Slaves made up a substantial part of the population in ancient Rome. According to some estimates, during the first century CE, they may have comprised one third of the population of the empire. Wealthy Romans owned hundreds or thousands of slaves, but even the average person could own a few. Some slaves even had their own slaves (vicarii).
Slaves performed a wide variety of jobs in Rome. Although some tasks, such as domestic service, did not generate revenue for the master, there were many others, such as farming and mining, that did. In some cases, slave labor brought the owner considerable financial gain.
In this unit students will learn about the ways in which the Romans acquired slaves. They will also learn about the life of slaves and about the ways in which they could escape slavery, both through manumission (legal freeing of slaves) and through various forms of resistance.
Upon completing this unit, students
will be able to:
1. Describe which sources supplied slaves in imperial Rome.
2. Describe what kind of work slaves had to do and the economic importance of some of their jobs.
3. Explain the treatment slaves received at the hands of their masters.
4. Analyze the reasons and forms of slave resistance.
5. Asses the reliability of primary sources as historical evidence.
Time and Materials
This unit will take 5 to 7 class periods to complete.
An LCD projector is required for showing the PowerPoint presentation associated with this unit. Students will also need access to world history textbooks for the extension activities.
Table of Contents
Why this unit?
Time and materials
The historical context
This unit in the Big Era timeline
Lesson 1: Becoming a Slave in Rome
Lesson 2: The Life of a Slave
Lesson 3: Manumission
Lesson 4: Abuse and Resistance
This unit and the Three Essential Questions
This unit and the Seven Key Themes
This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking