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Romans valued the most slaves born in captivity

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Junius - slave on mosaic
Junius - slave on mosaic

Ancient Romans created a society in which slavery was used to a large extent. It is worth emphasizing that the Romans valued slaves born in captivity (so-called vernae; in singular verna) the most because such people had never experienced a sense of freedom and considered their life situation to be a normal state.

Having a child born in captivity, it was easier for the owner to raise a faithful and devoted servant, not thinking about rebellion or his hard fate. It is worth mentioning that Cato the Elder, who lived in the years 234-149 BCE, was well aware of the benefits of having a slave child. But he wasn’t just thinking about having a faithful servant. According to Plutarch:

He used to lend money also to those of his slaves who wished it, and they would buy boys with it, and after training and teaching them for a year, at Cato’s expense, would sell them again. Many of these boys Cato would retain for himself, reckoning to the credit of the slave the highest price bid for his boy.

Plutarch, Cato the Elder, 21

Cato, having many “well-behaved” child slaves, could additionally earn a lot of money, because they were very valuable on the slave market. Interestingly, he even encouraged male slaves to make love to other female slaves, but for an additional fee. In this way, he had a double profit: earnings and a chance for a potential child born of a slave relation.

  • Paweł Rochala, Powstanie Spartakusa 73-71 p.n.e., Kocewia Mała 2022

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