Location of the Slave Market in Rome
The location of the first Slave Market in Ancient Rome was situated in the area called the Graecostadium behind the Basilica Julia in the Roman Forum. The market was huge and extremely popular with the Romans. The trade in slaves was highly lucrative. The best slaves were to be found in the saepta (built by Septimius Severus near the forum) which was the market and meeting place of the wealthy Romans, where the best shops were.
Slave Market in Rome - The Graecostadium
The name Graecostadium means 'market for Greek slaves. Some of the first large numbers of Roman slaves came from Greece. Many Greeks were brought to Rome as slaves. Aemilius Paulus, the victor of the Battle of Pydna in Greece in 168 BC is said to have taken the profit from selling 150,000 Greeks to Rome. Trade at the Graecostadium was extremely brisk during this period.
Roman Slave Market - the Sale of Slaves
The sale of slaves at the Slave Market was conducted in many ways in the exactly the same way as other goods and wares. The sellers would emphasize the features and benefits and any unique selling points. Slaves for sale would sometimes be stood naked on revolving stands so the buyers could see exactly what they were purchasing. If the slave was not naked potential buyers could demand that they were stripped in order that a closer inspection might be made. New arrivals brought from abroad were put on display with one foot whitened with chalk. Roman law demanded that dealers disclosed the ethnic origin (natio) of the slaves they were selling. So placards (tituli) were hung from the necks of the slaves for sale detailing their nationality, origin, abilities, their good and, less frequently, their bad points. If the dealer was not able to offer any guarantees the slave was made to wear a special cap called a pillei on his head.
Roman Slave Market - Prices of Slaves
Slaves were priced according to their various attributes. The prices were determined by taking into account the following attributes:
- Physical strength and attributes
- State of Health
- Good Looks
- Intelligence and education
The prices and costs of slaves varied considerably according to the age, skills and qualities of the slave. Untrained slaves were priced about 12 times less than a skilled slave. Slaves of great beauty and rarity were not exhibited to public gaze in the common slave market, but were shown to purchasers in private (arcana tabulata catastae). Romans liked novelty, so often deformed men and women, such as dwarfs, or the mentally retarded brought good prices. The placards (tituli) advertising their qualities around their necks (including their origin, state of health, and propensity to run away), or special caps (pillei) in those cases where the seller would not offer guarantees.
Slave Market - Buying Slaves
Once bought, a slave was a slave for life. Every five years, each male Roman citizen had to register in Rome for the census. In this he had to declare his family, wife, children, slaves and riches. A master wishing to free his slave needed only to enter him in the censor's list as a citizen (manumissio censu) and he, or she, would be free. Once freed he or she enjoyed full citizenship, except for the right of holding public office. Registration in the census was the only way that a Roman could ensure that his identity and status as a citizen were recognized.