ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Guide to Roman Freedman

Updated on December 3, 2016

Slaves in the Roman world, unlike most other slave-owning societies from ancient to early modern times, could always hope they might one day be freed. There were millions of freedmen and women in the Roman Empire, found in all provinces at all times and in all walks of life. As free people, they were entitled to the privileges of citizenship and some rose to positions of high status. The emperor Claudius notoriously relied on freedmen to run the Empire for him.

Freeing a slave A slave could be freed by his master in the master's will (the most usual) or as a gift during his master's lifetime, which meant going before a magistrate who touched the slave with a rod after his master had given him a pretend slap as a symbol of his last punishment as a slave. Slaves could even save up money from casual earnings or gifts and purchase their own freedom, but that usually meant negotiating a deal with their master to compensate him for the original purchase price.

Roman Freedman

The technical term for freeing a slave is manumission, which comes from two Latin words: manus (‘hand') and emittere (‘to let go'). Even though he was now free, a freedman had a duty of obligation to his former master and that meant becoming his client and remaining tied to him in that mutually-advantageous relationship. In fact, the new client might even carry on in his old job. Refer to the earlier section ‘Being on Top - Upper-crust Romans' for details of the patron-client relationship. The advantage to the old master is pretty clear: He no longer had to feed and clothe his former slave, who now had to deal with all that for himself. An ex- slave could vote on his old master's behalf, too. If a court case blew up, then his ex-slave could now serve as a witness on his behalf. The disincentive was the tax levied on freeing each slave at 5 per cent of his or her value. Freedmen usually took their former master's name. A centurion of the XX legion called Marcus Aufudius Maximus visited the shrine and spa centre of Bath in Britain where two of his personal freedmen, Marcus Aufidius Lemnus and Aufidius Eutuches, set up dedications on their former master's behalf as he was now their patron and they his loyal clients.

Stigma Freedmen could never become equestrians or reach senatorial rank; they suf- fered the social stigma of having been slaves, and were looked down on as coarse and vulgar. But it wasn't a prejudice many Romans could afford to have because so many people were descended from slaves at some point in their ancestries, even a few emperors. The emperor Pertinax (AD 193), for example, was the son of a freedman called Helvius Successus who had made his money in the timber trade. The most average freedmen could hope for was to serve in the administra- tion of their city or on the imperial service, or become modest businessmen like merchants. If successful enough, a freedman could afford to become a member of the seviri Augustales (‘the board of six priests in the cult of Augustus'), which was monopolised by freedmen. As Pertinax's example shows, unlike their fathers, the sons of freedmen could rise as high as any man from a free family, without any obligations to their father's old masters.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)