Churchill Fellow and Director of Studies for Classics, Jerry Toner has published an entertaining and informative guide to the realities of slavery in ancient Rome with an introduction written by Mary Beard.
How to Manage Your Slaves by Marcus Sidonius Falx, published earlier this year has just been released in the US under the title—The Roman Guide to Slave Management: A Treatise by Marcus Sidoniud Falx to good reviews, including the New Yorker and Bloomberg News, who called the book ‘brilliant.’
Narrated by the fictitious, cranky, and old-fashioned Marcus Sidonius Falx, this Roman’s-eye view of slavery provides an unvarnished and, darkly comic tour of Roman institutional slavery.
Based on a wealth of original sources, including Seneca and Pliny the Younger, the book explores all facets of Roman slave-ownership: where and how to buy slaves, how to tell a productive slave from a problematic one, what to do in the event of an uprising and guidance on the delicate subject of when you should let your slaves engage in amorous relations with each other—or their master. Each chapter is followed by historical commentary to set the story in the context of known historical events.
‘Wealthy Romans saw slaves as necessary for a high standard of living, just as we view modern domestic appliances.’
The book aims to provide insight into Roman attitudes to slavery and help the modern reader, to whom slavery is hard to fathom, understand why slaves meant so much to the Romans.
The book ends with a stark reminder that slavery is not confined to the ancient past:
‘before we congratulate ourselves on how far we have come, we should remember that it is a tragic fact that even though slavery is illegal in every country in the world, it still exists widely. The NGO Free the Slaves estimates that there are 27 million individuals who are forced to work under th threat of violence, without pay or hope of escape. There are more slaves in the world today than there were at any point in the life of the Roman empire.’