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7 Samuel Noah Kramer, Sumerian Mythhology
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972), 2.
8 Ibid.
9 Chiera, 47.
10 Cottrell, 26.
11 Rawlinson, 130.
12 Kramer, 3.
13 Rawlinson, 131.
14 Chiera, 43.
15 Leo Deuel, ed. Treasures of Time: Firsthand Accounts by Famous Archeologists of Their Work in the Near
East (New York: The World Publishing Company, 1961),
16 Dueul, 132.
17 Ibid.
18 Kramer, 4-5.
19 Dueul, 127.
20 George Smith, “To Nineveh for the Daily
Telegraph,” in The Treasures of Time: Firsthand Accounts
by Famous Archeologists of Their Work in the Near East,
ed. Leo Duel (New York: The World Publishing Company,
1961), 135.
21 Ibid.
22 Smith 137.
23 Alexander Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old
Testament Parallels (Chicago: The University of Chicago
Press, 1946), 2.
24 N. K. Sandars, “Introduction,” in The Epic of
Gilgamesh (New York: Viking Penguin Inc., 1972), 10.
25 Andrew George, The Epic of Gilgamesh (London: Penguin Group, 1999), xxx.
26 Smith 143.
27 Ibid.
28 Trenton State Gazette (NJ), December 10, 1872.
29 San Fransisco Bulletin (CA), December 19, 1872
30 New-Hampshire Patriot (NH), December 25,
31 The Sun (MA), January 2, 1973.
32 Pomeroy’s Democrat (IL), January 11, 1973.
33 Sioux City Journal (IA), May 21, 1873.
34 Little Rock Daily Republican (AR), May 22, 1873.
35 Trenton State Gazette (NJ), May 22, 1873.
36 Trenton State Gazette (NJ), May 22, 1873.
37 Dueul, 142.
Broaden Journal of Undergraduate Reseach
38 Little Rock Daily Republican (AR), October 10,
39 San Francisco Bulletin (CA), October 15, 1873.
40 Cottrell, 222.
41 Mogens Trolle Larsen, The Conquest of Assyria:
Excavations in an Antique Land, 1840-1860 (London: Routledge, 1996), xii.
42 Trenton State Gazette (NJ), September 16, 1873.
43 Trenton State Gazette (NJ), September 16, 1873.
44 Chiera, vi.
45 San Fransisco Bulletin (CA), February 4, 1875.
46 Minneapolis Journal (MN), February 2, 1898.
47 Biggs, xxxvi.
48 Grand Rapids Herald (MI), February 5, 1898.
Idaho Statesman (ID), October 20, 1910.
The Sun (MD), January 30, 1889.
49 Idaho Statesman (ID), October 20, 1910.
50 The Sun (MD), January 30, 1889.
51 Biggs, xxxvii.
52 Heidel, 268.
53 Chiera, 118.
54 Ibid., 132-134.
55 Fort-Worth Star Telegram (TX), August 24, 1913.
56 San Francisco Bulletin (CA), February 4, 1875.
57 Maureen Gallery Kovacs, The Epic of Gil
gamesh (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989), xiii.
58 Minneapolis Journal (MN), February 2, 1898.
59 George, vvi.
60 Ibid., xxviii.
61 Ibid., xxviii.
62 Kovacs, xiv.
63 Biggs ix.
64 Sandars, 7-58.
65 Kovacs, xvii.
66 Ibid., xvii.
67 Jonthan Himes, interview by author, John Brown
University, December 10, 2010.
68 Jennifer Pastoor, email interview by author, December 9, 2010.
69 Biggs, ix.
70 Pastoor.
71 George, xiv.
72 Himes.
73 Kovacs, xvii.
Shaping the Idea:
A Comparative Discussion Of
Roman Slavery and Slavery in
the American South
Ryan Stephens
History Major
The ancient institution of slavery changed whenever it was employed by new civilizations. Whenever societies became more or less dependent on its implementation, forced labor proportionally changed. Two examples of slavery are compared in the report: Roman slavery and
slavery in the American South. Both societies initially placed a ‘non-crucial’ emphasis on the institution. However, both cultures also received
an unexpectedly large influx of slaves; as the slave population rose, the value and treatment of slaves declined. My comparison focuses on
that shift in slave treatment as a measure of the variability of the institution.
The institution of slavery existed within some of the earliest human civilizations, and was arguably one of the most important elements involved in forming human thought and opinion. Robert Fogle wrote, “Slavery is not only one of the most ancient, but also one of the most long-lived
forms of economic and social organization.”1 Slavery forced cultures to collide and intermingle,
without slave labor many monuments or technological innovations might never have been realized.
Despite its age and importance, slavery was not a single, unchanging system; rather, it morphed to
fit the situation that implemented it. Time, economics, and other forces that drove slavery caused it
to fluctuate in importance and change in its cruelty. David Turley, a prominent twenty-first century
scholar on the subject explained that religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have, at different
times, justified attaining slaves. He used the divides in time and culture of those examples to base
his idea that, “This glimpse of the variety and malleability of slavery indicates one of the difficulties
in writing a synoptic account of the institution.”2 The objects
of research in this work, slavery in Rome as well as slavery in
North America, were just as varying as Turley claimed.
There existed striking differences in the importance
of slavery to each of the two societies in question. Turley
coined the distinct phrases, “slave society” and “society with
slaves,” to help his readers understand the emphasis varying
peoples put on slavery. The former described cultures that
almost entirely depended on or were very reliant on slavery.
The latter addressed peoples who did not necessarily need to
continue slavery for profit or well-being. There seemed to be,
within slavery, some interesting side effects caused by the institution’s implementation in a slave society, and slavery itself
seemed to become a different entity. Cultures not reliant on
slaves, like the Roman Republic3, were often kinder to workers, and people in the lower class retained considerable dignity.
Through careful comparison, it can be understood that slave
labor became cruel and mechanical when it became a necessity, such as the case of late North American slavery or the
late Roman Empire.
To avoid confusion or poor comparison, Turley devised three
components of slavery that aided in difficult comparisons
of slave systems and will prove useful for the dissection of
American and Roman slavery in this case. His three broad
themes were, “the structural location of slavery within societies; the experience of slavery as registered by both the slaves
and those seeking to control them; and finally, the ways in
which slavery was reproduced and maintained in different
societies.”4 Put plainly, to understand an accurate comparison
of Roman slavery to that of the institution almost two millennia later, Turley’s points form a foundation that keeps the
discussion on a sound track. For accuracy and consistency, a
framework is necessary in order to compare two very different
slave systems for the purpose of determining the way those
societies influenced slavery in general. David Turley’s recommendations for appropriate understanding will be employed as
a basic foundation.
Great contrast may be noted between the type of slavery that
existed in ancient Rome and the institution used in eighteenth
and nineteenth century North America. Whenever one thinks
of slavery in states like South Carolina in the early 1800s, he
imagines slaves working long hours picking crops—often at
the risk of extreme punishment. The mental image of early
Roman slavery is unfortunately far less clear. Dr. Turley
Broaden Journal of Undergraduate Reseach
framed his picture of that slavery with the understanding that,
“the Roman Empire as a whole was not a slave society. In the
first two centuries BCE there were some slaves in rural society
in the provinces and a greater proportion in provincial towns.
While kinds of dependant laborers, other than slaves, probably performed most agricultural work in the distant reaches
of the empire.”5
In general, early Roman slavery was very similar to the systems that developed around Italy before 300 BCE. William
D. Phillips Jr. noted, “From their earliest beginnings, the
Romans practiced slavery on a small scale, using a few slaves
as farmhands and household servants.”6 The sparse dispersal of slaves in the Mediterranean was likely due to the fact
that noblemen and aristocrats commonly owned the slaves in
Greece and Rome. David Turley noticed that only the wealthy
could afford slaves to perform all of the household labor and,
“other heads of households or elders of the lineage had to
work or rely on some other resource apart from slaves.”7 The
general social structure in Rome allotted slaves to those who
could afford more than a meager farming existence. The elite
slaveholders were an essential element to the formation of the
Roman idea of slavery. The early state’s overall lack of emphasis on slavery was likely shaped in part by the idea of exclusive
ownership. David Turley elaborated: “Broadly, societies with
slaves have begun to emerge as making use of slaves for social
and service purposes carried out mostly within households,
including royal and aristocratic courts.”8 The idea that only
elites would hold slaves was critical in the early Roman Republic.
A large influx of slaves entered Italy after 178 BCE thanks to
several military conquests9, causing drastic changes to the nature of Roman labor. Prior to the expansion, slaves were often
used for small-scale or private agricultural and manufacturing
work. Again explaining an accurate idea of the system, David
Turley wrote, “The economic deployment of slaves occurred
characteristically within plantations, stuck-raising farms, mines,
and a variety of manufactories.”10 It is understood that slavery
was not a wide-scale economic boost to either the Roman
Republic. Thus, slavery was most commonly used by citizens
who wanted some labor in the home. Any economic benefits
that Roman slaves had were centered on the income of particular families. Turley continued, “Where slavery was primarily a household institution it was not necessarily always simply
for a domestic or sexual purpose. Slaves carried on forms of
household manufacture such as weaving.”11 Slave occupation
prior to the worker population increase tended to be common
labor like household chores and agriculture.
Due to the increased number of available workers in Rome,
labor began to shift away from smaller domestic interests,
and soon slaves were forced to work longer hours in fields.
Instead of working alongside their slaves, owners opted to
use gangs of people for large-scale agriculture. Keith Bradley
chronicled the change in those slaveholders in Rome when he
wrote, “for the men and their families, who comprised Rome’s
political elite, a further consequence was a rise in personal
wealth on an enormous scale, wealth that in due course intensified individualism and political competitiveness, and led to
an increase in social ostentation.”12 It is important to understand the fundamental changes in slave ownership to form an
idea of the day-to-day slave experience, as well as the experience of the masters.
Most scholars agree that early slavery in the Roman Republic
lacked the intensity that existed later in the Empire. When
compared with other forms of the institution, like the sugar
slavery in the Caribbean hundreds of years later, punishments
were light. This was likely due to the fact that many Romans
believed slaves were to be treated as normal human beings.
William Phillips Jr. quoted a Roman jurist named Florentius,
“Slavery is an institution of the common law of people by
which a person is put into the ownership of somebody else,
contrary to the natural order…The word for property in
slaves is derived from the fact that they are captured from the
enemy by force of arms.”13 Other than mining, most jobs that
were assigned to slaves were also given to indentured citizens
and freemen. Those forced to work often found themselves
farming with one or two other slaves, cleaning and managing
households, caring for temples, or raising income for the state.
In contrast, some slave girls were also used for the sexual satisfaction of their owners.14 The importance of the institution
changed rapidly after Rome began conquering its neighbors in
the second century, however.
Many of the men and women who were captured in battles
were forced to be slaves in either Rome itself or one of her
many provinces. Incredibly, the number of new slaves increased so quickly that many scholars claim that Rome became
a slave society. Keith Bradley wrote, “By the middle of the
second century B.C. Rome in fact was a genuine slave society,
though such a description does not have to depend solely on
the quantitative criterion of the servile population of the total
population.”15 Some of the Roman slavery was maintained
through master-slave relationships. While free men would
commonly conceive children with their female slaves, these
numbers could not begin to match those that Rome’s military brought into Italy. Bradley’s discussion of the perceived
change was written in his chapter entitled “Slavery and Slave
Resistance at Rome,” and appropriately so, since the experience of the slave would inevitably change with the population
increase. Due in large part to the new and readily available
labor, Romans began to use slaves in groups of ten or more
and chained together to farm crops. Domestic slaves were
granted less kinship to their masters, which they could previously attain.
Whether or not the Roman Empire could accurately be described as a slave society is not of pivotal importance. The
key to examining slavery itself more appropriately lies in understanding the institution’s ability to change. A basic theme
that emerged in Rome was the idea that once slaves became
numerous and inexpensive—when there were a great number
of slaves in society—the institution of slavery changed. The
experience of the slave became something that it had not
previously been. Negative changes in the treatment of slaves
in Rome led to several slave revolts in less than six years,
beginning in 146 BCE.16 It should be assumed that, if slavery
has the ability to shift very quickly, as a consequence it may
experience great changes over long periods of time.
North American slavery stemmed from a long tradition of
European slave enterprise. Often known for growing tobacco
and cotton, the South and Chesapeake regions of the Colonies
and later the United States were commonly understood to be
the hub of the slave system in North America. Plantation
crops like these and the slavery required to harvest them came
much later in American history than many would guess. Robert Fogle explained, “to those who identify slavery with cotton
and tobacco, the small size of the U.S. share in the slave trade
may seem surprising…over 75 percent of all slaves were imported between 1451 and 1810. This fact clearly rules out cotton as a dominant factor in the trade, since cotton production
was in its infancy in 1810.”17 The earliest instances of American slavery, called the Charter Generation, began arriving in
colonies like Massachusetts in the late seventeenth century.
As the American Revolution drew near, the number of slaves
arriving in the colonies increased. Like the Roman Republic,
most slaveholders around this time were wealthy men. The
price of a person and the annual cost of owning a slave were
often too expensive for poorer subsistence-farming colonists
to afford. Following the revolution, increased slave imports
forced a decrease in the price of slaves and more citizens were
able to purchase their labor; therefore, many more slaves were
imported annually. Interestingly, just as Rome saw a dramatic
increase in the number of available slaves once the Republic
became an empire, so too did the English colonies just before
they became the United States. The day-to-day experiences of
slaves changed too, just as they had done in Rome during the
expansion of the institution.
The experience of the slave in North America, and particularly the South, has become the distinct and dominant memory of American slavery in modern years. Primary sources
from freed slaves such as “The History of Mary Prince” and
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” were preserved
through the Civil War. Because of this, modern historians
are now able to glimpse into Southern Slavery through the
perspective of a laborer. Douglass for instance, a slave just
prior to abolition, described the ways in which slavery affected
him when he wrote, “I was broken in body, soul, and spirit.
My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the
disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered
about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon
me; and behold a man transformed into a brute.”18 Frederick
Douglass lived long after the Charter Generation, and slavery
had not only been well established in the states—it thrived. In
contrast to Douglas’ account, slavery in North America was
not always as dehumanizing and harsh as Douglass described.
Much like the Roman Republic, the English colonies that
became the United States began experimenting with slavery
on a small scale. The narrative of a man named Olaudah
Equiano, a member of the Charter Generation, described his
life as a slave in the earliest stages of the institution. Slaves
like Equiano often had specific skills and talents that proved
them useful to their owners. These skills included, among
other abilities, the capability to communicate well in English,
Portuguese, and other trade languages. Equiano managed to
secure a job as a seaman, thanks to his ability to learn the skills
necessary to navigation.19 These advantages, coupled with the
limited supply of slaves, made it possible for laborers to enjoy
a less-persecuted existence than those men and women later
in history. Plantation slavery, identified as brutal and merciless
Broaden Journal of Undergraduate Reseach
slavery, was in its infancy. During this time, most charter slaves
occupied jobs that Europeans would also work. Some were
farmers working side-by-side their owners, while others were
domestic slaves.
It would be naïve to assert that slaves in the relaxed systems
of the Roman Republic or the Charter Generation were given
an easy life. In the prologue to his book, Generations of
Captivity, Ira Berlin makes it very clear that, “no history of
slavery can avoid these themes: violence, power, and labor,
hence the formation and reformation of classes and races.
The study of slavery on mainland North America is first the
study of enormous, hideous violence that a few powerful men
wielded to extort the labor of others…”20 Not much is known
about the complete lifestyle of Roman slaves but, “from the
limited amount of information available a tendency is apparent for the service areas that would have accommodated slaves
to have been marginalized in relation to the main residential
areas, either by being secluded in some way or by being given
inferior forms of construction, or both.”21 Roman slaves
were most certainly not treated with the utmost dignity. Keith
Bradley reinforced this idea as he continued, “Generalizations
about the typical material environment of the slave in the
central period of Roman history must necessarily be cautious,
therefore, yet the evidence described so far implies on the
face of things a fairly bleak material regime for most Roman
The wellbeing of slaves was worsened once Caligula began his
expansion of Rome. As previously mentioned, a reoccurring
pattern became clear: whenever copious amounts of fresh
slaves were easily available, their individual price was reduced.
Any substantial reduction in the price generally led to a decline
in the care and treatment of slaves. Caligula’s expansion of the
state brought in waves of new slaves, being mostly prisoners
of war. A decline immediately occurred in the way Romans
cared for their ‘property’. Keith Bradley found that the treatment sometimes harmed the spirit of the slave, and summarized the shift when he said,
“the likelihood that Roman slaves attempted from time
to time to reduce the rigors of servitude or to extricate themselves permanently from their condition may be read ily admitted in simple terms of human nature, especially
in view of the already documented fact that prisoners of war in Roman antiquity often preferred to inflict death upon themselves than to submit to the horrors of capture.”23
It was a change in the treatment of slaves that so often sigespecially the shift from a society with slaves to a slave society,
naled a real shift in the institution. This kind of transition can necessarily caused the institution of slavery to become somebe obviously noticed upon a study of American slavery. Per- thing entirely different.
haps no other sources capture the brutality of post-revolution
slavery in the United States as well as the many slave narratives. Frederick Douglass described his earliest memory of the
carnage when he wrote, “I was so terrified and horror-stricken
at the sight [of the beating of a slave], that I hid myself in
a closet, and dared not venture out till long after the bloody
transaction was over. I expected it would be my turn next. It
was all new to me.”24
There existed a fascinating similarity in the way that slavery
changed in Rome and North America. Both societies existed
without an immediate need for slaves. In each case, wealthy
men were primarily those who could own slaves. Additionally,
forced labor was typically not too strenuous for each worker,
and slaves often lived with their masters. Further, the Roman
Republic as well as the English colonies and early United
States functioned solely as societies with slaves. Both societies
experienced a relatively quick influx of new labor that caused a
serious reduction in the price of slaves. In fact, so many slaves
were imported that these nations became arguably dependent
on that source of labor, thus becoming slave societies. The
ease of purchase caused by the new merchandise seemed to
force a decline in the general wellbeing of slaves and damaged
the relationships of slaves and masters. The lack of difficulty
in purchasing a slave also gave poorer citizens the ability to
buy slaves, removing the elite status of slaveholding. The
third effect the price drop had was the increased brutality towards the slaves. It could perhaps be due to the fact that slaves
became easier to replace, but after the influx in both societies, masters treated their slaves with much less dignity. This
pattern seems to be the discovered theme: wherever a society
with slaves25 exists, it will be necessarily less hostile or brutal
than a similar slave society that is dependent on forced labor.
There are, of course, complications with any historical comparison. The simple fact that Roman slavery was two millennia removed from North American Slavery is the first sign
that a comparison may be inappropriate. Some scholars also
question Turley’s three focus points. Geographic, legal, and
religious variables could also potentially pose problems in such
a comparison. Regardless of that risk, important similarities
existed between the two states that lead to one resounding
conclusion. A considerable shift in the importance of slavery,
1 Fogle, Robert William. Without Consent or Conctract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery. Norton Press:
1991. 17.
2 Turley, David. Slavery. Blackwell Publishers: Malden, Massachusetts 2000. 4
3 Roman Republic will denote the early period of
Roman rule prior to rapid militarization after the 2nd century
4 Turley, David. Slavery. Blackwell Publishers: Malden, Massachusetts 2000. 4
5 Ibid, 78.
6 Phillps Jr., William D. Slavery From the Roman
Times to the Early Transatlantic Trade. University of Minnesota Press: 1985. 17.
7 Turley, 62.
8 Ibid, 62.
9 Westermann, William L. The Slave Systems of
Greek and 10 Roman Antiquity. The American Philosophical
Society: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1955. 64.
10 Turley, 63
11Ibid, 63.
12 Bradley, Keith R. Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World. Indiana University Press: 1989. 18-19.
13 Phillips, 17.
14 Moore, Robert H. Lecture on Society in the Roman Republic. History 2523A: Classical World. John Brown
University: September 15, 2009.
15 Bradley, 19.
16 Bradley, 18.
17 Fogle, 18.
18 Gates, Henry Lous Jr. The Classic Slave Narratives: The Life of Frederick Douglass. Penguin Group:2002.
19 Gates, 19-247.
20 Berlin, Ira. Generations of Captivity. The Belknap
Press of Harvard University Press: 2003. 3.
21 Bradley, Keith. Slavery and Society at Rome. Cambridge University Press: 1994. 85.
22 Ibid, 85.
23 Ibid, 109.
24 Gates Jr., 344.
25 Being non-dependent on slave labor
Broaden Journal of Undergraduate Reseach