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The Freedman in the Roman World

  • Date Published: April 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107519084


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About the Authors
  • Freedmen occupied a complex and often problematic place in Roman society between slaves on the one hand and freeborn citizens on the other. Playing an extremely important role in the economic life of the Roman world, they were also a key instrument for replenishing and even increasing the size of the citizen body. This book presents an original synthesis, for the first time covering both Republic and Empire in a single volume. While providing up-to-date discussions of most significant aspects of the phenomenon, the book also offers a new understanding of the practice of manumission, its role in the organisation of slave labour and the Roman economy, as well as the deep-seated ideological concerns to which it gave rise. It locates the freedman in a broader social and economic context, explaining the remarkable popularity of manumission in the Roman world.

    • First comprehensive study of Roman freedmen and the manumission of slaves for over a century
    • Presents an original synthesis of a central feature of Roman slavery, providing a new understanding of the role of manumission
    • Places freedmen and manumission in a wider historical, social and economic context and relates the phenomenon to comparative material from other slave societies
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Mouritsen is an excellent guide to the tricky social history and economics of Roman freedmen.' The Times Literary Supplement

    'This is a great book, an attempt not just to trace but also in sense to rewrite the history of Roman freedmen (and, by extension, much of Roman social and economic history too). It is particularly strong in offering a corrective to many older views and challenging the evidence upon which those views were based … [Mouritsen] triumphantly undermines old and lazy orthodoxies, but his book also makes clear some of the difficulties in moving from offering a corrective to those views to offering a new vision of Roman freedmen. It is a fundamental contribution to the subject of Roman slavery and a must-read for anyone interested in Roman social history more generally.' Niall McKeown, Scripta Classica Israelica

    'Mouritsen's depth of insight and breadth of knowledge have, at last, produced an overarching account of manumission in the Roman world that will be an essential point of departure for future work on this topic, as well as an invaluable resource for teaching.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    'Given the size of the slave and freedman populations in the ancient world, and the extent to which these individuals were entangled in nearly every aspect of the Roman quotidian experience, there can be no hope of properly grasping that universe without a thorough appreciation of its liberti. Mouritsen has produced what is, to my taste, the most important book we now have on this topic … In short, anyone seeking to understand Rome in the late republican and early imperial periods must not neglect The Freedman [in the Roman World].' Classical World

    'Mouritsen's excellent study fills the need for an updated synthesis on Roman freedmen.' American Historical Review

    'This is a magisterial synchronic overview of the subject that reconfigures the specific issues that have for decades drawn the attention of scholars … This book is valuable for the way it recasts or even reverses what we thought was typical or unusual.' translated from Sehepunkte (

    'The analysis is nothing short of revolutionary, an important advance over the standard studies.' Ancient History Bulletin

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107519084
    • length: 352 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: approaching Roman freedmen
    2. Macula servitutis: slavery, freedom and manumission
    3. Freedmen and their patrons
    4. The power and status of freedmen
    5. The practice of manumission at Rome
    6. The freedman in the Roman economy
    7. The freedman (and his son) in Roman public life
    8. Being a Roman freedman: the identity and experiences of former slaves.

  • Author

    Henrik Mouritsen, King's College London
    Henrik Mouritsen is Professor of Roman History at King's College London. He has published widely on Roman history, including local politics, Pompeii and Ostia, freedmen, Latin epigraphy, Roman Italy, and Republican politics. His other books include Elections, Magistrates and Municipal Elite: Studies in Pompeian Epigraphy (1988), Italian Unification: A Study in Ancient and Modern Historiography (1998), and Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic (2001).

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