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date: 20 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

While manumission has been practised in almost all slave societies the Romans appear to have freed their slaves with unparalleled frequency. The chapter looks at three aspects of Roman manumission: the status of freedmen, the Augustan reforms of manumission and the legal discourse on freedmen under the Empire. It is suggested that the background for the Roman practice of enfranchising former slaves should be sought in the social and legal structures of early Rome, which delegated many “state” functions to the heads of households. The enfranchisement of freedmen was compatible with the political structures of the Republic, but in response to changes to the Roman citizenship the first emperor introduced a new legal framework, which remained until late Antiquity. The details of this framework were refined over the following centuries, as jurists explored a wide range of complex legal issues associated with manumission and the place of freedmen in society.

Keywords: slavery, manumission, citizenship, familia, patronus, peculium, Augustus, operae

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