a pet as a hunter, and one that was so valued that money was spent on her commemoration and due grieving was displayed over her untimely, early death.

Other lengthy tributes to beloved pet dogs are provided on the inscribed tombstones to Patricus from Salernum in Campania, to Aminnaracus from Rome, to Heuresis or Tracker, again from Rome, and to the female dog Aeolis from Praeneste.

Below the inscription on the first century A.D. funerary altar from Aquileia in northern Italy dedicated to Caius Vitullius Priscus sits a large dog with a collar and bell around its neck. The dog is depicted as if suddenly distracted by a noise, turning its head, pricking up its ears, and rising up off its haunches, with its front legs stretched out.

Had the dog here simply been intended to represent an image of fidelity, a generalised character trait possessed by the recently deceased Priscus, it would seem unlikely that such care would have been taken over the depiction of this particular dog, its stance and its unusual collar with a bell: rather, we are more likely to be seeing here a portrait of Priscus's own pet dog or beloved guard dog.

A large guard dog on the funerary altar of Caius Vitullius Priscus in the Archaeological Museum of Aquileia (Photo Credit: I. Ferris)

A number of stone cinerary urns from Aquileia have lids topped off by a carving of a sleeping dog or lion. In these cases, the animals may simply be a guardian or protective figures, the dogs possibly being linked to a strong local cult of the hunter god Silvanus.

A sleeping dog on the lid of a cinerary urn in the Archaeological Museum of Aquileia (Photo: I. Ferris)

The famous funerary relief from Rome of the Flavian woman Ulpia Epigone in the guise of the goddess Venus is now in the collections of the Vatican Museums in Rome. Lying on a couch, propped up by her left arm, she is accompanied by a tiny lapdog that peers out from under that arm, perhaps a portrait of a cherished pet, though equally the animal could have been somehow symbolic in this context. Many other such portrayals of small dogs such as this are known.

A lapdog on the funerary relief of Ulpia Epigone in the Vatican Museums, Rome (Photo Credit: I. Ferris)

The dog: a symbol of faithfulness

Images of dogs, unaccompanied by gods or humans, could also be employed on Roman tombstones and sarcophagi as symbols of fidelity, a good example being a tombstone from the columbarium of Vigna Codini on the Via Appia in Rome on which appears Synoris, sweet pet, perhaps not a pet dog after all but possibly a favourite slave.

A very specific link between the image of the dog as a symbol both of fidelity or faithfulness in life and at the same time with links to the underworld.

From this short survey then it can be seen that dog keeping played a significant part in Roman life and that guard dogs, hunting dogs, and small lapdogs were common at this time. The names of many Roman dogs have come down to us through funerary inscriptions and dogs featured commonly in Roman art.

About the Author

‘Cave Canem: Animals and Roman Society.’ by Iain Ferris is published by Amberley Publishing. Hardback. £20.

Dr Iain Ferris is an archaeologist and writer living in Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, Wales. He has worked at both Birmingham and Manchester universities and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He is a trustee of the local charity Animal Lifeline Wales and works one day a week in their charity shop in Burry Port.

Limbaugh: “If Any Race Of People Should Not Have Guilt About Slavery, It's Caucasians”

From the July 22 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

RUSH LIMBAUGH: You know, folks, I have to tell you something. This, this white guilt, it's time for all this white guilt to end. I know it won't because I know that most people are scared to death and live lives totally immersed in fear because that's what other people want them to live like, but I'm sick of it. White guilt is doing nothing for anybody, and white guilt is not solving anything. And besides that, a little history lesson for you. If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians. The white race has probably had fewer slaves and for a briefer period of time than any other in the history of the world.

Now, sadly, we're not talking about the rest of the world when the civil rights coalition gets ginned up. They're talking about America and slavery. And that can't be denied it happened. But, compared to the kind of slavery that still exists in the rest of the world and has existed, by no means was it anywhere near the worst. The Chinese, the Arabs, black Africans, in fact, we forget about it. Even American Indians were constantly warring against tribes, other tribes for slaves. You know how many wars were fought for slaves, to claim them?

My gosh, folks, the ancient Israelites were all slaves. The Exodus, the war, everything. There have been so many wars fought over this. Ancient Rome went to war to win more slaves. We're pikers compared to the rest of humanity throughout human history. Yes, even American Indians -- I know the image is that they were the embodiment of perfection. They were just cool and fine until we arrived, and then it was all over for 'em. But even they were constantly warring against other tribes for slaves. It was their primary reason for going to war.

But despite all that, no other race has ever fought a war for the purpose of ending slavery, which we did. Nearly 600,000 people killed in the Civil War. It's preposterous that Caucasians are blamed for slavery when they've done more to end it than any other race, and within the bounds of the Constitution to boot. And yet white guilt is still one of the dominating factors in American politics. It's exploited, it's played upon, it is promoted, used, and it's unnecessary.

A History of Oral Sex, From Fellatio's Ancient Roots to the Modern Blow Job

It turns out that there are some things that we humans have basically been doing since the beginning of time — like complaining and putting weed in our vaginas — and oral sex happens to be one of those hallowed, ancient traditions.

Yup, that's right, oral sex wasn't actually popularized in the 1970s and brought into the mainstream by The Godfather and Deep Throat — it has a long, rich history that dates back thousands of years. Let's dive in, shall we?

Ancient sexy times

Art depicting sexual acts has been found around the globe, left behind by countless ancient peoples and dating back thousands of years. Author and scholar Thierry Leguay told Salon in 2000 that "the first clear real traces of fellatio are from ancient Egypt . Osiris was killed by his brother and cut into pieces. His sister Iris put the pieces together but, by chance, the penis was missing. An artificial penis was made out of clay, and Iris 'blew' life back into Osiris by sucking it. There are explicit images of this myth."

In the city of Pompeii, which was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, archeologists uncovered ancient baths decorated with erotic frescoes, reported the Independent in 2010, including depictions of oral sex.

Antonio Varone, who helped lead the excavation of the baths, told the Independent that the frescoes include depictions of "fellatio and cunnilingus" as well as group sex. Another ancient building uncovered in Pompeii, a brothel called the Lupanare, includes similar erotic frescoes as well as a sign advertising the services of a prostitute whose speciality was oral sex.

The Moche people, who lived on the northern coast of Peru and whose civilization likely collapsed around 560 to 650 AD, made utilitarian ceramics that also happened to be depictions of fellatio (you can see some of them in person at the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru).

The Kamasutra, one of the worlds' most famous erotic texts, was created in northern India, "probably in the second century," reported the Wall Street Journal in March — and the original Sanskrit text includes descriptions of fellatio in various, sometimes complicated, positions.

G etting medieval

It stands to reason that if oral sex was practiced around the world in Ancient times, it probably didn't fall out of favor just because the Roman Empire collapsed. But, as Smithsonian reported in 2014, any kind of sex in medieval Europe came with a whole lot of rules and baggage: "Modern-day Americans can be thankful that we are not trying to have sex in medieval Europe. Because what was allowed and what was not was, if anything, even more complicated back then."

Oral sex was among the list of forbidden acts, along with non-conventional positions and, really, any kind of sexual act that was pleasurable.

Much of O'Donnell's evidence comes in the form of penitential literature, aimed mostly at monks, that outlined the "correct penance for a variety of sinful acts," he said in an email. One medieval penitential document , from Ireland, recommended "four years penance" for cunnilingus but five for fellatio, O'Donnell said.

The industrious Industrial Age.

The Church-imposed association between sexual pleasure and sin that permeated medieval culture lasted for centuries (and is still hanging on, some might argue). "As recently as the 19th century, sexual pleasure and any relation that didn't lead directly to procreation — even within the structure of a traditional marriage — were mortal sins," Leguay told Salon. "So fellatio was, and remains to some extent, a taboo."

But, according to slang historian Jonathon Green, who created an impressive interactive timeline of slang terms for oral sex, by the 19th Century there were a host of English-language slang terms in use for both fellatio and cunnilingus, including "prick eating," "minetting" and "eating seafood."

The 20th Century

The turn of the 20th Century saw a huge jump in oral sex slang terms, according to Green's timeline, including such gems as "dickylicker," "deep sea diving," "sneezing in the cabbage" and the now familiar "blow-job," which Green cites as arriving in the 1940s.

According to research published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality in 2006, "during the course of the 20th Century, at an accelerating rate, oral sex became a possible component of 'foreplay,' which was the great sexual discovery of the early decades of the 20th Century. By the end of the century oral sex had become an essential component of the sexual repertoire of even mildly adventurous heterosexuals."

Part of this normalization of oral sex, the researchers claim, was because of "the rise of a concern for female sexual pleasure" and increasing importance placed on "the achievement of mutual orgasm."

By the end of the 20th Century, more people in the U.S. seemed to be engaging in oral sex than ever before. Slate reported that a 1994 study found that "27% of men and 19% of women have had oral sex in the past year."

Welcome to now

In 2012, a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, among people between the ages of 20 and 24, "81% of females and 80% of males had engaged in oral sex," reported ABC News.

Teenagers are also engaging in oral sex — sometimes because of the perception that it somehow "doesn't count" as sex in the same way that penetrative sex does. A CDC fact sheet published in 2009 said that "some data suggest that many adolescents who engage in oral sex do not consider it to be 'sex' therefore they may use oral sex as an option to experience sex while still, in their minds, remaining abstinent."

Despite what the teens are saying, "most people — around 71% — consider oral sex" to be sex, reported the New York Times in April, citing information from the Kinsey Institute.

But is there a gap when it comes to who's giving and receiving oral sex nowadays? Despite a dominant cultural perception that straight men don't like going down on their female partners, the numbers actually suggest that today's young straight dudes enjoy both giving and receiving.

Debby Herbenick, a researcher and associate professor at Indiana University who helped to conduct a national survey of sexual behavior, said in September that "the vast majority" of young men are really into cunnilingus .

"In new, not-yet-published data from a recent college student survey I conducted, 64% said [they enjoyed performing oral sex] 'very much' and 24% said 'somewhat,'" Herbenick said.

We're still not free of sexual stigmas, by any means, but maybe we humans are finally in a place where we can comfortably acknowledge that oral sex is something we've been engaging in, and enjoying, for thousands of years.

Was The Fall Of The Roman Empire Good For Roman Farmers?

I remember reading somewhere that farmers who were born after the empire's fall actually were healthier and taller. Did the empire have any benefit to the lower class farmers or was it just a source of unnecessary taxation?

Okay, first we need to clarify what you mean by "Farmers."

I'm taking this as "people who owned farms" and I need to make an important distinction between farmers of today and farmers of Rome. Today farmers tend to be lower-middle class, usually barely scraping by and only have the farm to their name to keep them from being broke, though last I checked farmers were going bankrupt at a pretty steady pace.

In ancient Rome farmers were towards the higher end of the class spectrum, and they did not work the land themselves but had slaves to do so. In antiquity not having to work was seen as ideal for upper status. Farmers reaped the profits, and many would have enjoyed benefits and political status. We even have laws that were enacted to keep politicians from becoming traders because it was such a big problem and it was a bad look, but these guys owned the farms to grow the olives and were making a lot of money trading it around the Mediterranean where it was a highly sought after commodity.

Grains, Grapes, Olives: those were the main things being grown in the Med and they were all were highly sought after. Olives in particular, but they took a very long time to see profit but the profit was massive. We see cases of wealthy men refusing to give loans to people to start olive plantations just because they knew it would take 5-7 years before they saw any money back.

I say this all to make this point: the farmers greatly benefited from Rome and were major players in it, its downfall would have severely affected them, their profits, their trade, their political standing, their ability to protect their holdings, pretty much every aspect of their life (and good luck keeping your slaves around when there's no one left to stop them from leaving.)

In the period following this farmers tended to be more feudal, sharecropping, etc. working the land to benefit someone else, getting a small portion to feed your family, but not really reaping any benefits. I'm sure working in the fields kept them healthier, but not in the ways they wanted.

As for being taller: I haven't seen this study, so I'm curious as to how quickly this change was discovered. If it's over hundreds of years then that's to be expected as humans have continued to increase in height throughout history and I wouldn't attribute it to anything to do with the fall of Rome. If it's pretty immediate I would attribute that to migration into the area rather than existing peoples. While yes, a healthier diet is part of the reason humans are growing, it's only a very small part of it. And the backbreaking work they would have had to do and being fed the most basic of diet would not have worked well in their favour for a well-balanced healthy diet.

Primary Sources

(1) Apuleius, describing a group of slaves in his novel, The Golden Ass (c. AD 165)

Their skins were seamed all over with the marks of old floggings, as you could see through the holes in their ragged shirts that shaded rather than covered their scarred backs but some wore only loin-cloths. They had letters marked on their foreheads, and half-shaved heads and irons on their legs.

(2) Bill of sale from the Roman province of Dacia (c. AD 142)

Dasius has bought and received the slave Apalaustus, nationality Greek, for six hundred denarii from Bellicus son of Alexander. This slave is guaranteed. free from theft and not a wanderer, fugitive or epileptic.

(3) Columella, Agriculture (c. AD 50)

Women slaves ought to be rewarded for the bearing of a certain number of children. I have granted exemption from work and sometimes even freedom after they have reared many children.

(4) Inscription on Roman slave collar (c. AD 65)

You will get a gold solidus if you return me to my master Zoninus.

(5) In his book Natural History, Pliny the Elder described gold mining by Roman slaves. (c. AD 77)

By the light of lamps long tunnels are cut into the mountains. The miners carry the ore out on their

shoulders, each man forming part of a human chain working in the dark, only those at the end seeing the daylight. men may not see daylight for months on end.

(6) Cato the Elder, Origins (c. 170 BC)

You have as many enemies as you have slaves.

(7) Florentius, Institutes (c. AD 150)

Slavery is an institution. by which a person is put into the ownership of somebody else. Slaves are so called because commanders generally sell the people they capture and therefore save them instead of killing them.

(8) Seneca, On Clemency (c. A.D. 40)

On one occasion a proposal was made by the Senate to distinguish slaves from free men by their dress it then became apparent how great would be the danger if our slaves could count our numbers.

1. Explain why the Romans were so keen to buy slaves.

2. Imagine you are a historian who wants to find out how the Romans defended their right to have slaves. Which of the sources in this unit would help you answer this question?

3. Give as many reasons as you can why some Romans allowed their slaves to buy their freedom. Which of these reasons would have been the most common?

4. What kind of sources would you need to look at if you wanted to find out what slavery was like in Ancient Rome?

7 of The Most Fascinating Facts About Slavery in The Roman World

By Calvin Freiburger
Published September 20, 2017 at 5:18am

Listening to today’s leftists, one could easily get the impression that the United States is one of the only nations on earth to ever practice slavery, and that despite the institution being extinct for more than a century and a half, America is so eeevil that we’d bring it back if given a chance.

The truth, of course, is that the vast majority of Earth’s human cultures are guilty of having enslaved their fellow man at one point or another throughout history. Case in point: Cristian Violatti at Listverse has compiled a fascinating list of ten facts about the ancient Roman Empire’s practice of slavery. Here are highlights from seven of them:

10. Slave Population

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The proportion of slaves was so significant that some Romans left written accounts on the dangers of this situation: “It was once proposed in the Senate that slaves should be distinguished from free people by their dress, but then it was realized how great a danger this would be, if our slaves began to count us” [Seneca, On Mercy: 1.24].

Modern estimations on slave population in Italy give us a figure of about 2 million by the end of the Republican period, a slave-to-free ratio of about 1:3 (Hornblower and Spawforth 2014: 736).

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9. Slave Revolts

There are many slave uprisings recorded in Roman history. A Syrian slave named Eunus was the leader of one of these revolts during the 135–132 BC period, which took place in Sicily. It is said that Eunus presented himself as a prophet and claimed to have a number of mystical visions.

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According to Diodorus Siculus [The Library: 35.2], Eunus managed to persuade his followers with a trick that made sparks and flames come out of his mouth. The Romans defeated Eunus and crushed the revolt, but this example might have inspired another slave rebellion in Sicily in 104–103 BC.

8. Versatile Lifestyles

The living conditions and expectations of slaves in ancient Rome were versatile, strongly linked to their occupations. Slaves involved in exhausting activities such as agriculture and mining did not enjoy promising prospects. Mining, in particular, had a reputation of being a brutal activity […]

Household slaves, on the other hand, could expect a more or less humane treatment, and in some cases, they had opportunities to keep and manage some money and other forms of property for themselves. This property, known as “peculium,” would legally be owned by the slave’s master, but in practical terms, the slave would be allowed to use the money for his or her own purposes.

6. Slave Ownership

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Owning slaves was a widespread practice among Roman citizens, no matter their social status. Even the poorest Roman citizens could own a slave or two. In Roman Egypt, it is probable that artisans had about two or three slaves each. The wealthiest could own a lot more. We know that Nero owned about 400 slaves who worked at his urban residence. It is recorded that a wealthy Roman named Gaius Caecilius Isidorus had 4,166 slaves at the time of his death (Hornblower and Spawforth 2014: 736).

4. Slave Procurement

Slaves were acquired in four main ways: as war captives, as victims of pirate raids and brigandage, by trade, or by breeding. During different stages of Roman history, some of these methods were more relevant than others. During the early expansion of the Roman Empire, for example, a significant number of war captives were turned into slaves.

The pirates from Cilicia in present-day southern Turkey were expert suppliers of slaves, and the Romans were used to doing business with them. Cilician pirates typically brought their slaves to the island of Delos (Aegean Sea), which was considered to be the international center of the slave trade.

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3. An Unquestioned Institution

Slaves were considered to be the reverse of free people, a necessary social counterbalance. Civic freedom and slavery were two sides of the same coin. Even when more humane rules were introduced that improved the living conditions of slaves, this did very little to reduce slavery. It simply made it more tolerable (Hornblower and Spawforth 2014: 736-737).

1. Slave Freedom

In Roman society, a slave owner had the option of granting freedom to their slaves. This process was known as manumission. This could be achieved in different ways: It could be granted by the slave owner as a reward for the slave’s loyalty and service, it could be earned by the slave by paying the master a sum of money and therefore buying his freedom, or in some cases, the master would find it convenient to free a slave […]

In some cases, the freedom of the slave could be complete, and in other cases, the former slave would still have a duty to provide services to his former master. Former slaves who were skilled in some profession were expected to provide their professional services free of charge to their former masters. Former slaves even had the possibility of becoming Roman citizens, and sometimes, they would (ironically) become slave owners.

There’s a lot more information at the link, so be sure to check it out!

Watch the video: Ρώμη: Ισχύς και δόξα - Επ 4 - Η συνειδητοποίηση της Αυτοκρατορίας (July 2022).


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