Slavery refers to a situation whereby an individual is owned by another individual and is sometimes denied some of his rights. Slavery was mainly practiced in ancient years. Examples of the empires which practiced the trade include Rome and Ottoman. This research will shed light on how slavery was carried out in the two empires and will, later on, compare and contrast some of the activities that were involved in the practice of slavery in the two empires.
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Slavery in Rome
Slaves in ancient Rome were ill-treated by being denied their rights. Their master even went further to deny them the right to marry. But with time their rights began to increase that at one time they were allowed to fire complaints against their masters. Even after manumission, free slaves were still denied the rights of normal Roman citizens. Most of the slaves in Rome were obtained through wars; with Roman armies bringing them back as a reward for emerging victorious in war. The conversion of defeated soldiers into slaves earned them income and was seen as an alternative to jailing or executing them.
Slaves were also obtained from the sale of children from their parents. It is believed that slavery in ancient Rome began when Rome’s king Romulus gave Roman rights the freedom to sell their children for slavery, the trade nourished with the expansion of the Roman state. Delos which is located in Eastern Mediterranean was one of the main markets of slavery; many slaves who were brought to Italy were bought by healthy landowners who required laborers to work in their large farms (Bradley 1994: 34).
The sale of slaves was done by wholesale dealers who followed the Roman army in war conquests. An official who was referred to as a Questor handled the sale of slaves which was mainly done in public auctions, shops, and sometimes the sale of valuable slaves was conducted privately.
The prices of the slaves varied with age and quality, with quality slaves being sold at very high prices. Slave trade had a guarantee period of six months that is the buyer of a slave was allowed to return the slave within six months to the seller if he had defects or he was not making any profits. The other source of slaves was the offspring of the love relationships between slaves, the children of such slaves were owned by the first master (Bradley 1994: 43).
Slavery in Ottoman
In Ottoman, it is believed that it was the Arabs who started the slave trade. It is estimated that the slave trade in Ottoman started in AD 1100 when Arab traders were involved in the exportation of Black slaves from sub-Saharan Africa; the Practice went on for a long time even during the Ottoman reign. In Ottoman slaves could attain a high status and they even highly participated in politics. The Slaves played a huge role in the success of the Ottoman Empire because being offered special training on matters regarding administration they did not only practice loyalty to the government but also cut down the rate of corruption; this was to reward the loyalty given to them by their masters (Ehud 1997: 52).
Apart from Arab trade, the other source of slaves was captives taken from a battle that was mainly adopted to the army, converted to Islam, and trained in Sultan’s personal service. Slaves were also obtained as children captives who were taken from their homes in the Balkans and received training as Child soldiers (Ehud 1997: 61).
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It is a clear indication that some similarities and differences existed between slavery in Rome and Ottoman. One of the differences is that in Rome it was introduced by soldiers who brought back captives’ home and sold them as slaves while in Ottoman it was introduced by Arab traders who exported slaves from Sub-Saharan Africa and sold them as slaves in Ottoman.
The second difference is that in Ottoman the slaves captured in war were adopted into the army and they were allowed to climb to higher ranks while in Rome the slaves captured were sold to wealthy men who turned them into farmworkers. The other difference is that in Ottoman the offspring of the slaves were not necessarily meant to be slaves as the case in Rome. The similarity between slavery in the two empires is that in both cases one of the sources of slaves was through the abduction of soldiers who had lost the war.
Bradley, Keith, “Slavery and societies at Rome”, Cambridge university press”, (1994) 34-43.
Ehud, R, “Slavery and abolition in the Ottoman Middle East”, (1997) 52-61.