Slaves' Freedom

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: MaaB
  • Created on: 11-06-16 17:30

Buying Freedom But Is It The Best Thing?

  • In households, agriculture/industry, slaves were paid a peculium to buy their freedom.
  • Slaves with skills were likelier to get their freedom as they were paid more.
  • Gladiators could receive large rewards for winning, so many bought freedom.
  • Some kept fighting as wages were good, or trained other gladiators.
  • Some masters didn't allow their slaves to handle money so it was almost impossible to buy their freedom.
  • After a slave became a freedman, he could be a citizen - but would have restricted rights.
  • His former master now became his patron and the libertus the client.
  • Some slaves made a lot of money e.g. Pallas became a secretary of Emperor Claudius and became worth 3,000,000 sesterces.
  • It could've been better to be a slave to people like Seneca (who described his slaves as "humble friends" and wrote to his friends to "treat your inferiors as you would wish to be treated by your betters") than a freedman in poor areas.
  • Slaves with kind masters had reasonable: security, comfort, and prospects.
  • Could rely on food/shelter from a master - not insured for a freedman.
1 of 3

Being Set Free

  • Manumissio means "sending out from the hand" or setting a slave free.
  • Freeing the slave was a public ceremony, performed before some sort of public official who was usually a judge.
  • The owner touched the slave's head with a staff and the slave was free.
  • Simpler methods were sometimes used: master could tell friends/family the slave was being freed, or by inviting them to recline with the family at dinner.
  • Slaves could also be freed through testamentary manumission. A provision in an owner's will at his death.
  • A pileus (felt cap) was given to the former slave as a symbol of manumission.
  • Slaves were freed for a variety of reasons: a good deed towards the slave's owner, out of respect, or out of friendship.
  • Already educated or experienced slaves were freed the most often.
  • Augustus restricted such manumissions to, at most, a hundred slaves, and fewer in a smaller households.
  • Eventually, the practice became so common that Augustus decreed that no Roman slave could be freed before the age of 30.
2 of 3


  • Freedmen gained the rights of citizens in Rome: voting, claiming free corn if unemployed, get married, write a will, and having legal protection.
  • They'd open stores, run small businesses, or buy farms. They could get advice from ex-masters and, sometimes, masters would help set up businesses.
  • Some freedmen got pensions from former masters.
  • Pliny the Younger bought a small farm for his old nanny to retire to.
  • Many freedmen had slaves which was a significant change as they were, formerly, the property of their master and couldn't have possessions.
  • In Julio-Claudian period, some of the most powerful men were freedmen.
  • Emperors felt they were trustworthier than senators/rich men they knew.
  • Despite the slave being free, the freedmen would have to become a client.
  • They still had to follow the ex-master's wishes and many continued in the same role but didn't receive the clothing/food/shelter they used to have.
  • Freedmen could never become equestrians or reach senatorial ranks.
  • They had the social stigma of having been slaves and were looked down upon.
  • They didn't have full citizenship rights but their children could; one emperor was the son of a freedman.
3 of 3


No comments have yet been made

Similar Classical Civilization resources:

See all Classical Civilization resources »See all Social Life In Rome resources »