Roman Kitchen Slaves
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Roman Kitchen Slaves 129

Early Church Serving

Roman Slave MarketThe Household of Faith gathered in the Greco Roman world in those places directly affected by either the Greek or Roman cultures. The Households of Faith encouraged new members, but it was also presented with problems because of the different social classes and the status of some of the Christians in the group. Some Christians were patrons or owners where they and their families ruled whereas other Christians were slaves or their families were those who served. The Christian baptismal confession in Galatians 3.28b affirmed that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave [Greek word "doulos"] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Household slaves were members of the household of faith and therefore equal before Christ to family members and even to the patron himself in theory.✞

House Master

Early Church Serving SlavesThe Christian confession and the design of the domus or Greco-Roman house were also at odds with each other. "One important rule in a slave-owning society was to contrast adequately the servants' area and other areas of the house" so that the slave quarters were sparse and the family space was luxuriant. Most kitchens, where Roman slaves worked, were poorly lit and never decorated, or they had red vertical stripes in the corners although we don't know what purpose this served.✞

Nobodies Nowhere

Slaves serving MasterOwners of larger houses deliberately segregated cooking and dining, placing kitchen smells, noises, and persons as far away as possible from the dining rooms. "The kitchens slaves were essentially nobodies who worked nowhere." Once a year, to mark the Feast of Saturnalia, at a Greco-Roman symposium, guests and sometimes uninvited guests reclined and were served by the patron and his family. The feast of Saturnalia fell in December, when the normal order of things was reversed and the family actually served the servants.

"Roman Kitchen Slaves"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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