Friday 29 June 2012

Chained to the wheel

Our modern day perceptions of slavery have mostly been shaped by the African slave trade to the Americas, where bondage was based on race as some sort of moral diminishment. However, if there's one thing that can be said about the Romans, they were very much about equal opportunity. In fact racism, as we know it, was unheard of in this multicultural ancient world. Anybody could become a slave, for any reason. In fact Roman citizens frequently sold themselves into slavery to pay debts. And while it was no doubt an uncomfortable proposition to be the goods and chattels of another household, it was by no means the end of the world. Slaves could earn and save money, and many bought their own freedom after only a few years - some even became incredibly wealthy. Many were educated by their masters and most of those brought from beyond the 'barbarian' lands chose to stay in this 'civilisation' when become slave owners too.

The thing is, while we can turn our noses up at an ancient world built upon a slave-based economy and say how terrible it was, take a moment to think about things. Yes, perhaps we don't have an owner with the power of life and death over us...but how many of us are truly free? How many of us have the freedom to stop paying the mortgage? How many of us are chained to jobs we could not possibly leave? Credit cards, bills, cars, responsibility, and the darker sides of addiction - they can make slaves of all of us. And now our personal debt is even bought and sold by banks...wealthy corporations haggling over us like the slave traders of old. So are we really free? Or are we just in denial...

Find out if Calvus was free  

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