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Manumission in ancient Rome

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Slave Sale in Rome, Jean-L├ęon G├ęr├┤me
Selling Slaves in Rome by Jean-Léon Gérôme

The formal procedure for liberation of the slave (manumissio vindicta) took place in front of the praetor or consul and only with his consent (addictio). At least three people had to take part in the process: a slave, an owner and an outsider (adsertor libertatis) who was free and certified the freedom of a slave.

Ceremony of giving the slave freedom consisted looks this way that adsertor libertatis was touching with a special rod – vindicta; the head of a slave and uttered the words: Hunc hominem liberum esse volo, which means, “I want this man to be free from that moment”. Then he caught the slave by the hand and turned him around, letting him go. The owner did not deny the word and the official approved the new status of the slave.

Usually, a slave took a name created from the family’s name of master; in the same way as it was in the case of his children.

  • Horace, Satires, VII.75

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