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Interesting Roman Laws

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Interesting Roman Laws​

Reading some Roman history I found an interesting law that indicated that the testimony of a Slave against their Master was not legally admissible unless it had been extracted via torture. - The logic of this was that the Slave would be loyal to his/her Master and would not reveal any damaging or incriminating evidence unless coerced.

Seems like it could be an interesting story premise. - A Roman Citizen is accused of committing some crime, so, in the name of justice, some sexy slave girls that he recently purchased are taken down into the dungeons to get to the truth of the matter. - It will take quite a bit of work and effort to figure out what secrets they might be hiding.

Anyone know of other quirky Roman laws that might make a good story hook or premise?
 
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Dauphin

Guard
I read about the authentic history of a young slave girl. She lived as a household slave in the domicile of a rich roman citizen who bought her at a slave market when she was a child.

Whyever she was convinced that she would descend from a free family and her owner wouldn't have the right to command her as a slave. Thats why she did complain against her owner. The Roman law gave slaves the right of action in some states of affairs.

Of course the bench did not accept the arguments the poor slave girl brought forward. Her case dismissed and she had to accept her destiny.

Her master of course did not accept what she did. He wanted to punish her and show all the other slaves in his house that it is no good idea to defy his will. So he decided to sell the young slave girl to a brothel where she was used as a prostitute.
 

Dauphin

Guard
I also know about a slave who had to work as a firefighter in ancient Rome. His owner was a rich citizen who owned some mansion blocks at the town. Altrough he was a slave the firefighter had to review the observance of the fire safety regulations in the district.

So this slave did know all the houses in the ditrict he was deployed. There was an other owner of some mansion blocks who made a lot of money with his houses. He was a competitor of the slave owner.

One day the owner of the slave complained against his competitor. At the court he said the other businessman would not regard the fire safety regulations in his mansion blocks. The witness was the slave of the claimant who was the competent fire figthter.

In court the mourned man denied the accusations and tried all to make the testimonial of the slave unreliable. He demanded to torture the slave to find out the truth. But the bench acceptet the testimonial of the slave without torture and convicted the competitor of the onwer of the slave.
 

Tyrant

Guard
I read about the authentic history of a young slave girl. She lived as a household slave in the domicile of a rich roman citizen who bought her at a slave market when she was a child.

Whyever she was convinced that she would descend from a free family and her owner wouldn't have the right to command her as a slave. Thats why she did complain against her owner. The Roman law gave slaves the right of action in some states of affairs.

Of course the bench did not accept the arguments the poor slave girl brought forward. Her case dismissed and she had to accept her destiny.

Her master of course did not accept what she did. He wanted to punish her and show all the other slaves in his house that it is no good idea to defy his will. So he decided to sell the young slave girl to a brothel where she was used as a prostitute.
That's interesting, my understanding is that Slaves weren't allowed to complain about their Masters to a court until Nero granted them that right, maybe around ~60 AD. Your story gives an example of how doing such a thing carried a lot of risk, however, as it wouldn't be likely for a Slave to succeed in the first place, and it would be very likely that they would anger their Master in the process. - No doubt resulting in some terrible punishments afterwards. I wouldn't be surprised if some Slaves found themselves crucified for this very act.

Another interesting law I saw was started by Augustus, 27 BC - 14 AD, where a woman guilty of adultery could be sentenced by the courts into forced prostitution in brothels. The law was eventually abolished around 389 AD, but that would mean that it was in place for nearly 400 years.

One could imagine some jealous Roman husband taking his wife to court and getting her sentenced to a life as a brothel prostitute. I would suspect that for a law like that to be on the books for ~400 years, this must have happened more than a few times.
 
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Tyrant

Guard
Here was an interesting story I found based on actual events.

Cluentius was a Roman accused of poisoning his step-father Oppianicus. Oppianicus's wife Sassia had two slaves subjected to the 'severest tortures' for two days to try to get them to incriminate Cluentius, but they would not. A few years later, these same Slaves were tortured again, and one of them, named Strato, was crucified after having his tongue ripped out.

Cluentius was never incriminated, so this case was a win for Cicero who defended him. Not so much a win for the Slaves though... Quite the justice system eh?
 

KageKamen

Governor
Perhaps not so immediately relevant, but I recall there were some laws restricting the manumission of slaves? I think some restrictions were introduced due to "dumping" of old and unwanted slaves. Others forbade manumitting slaves under 30, or slaves who had ever received severe punishment like flogging or chaining. Would love for others to eleaborate...
 

Tyrant

Guard
Perhaps not so immediately relevant, but I recall there were some laws restricting the manumission of slaves? I think some restrictions were introduced due to "dumping" of old and unwanted slaves. Others forbade manumitting slaves under 30, or slaves who had ever received severe punishment like flogging or chaining. Would love for others to eleaborate...
Yes, I believe you're right. This came out under emperor Augustus with the law Lex Aelia Sentia ~4AD. The master needed to be at least 20 years old and the slave at least 30. There was another law that also limited how many slaves could be freed at a time, depending on the number owned, anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 could be freed.

Apparently around this time there were so many manumissions happening that it was creating a challenge for the entire social system of slavery in Rome. Rome had expanded voraciously in the decades preceding this so there had been an influx of millions of slaves from conquered territories, Gaul, Hispania, Briton, Germania, Greece and the Balkans, Northern Africa, Egypt, Persia and the Seleucid Empire, etc.

And yes, often it would be old and unwanted slaves who would be replaced by younger ones. Another dirty trick was for a master to pay his slave in such a way that by the time they could afford to purchase their freedom, they would be more or less retirement age and the money used by the slave to buy freedom would then be turned around by the master to buy a younger healthier slave.

Sometimes manumission was held over slaves as a threat or a punishment. If the slave didn't have the means to support themselves or have a craft or skill that they could gain a living from, setting them 'free' would be thought of as turning them out onto the streets, making them homeless, and perhaps at risk of starving. So even though being a slave may not have been the nicest, many would prefer to stay a slave than not.
 

KageKamen

Governor
Another dirty trick was for a master to pay his slave in such a way that by the time they could afford to purchase their freedom, they would be more or less retirement age and the money used by the slave to buy freedom would then be turned around by the master to buy a younger healthier slave.
Dirty trick, or efficient use of resources that also motivates slaves and avoids wasteful despair and suicide?

As for the other laws, they can create a situation where a master is forced to keep a slave in bondage... but could they just treat them as if they were free?
 

Tyrant

Guard
Dirty trick, or efficient use of resources that also motivates slaves and avoids wasteful despair and suicide?

As for the other laws, they can create a situation where a master is forced to keep a slave in bondage... but could they just treat them as if they were free?
Yes, well, imagine that you have a crap job and a retirement plan that you put all of your savings into. In order to quit that job, you have to have a certain amount of money in your retirement plan and will need to turn it over to your employer. Eventually, you get enough money, but by then you're retirement age. You no longer have to do the job, but your retirement money has been taken away, and now you're of an age where working has become difficult. How will you support yourself?
- That's why I call it a dirty trick, because the slave is left old and penniless after a lifetime of work, even though they've been 'freed'.

Of course a Roman could treat their slave however they wanted. Some were quite nice to them and treated them as valued members of the household and even as family, others were cruel and kept their slaves locked in manacles and beat, starved, and tortured them. Some slaves enjoyed a pampered life in a villa while others were worked to death in the mines.

As slaves would often cost the equivalent of a modern luxury car, for normal Romans it would be a big investment and therefore they would generally want to keep them fit and healthy. Many also found that a well-treated slave was more productive than a badly treated one.

Sometimes a Roman would go into debt to buy a slave, then the slave might die or run away, and the Roman would end up selling themselves into slavery to settle the debt. - It was a funny system.
 

Dauphin

Guard
Yes, that may be the difference to the later slavery in America. In the ancient world everybody could be a slave owner or end as a slave. Roman citicens including. It was a question of status and power.

Later in America only a negro could be used as a slave. It was a question of the race.
 

KageKamen

Governor
Yes, well, imagine that you have a crap job and a retirement plan that you put all of your savings into. In order to quit that job, you have to have a certain amount of money in your retirement plan and will need to turn it over to your employer. Eventually, you get enough money, but by then you're retirement age. You no longer have to do the job, but your retirement money has been taken away, and now you're of an age where working has become difficult. How will you support yourself?
- That's why I call it a dirty trick, because the slave is left old and penniless after a lifetime of work, even though they've been 'freed'.
Yes - it's a matter of whose perspective you use as to whether that's just as planned. Of course, it would be decried by more "ethical" masters who consider it one's obligation to support old slaves in repayment of their duty - while other owners will just skip the complicated part and cull the useless.

Of course a Roman could treat their slave however they wanted. Some were quite nice to them and treated them as valued members of the household and even as family, others were cruel and kept their slaves locked in manacles and beat, starved, and tortured them. Some slaves enjoyed a pampered life in a villa while others were worked to death in the mines.
A very uncertain life, at the whims of others - able to reverse in an instant. (But then, you could say all life is like that... slaves are just rolling weighted dice.)

Yes, that may be the difference to the later slavery in America. In the ancient world everybody could be a slave owner or end as a slave. Roman citicens including. It was a question of status and power.
This is the vibe I go for with my modern revivals, and most fantasy settings.
 

Dauphin

Guard
Well of course its a hot stuff to imagine to live as a slave owner on a farm in the South of the USA or in the Caribic. They really could do what they want with their slaves. In their eyes negros were natural born servants without human rights.

Today we know a lot of reports of freed black slaves. There we can read it was common to punish slaves, men, women and children in the same way. Even for household slaves it was common to receive a whipping to show them their place.

The most pretty young negro girls were used for sex by their owners. When a farmer had guests in his house it was common to dedicate slave girls to them for the night.

The women often were forced to have sex with male slaves or white men to get pregnant. Slave breeding was a common way to refresh the stock of slaves. When the slave children were six years old they was ready to work or to sale them.

Often young negro children were used as a present for the children of the owners. They could play with their little negros like they would be pets or toys. In this way the young white masters and mistress should learn to treat slaves like animals without feelings.
 

Tyrant

Guard
Well of course its a hot stuff to imagine to live as a slave owner on a farm in the South of the USA or in the Caribic. They really could do what they want with their slaves. In their eyes negros were natural born servants without human rights.

Today we know a lot of reports of freed black slaves. There we can read it was common to punish slaves, men, women and children in the same way. Even for household slaves it was common to receive a whipping to show them their place.

The most pretty young negro girls were used for sex by their owners. When a farmer had guests in his house it was common to dedicate slave girls to them for the night.

The women often were forced to have sex with male slaves or white men to get pregnant. Slave breeding was a common way to refresh the stock of slaves. When the slave children were six years old they was ready to work or to sale them.

Often young negro children were used as a present for the children of the owners. They could play with their little negros like they would be pets or toys. In this way the young white masters and mistress should learn to treat slaves like animals without feelings.
One thing that I think is kind of interesting and unique about American slavery in the south is how documented it was, which is really the exception to the rule. Due to this, we can get a much clearer and complete picture of what slavery was like for the people effected and there's even hundreds and hundreds of pictures to look at circa Civil War time-period, 1860-1864.

If you think about it though, in 180,000 years of homo sapiens, the time periods that we haven't had slavery are miniscule. Considering that it's been 156 years since emancipation and the end of slavery in most of the 'first world', if you take that number and divide it into 180,000, it works out to 0.01% of the time. One could argue then without exaggeration that for 99.9% of our time on this planet, slavery has been a thing.

- For those that wonder why BDSM and other fetishes in the genre are so popular, it's my personal belief that in many ways we've been genetically programmed over many millennia toward these things. - Not unlike how a Pitbull is genetically programmed to crave a fight.
 

KageKamen

Governor
Well of course its a hot stuff to imagine to live as a slave owner on a farm in the South of the USA or in the Caribic. They really could do what they want with their slaves. In their eyes negros were natural born servants without human rights.

Today we know a lot of reports of freed black slaves. There we can read it was common to punish slaves, men, women and children in the same way. Even for household slaves it was common to receive a whipping to show them their place.

The most pretty young negro girls were used for sex by their owners. When a farmer had guests in his house it was common to dedicate slave girls to them for the night.

The women often were forced to have sex with male slaves or white men to get pregnant. Slave breeding was a common way to refresh the stock of slaves. When the slave children were six years old they was ready to work or to sale them.

Often young negro children were used as a present for the children of the owners. They could play with their little negros like they would be pets or toys. In this way the young white masters and mistress should learn to treat slaves like animals without feelings.
Horrible... but somehow beautiful, too, at least to certain flavours of the perverse mind (like mine). My main setting is a sort of fusion of this, Roman and modernity.

If you think about it though, in 180,000 years of homo sapiens, the time periods that we haven't had slavery are miniscule. Considering that it's been 156 years since emancipation and the end of slavery in most of the 'first world', if you take that number and divide it into 180,000, it works out to 0.01% of the time. One could argue then without exaggeration that for 99.9% of our time on this planet, slavery has been a thing.

- For those that wonder why BDSM and other fetishes in the genre are so popular, it's my personal belief that in many ways we've been genetically programmed over many millennia toward these things. - Not unlike how a Pitbull is genetically programmed to crave a fight.
Isn't this kind of making assumptions, though? If so much of history is unrecorded, how do you know when slavery was invented? Or do you figure it's just so useful it'd be invented independently over and over again?
 

Dauphin

Guard
One thing that I think is kind of interesting and unique about American slavery in the south is how documented it was, which is really the exception to the rule. Due to this, we can get a much clearer and complete picture of what slavery was like for the people effected and there's even hundreds and hundreds of pictures to look at circa Civil War time-period, 1860-1864.

If you think about it though, in 180,000 years of homo sapiens, the time periods that we haven't had slavery are miniscule. Considering that it's been 156 years since emancipation and the end of slavery in most of the 'first world', if you take that number and divide it into 180,000, it works out to 0.01% of the time. One could argue then without exaggeration that for 99.9% of our time on this planet, slavery has been a thing.

- For those that wonder why BDSM and other fetishes in the genre are so popular, it's my personal belief that in many ways we've been genetically programmed over many millennia toward these things. - Not unlike how a Pitbull is genetically programmed to crave a fight.
Well I dont think that there was slavery as long as people were hunters and gatherers. About 10,000 years ago, the first people established as farmers. Maybe this was the beginning of holding of slaves.

But of course its a part of the nature of people that they want to rule over other people and show their power. Maybe the most consistent way to do that is to catch people and hold them as lawless slaves.
 
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Tyrant

Guard
Horrible... but somehow beautiful, too, at least to certain flavours of the perverse mind (like mine). My main setting is a sort of fusion of this, Roman and modernity.


Isn't this kind of making assumptions, though? If so much of history is unrecorded, how do you know when slavery was invented? Or do you figure it's just so useful it'd be invented independently over and over again?
Well, let me ask you a counter question, can you name one time in written history where Slavery wasn't common prior to 1860?

It's something that has spanned many if not most cultures and time periods.

So is it an assumption? Sure, like much of history, but, when you see something that has been so incredibly common that it is all but ubiquitous, then it's not too unreasonable to extrapolate out.

Did people drink water 25,000 years ago even though we don't have a written record of it? - Well, we can deduce based on the biological requirements of humans what the answer must be.

Similarly, the desire to accumulate resources and leverage toil has been always present. Slavery was never not useful in antiquity, so why wouldn't it be used? - Especially prior to the invention of machinery that could replace it.

There's some arguments that perhaps slavery wasn't done on such a mass scale until humans had made certain major developments in agriculture around ~10-12 thousand years ago, but from what I can see, in most places where it could exist, it did.
 
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KageKamen

Governor
Well, let me ask you a counter question, can you name one time in written history where Slavery wasn't common prior to 1860?

It's something that has spanned many if not most cultures and time periods.

So is it an assumption? Sure, like much of history, but, when you see something that has been so incredibly common that it is all but ubiquitous, then it's not too unreasonable to extrapolate out.

Did people drink water 25,000 years ago even though we don't have a written record of it? - Well, we can deduce based on the biological requirements of humans what the answer must be.

Similarly, the desire to accumulate resources and leverage toil has been always present. Slavery was never not useful in antiquity, so why wouldn't it be used? - Especially prior to the invention of machinery that could replace it.

There's some arguments that perhaps slavery wasn't done on such a mass scale until humans had made certain major developments in agriculture around ~10-12 thousand years ago, but from what I can see, in most places where it could exist, it did.
Well, agriculture and writing are decent counterexamples of things that were ubiquitous after a certain point, but not before. Still, that does make for a long history.

(It also depends how you classify slavery - does medieval serfdom count, for instance?)
 
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