Roman Slaves caught up in the slave trade were subject to the will of their masters against whom they had no protection or rights.
Roma Slave Trade - Number of Slaves in Italy and Rome
Much of the Roman economy was based on the slave trade. It is estimated that the number of slaves in Roman Italy, at its peak, was about one and a half million which was about 25% of the total population. The slave population in Rome has been estimated at anywhere from 25 to 40% of the population of the city as a whole. In the first century AD it is estimated that about 1 million people lived in the city of Rome and that of these about 400,000 were slaves, the slave trade was a thriving industry. There was a constant demand for slaves and the supply of slaves was met via the Roman Slave trade. In the later period of the Roman Empire it is estimate that slaves outnumbered citizens 5 to 3 - the Roman Slave Trade was well organised and brought wealth and profit to its investors.
Roman Slave Trade - the Slave Traders
The Slave Traders who plied their trade in the Slave Marketsand Slave Auctionsacross the Empire were called Mangones or Venalitii. The rich men who invested in slaves had a high social standing but the actual Roman slave traders who operated in the slave markets were viewed with some distrust, even likened to pimps. As their honesty was often questioned slave traders had to guarantee that the slaves they were selling were sound and that any faults were pointed out - the slave trade had to gain the confidence of the buyers to ensure the success of the business. Slaves were therefore commonly exposed for sale naked. The slave traders were under the supervision of the Aediles who ensured that their wares were sold publicly, either in the slave markets of the open forum or in shops. If the slave had defects not shown in his guarantee, the dealer had to take him back in six months or make good the buyer's loss.
The Provincial Slave Market
The slave trade operated throughout the Empire. Slaves were supplied from the provinces and transported to the provincial slave markets. Some of these suppliers in the slave trade also worked as provincial tax collectors. At the provincial markets they were purchased by buyers and sold wherever there was a market, and often shipped them to Rome for sale. One of the largest such wholesale market was known to be on the island of Delos and possessed a capacity for as many as 10,000 slaves. Efficient transportation was an important requirement of the Roman slave trade.
Roman Slave Trade - Where the slaves came from
The Roman slave trade flourished by acquiring slaves from the following sources:
- Prisoners of War
- Criminals who received thepunishment of slavery (Servi poenae)
- Those who were born in a state of servitude - Under Roman law, the offspring of slave women assumed the status of
their mothers. The newborns were called sanguinolenti
Where did Roman slaves come from? The origins of newly captured slaves who were captured as prisoners of war changed with the expansion of the Roman Empire. As the Roman Empire expanded, so did the slave trade. Romans acquired slaves from the lands they conquered in Europe and Africa which included:
- Northern Italy
- North Africa
Roman Slave Trade - 2000 years before the Atlantic Slave Trade
The above countries and areas cover both Europe and Africa, nearly 2000 years before the Atlantic slave trade to America had even begun. Slaves from Europe and Africa enables the Romans to build their Empire and ironically the Slave Trade resulted in the Fall of the Roman Empire.