Thursday 4 October 2012

The price of slavery - the money makers

Just like anything else, slavery was a business in the Roman era - with a long chain of slavers, wholesalers and auctioneers taking their share of the trade as a person passed from their point of enslavement to their new owner's premises. Because of a central location in the Mediterranean basin, the cities of Ephesus and Sardis in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) became the major wholesale markets for the slave trade across the Roman world. Here, those slaves gathered from the Middle East, Greece, the Caucuses, Egypt and Ethiopia were onsold into the western markets. By the 1st-century BC about 40-percent of the Italian peninsular's population (around 3-million people) were slaves - suggesting the Italian slave trade alone had a total worth of around $150-billion (6-billion sesterces) and was probably generating about $15-billion (600-million sesterces) per annum. That's a whole lot of cash going into the pockets of those invested in the industry. As for who made the most amount of money out of the slave business, well, Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul - where a million men, women and children were eventually sold into bondage, no doubt glutting the market for several years - probably netted him a personal take of around $20-billion...not bad for him, since he was broke when he first became the Governor of the two Gauls...but not so good if you were a Gaul.

Find out if Calvus' family were in the business  

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