With Dr. Eireann Marshall
Neither the city of Rome nor the empire could have functioned without the armies of slaves who enabled goods to be manufactured, grown, transported and sold, just as they were central to running those facilities which were at the heart of Rome, from sewage to baths, as well as the construction of those monumental buildings which survive to this day. The lives of slaves varied enormously, from those educated slaves, like Tiro or Aesop, still remembered today for their erudition, and slaves who were canny businessmen as fictionalised by Petronius’ Trimalchio, to those miserable slaves who tended the fields or quarries, who had no chance of manumission and who would have been dumped in the streets at old age when they were no longer useful. While expensively trained slaves were mourned at their deaths and celebrated at their manumission, others had their tongues removed for no apparent reason. Whatever their conditions, however, slaves were all at the mercy of their masters, all seen as subhuman. To that end, the lives of slaves, however different they might be, exposes an aspect of Roman life which seems anathema to us.