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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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The farm- buildings (-villa rustica-) supplied at once stabling for the cattle, storehouses for the produce, and a dwelling for the steward and the slaves; while a separate country house (-villa urbana-) for the master was frequently erected on the estate. Every slave, even the steward himself, had all the necessaries of life delivered to him on the master's behalf at certain times and according to fixed rates; and upon these he had to subsist. He received in this way clothes and shoes, which were purchased in the market, and which the recipients had merely to keep in repair; a quantity of wheat monthly, which each had to grind for himself; as also salt, olives or salted fish to form a relish to their food, wine, and oil.

The quantity was adjusted according to the work; on which account the steward, who had easier work than the common slaves, got scantier measure than these. The stewardess attended to all the baking and cooking; and all partook of the same fare. It was not the ordinary practice to place chains on the slaves; but when any one had incurred punishment or was thought likely to attempt an escape, he was set to work in chains and was shut up during the night in the slaves' prison.(7)

7. In this restricted sense the chaining of slaves, and even of the sons of the family (Dionys. ii. 26), was very old; and accordingly chained field-labourers are mentioned by Cato as exceptions, to whom, as they could not themselves grind, bread had to be supplied instead of grain (56). Even in the times of the empire the chaining of slaves uniformly presents itself as a punishment inflicted definitively by the master, provisionally by the steward (Colum. i. 8; Gai. i. 13; Ulp. i. ii).

If, notwithstanding, the tillage of the fields by means of chained slaves appeared in subsequent times as a distinct system, and the labourers' prison (-ergastulum-)--an underground cellar with window-aperatures numerous but narrow and not to be reached from the ground by the hand (Colum. i. 6)--became a necessary part of the farm- buildings, this state of matters was occasioned by the fact that the position of the rural serfs was harder than that of other slaves and therefore those slaves were chiefly taken for it, who had, or seemed to have, committed some offence.

That cruel masters, moreover, applied the chains without any occasion to do so, we do not mean to deny, and it is clearly indicated by the circumstance that the law- books do not decree the penalties applicable to slave transgressors against those in chains, but prescribe the punishment of the half- chained. It was precisely the same with branding; it was meant to be, strictly, a punishment; but the whole flock was probably marked (Diodor. xxxv. 5; Bernays, --Phokytides--, p. xxxi.).

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