Project goals and methods

This project has been centered on a comprehensive study of child slavery in the Roman world, covering a period of half a millennium, c. 200 BC to AD 300, and the full geographical extent of the Roman empire across the Mediterranean. Based on extensive quantitative and qualitative study, combining demographic modelling with close source analysis, the project was designed to advance our understanding of the economic role of child slavery at Rome. The project also aimed to explore several other, non-economic roles of child slavery in Roman society. Comparison with more recent slave societies has been drawn on to contextualise the Roman example, and its historical legacy.

The hypothesis that child slavery was central to Roman slaving has been tested from three interrelated angles:

first, through quantitative study of the occurrence and economic value of enslaved children in the Roman world, to assess the prevalence of child slavery and the children’s labour exploitation in the Roman slave system;

second, through qualitative study of the evidence for enslaved children and child slavery, to provide a detailed and comprehensive overview of the labour tasks undertaken by enslaved children;

third, through cross-cultural comparison of the Roman example with the exploitation of enslaved minors in other slave societies, especially in the Americas, to identify similarities and differences to enable a more nuanced understanding of the specifics of child slavery’s context at Rome, and of the role of child slavery within slavery generally.