Roman Slave Traders
Next Previous Index Tellout Home

Roman Slave Traders (Revelation 18.11-13)

"The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore — cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth, every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and carriages, and human beings sold as slaves." (Revelation 18.11-13)✞

The Souls of Men

Slaves in chainsThe list in Revelation of lost business items for the Roman merchants closes with the sad mention of "slaves and the souls of men." The word used for Roman "slave" is "soma," which literally means "a body." The Roman slave traders' market was literally "the place where bodies are sold." The traders followed the armies and when an enemy was defeated were sold the fit and healthy captives and then sold on these bodies and souls of slaves into the possession of their master and these people then became their owners. Signs were often hung around a slave's neck in the slave market listing the qualities the slave had. Those slaves considered "secondary goods" were sold separately and forced to wear a cap to indicate it! ✞

Sixty Million Slaves

Slave IronsIt is almost impossible for us to understand how much Roman civilization was based on slaves and the slave traders who bought and sold them. There were possibly 60,000,000 slaves that is sixty million slaves in the Roman Empire though this number is questioned by some scholars as being far too high! It was not unusual however for a Roman man to own four hundred slaves himself which were bought from the slave traders. One Roman writer wrote, "Use your slaves like the limbs of your body, each for its own end."

Sedan Chair Slaves

Prison BarsTraders sold men, women and children to do the menial work as well as other more sophisticated tasks like writing, reading or teaching one's children. Each particular service had its slave. We read of torch-bearers, lantern-bearers, sedan-chair carriers, street attendants, keepers of the outdoor garments and even slaves to stand at a feast as a kind of ornamentation for the guests to look at. Some were sold as secretaries or people to read letters aloud, and some to do the necessary research for a man writing a book or a treatise. Roman slaves even did a man's thinking for him reminding him when to eat and what to say to his neighbor at a banquet when he ran out of words!

"Roman Slave Traders"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

^Top Page Next Previous