Anything but enlightened: child slavery in the Roman world

Historian article

By Ulrike Roth, published 19th August 2020

Child slavery in the Roman world

Through evidence and models, Ulrike Roth explores the role of child slavery in ancient Rome.

Ancient Rome has been a source of inspiration throughout the ages. Some of the most remarkable thinkers in human history have drawn on one or other of Roman society’s great achievements. The profound reflection on, and articulation of, the meaning of freedom – libertas – in the late Republican period, for instance, was central to the Enlightenment discourse on governance: ancient Rome was revered in the so-called Age of Reason as an ideal model for the organisation of society. But, or rather ‘And’, Roman society was also a society deeply engaged in the forced exploitation of other human beings through slavery. This aspect too – the real-life corollary to Roman thought on freedom – has been proposed as worthy of imitation. The deeply muddled pro-slavery writing in nineteenth century America offers good illustrations of this... 

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