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B - 18 : Unsatisfiable Demand for Slaves

Ever wondered why there are so many black street vendors in Rome selling fake Louis Vitton bags when - according to Italian authorities - there is no real demand for fake goods in Italy? Well, it is not true....

Slave market in Rome around 50 AD


This brings me to the Cilician slave market we discovered yesterday where apparently 10’000 slaves a day were sold - guess this is a traditional exaggeration since the annual total would amount to 3’650’000 slaves - there were about 5 million slaves in the Roman Empire in total. Be it as it may, Roman demand for slaves was high. There were three sources for slaves

A) prisoners of war - but how do you get slaves during peacetime considering that Rome was only for <15% of its time at war

B) slaves supplied by pirates

C) children born into slavery - relatively rare occurence

Hence, Cilician pirates were the kings of the day! By raiding high value targets, they also captured high value individuals. Caesar was just one of them.


50% of Roman slaves were houshold slaves and 40% of all Roman slaves (2 millions) actually lived in Italy. Just looking at their skills set on the table above - these slaves must have received some professional training somewhere - probably in their previous life as free citizens before they were captured. Not everyone had the wealth of Julius Ceasar to afford the ransom payment. If there was no payment, captives were sold.

Roman noble lady with household slaves

The other half of slaves worked the lands, in mining and quarries. Their life was very different from household slaves: brutish, hard, short. Many if them tried to escape or rebelled as did the most famous slave leader Spartacus in southern Italy in 72 BC (guess you have seen the movie with Kirk Douglas). All of these rebellions were eventually defeated with a brutality which is beyond anything. A slave life was truly worth nothing.

Crucified run-away Roman slaves from Spartacus' Army

When we admire Roman architecture and other achievements, we should not forget at what price these achievements were built. Personally, I am glad i do not live in Roman times

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