There were slaves for nearly every type of job in the Roman Empire. A day in the life of the slave was dependent on where the slave originated, how he became a slave and what level of skills or education he possessed.
Day in the Life of a Slave -- Sources of Slaves
A Day in the Life of a Slave varied according to the work he had been allocated. And this depended on the skills that he possessed. Roman slaves were acquired from the unfortunate people who had become Prisoners of War, Criminals who received the punishment of slavery and those who were born into slavery. Under Roman law, the offspring of slave women assumed the status of their mothers.
Day in the Life of a Slave - Educated slaves
A Day in the Life of a Slave who was educated was centred around a variety of jobs. Well educated slaves were valued by the Romans. they worked as tutors or teachers of their children, accountants, musicians, managers, artists, secretaries, doctors and even as cooks. The day in the life of this type of slave was infinitely better than any other slaves. Because they were highly valued they were better treated, although they were subject to the same Roman Laws and no basic human rights accorded to them. They were given clothes which were appropriate to their slave status and their roles.
Day in the Life of a Slave - Unskilled or Uneducated slaves
The Day in the Life of a Slave who was unskilled or uneducated were subjected to the most terrible jobs. They were worked from dawn to dusk, sometimes from the moment they woke until the moment they slept, often for 7 days a week. They were not highly valued and strict discipline was necessary to keep the slaves who had been taken as prisoners of war in order. Public slaves were owned buy the state and Private slaves were owned by individuals. A slave received a tunic every year and a cloak and pair of wooden shoes every two years. The day in the life of a slave with no skills would be bought to work in the following types of jobs or roles:
- Public slaves owned by the state worked as laborers on public buildings, bridges, road building, sewers, public baths etc.
- Farm hands (familia rustica) who worked on farms and in the fields
- Mines - Slaves were condemned to a horrible working underground in tin and copper mines
- Galleys - Slaves worked under the lash in the Roman galleys
- City slaves - These worked in private household attending to every need of the masters and mistresses - cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening, serving etc
- City slaves also worked in factories which produced various products
- Personal slaves - Body slaves who dressed and cleaned their masters and mistresses and also acted as hairdressers, barbers and litter carriers. Personal slaves were also expected to act as sex slaves
- Entertainers - Dwarfs or mentally handicapped were kept for the amusement of their owners
- Gladiators - The fit slaves were often sent to gladiator schools to be trained to fight to the death in the bloody arenas of Rome
Day in the Life of a Slave - Saturnalia
The Day in the Life of a Slave consisted of hard work and monotony. But some of the Roman slaves, especially the city slaves, were specifically admitted to a share in certain festivals such as the Saturnalia and the Compitalia (the festival of the Lares). The Saturnalia, took place on December 17 and lasted for seven days. Saturnalia marked the reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters ostensibly switched places. Masters served meals to their slaves who were permitted the unaccustomed luxury of leisure. Slaves were even allowed to gamble.