Friday, May 11, 2018
Born a Slave
In the Roman tradition of slavery, slaves were not born, they were made. The child of a slave did not inherit that status.I'm no expert, but I think that, under Roman law, a child had the same status its mother had when the child was born. See the Digest of Justinian 188.8.131.52 (tr. Alan Watson):
People are brought under our power as slaves either by the civil law or by the jus gentium. This happens by civil law if someone over twenty years of age allows himself to be sold with a view to sharing in the price. By the jus gentium, people become slaves on being captured by enemies or by birth to a female slave.
servi autem in dominium nostrum rediguntur aut iure civili aut gentium: iure civili, si quis se maior viginti annis ad pretium participandum venire passus est. iure gentium servi nostri sunt, qui ab hostibus capiuntur aut qui ex ancillis nostris nascuntur.
Kevin Muse reminds me that the Romans had a special word for one who was born a slave—verna.