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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XII - The Management of Land and of Capital


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Page 29

Management of Business by Slaves

Business in all these different branches was uniformly carried on by means of slaves. The money-lenders and bankers instituted, throughout the range of their business, additional counting-houses and branch banks under the direction of their slaves and freedmen. The company, which had leased the customs-duties from the state, appointed chiefly its slaves and freedmen to levy them at each custom-house. Every one who took contracts for buildings bought architect-slaves; every one who undertook to provide spectacles or gladiatorial games on account of those giving them purchased or trained a company of slaves skilled in acting, or a band of serfs expert in the trade of fighting. The merchant imported his wares in vessels of his own under the charge of slaves or freedmen, and disposed of them by the same means in wholesale or retail.

We need hardly add that the working of mines and manufactories was conducted entirely by slaves. The situation of these slaves was, no doubt, far from enviable, and was throughout less favourable than that of slaves in Greece; but, if we leave out of account the classes last mentioned, the industrial slaves found their position on the whole more tolerable than the rural serfs. They had more frequently a family and a practically independent household, with no remote prospect of obtaining freedom and property of their own. Hence such positions formed the true training school of those upstarts from the servile class, who by menial virtues and often by menial vices rose to the rank of Roman citizens and not seldom attained great prosperity, and who morally, economically, and politically contributed at least as much as the slaves themselves to the ruin of the Roman commonwealth.

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