Finding Slaves in Pompeii: Using Household Archaeology to Deepen the Unterstanding of the Social Standing within a Household

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Finding Slaves in Pompeii: Using Household Archaeology to Deepen the Unterstanding of the Social Standing within a Household

Type: Bachelor thesis
Title: Finding Slaves in Pompeii: Using Household Archaeology to Deepen the Unterstanding of the Social Standing within a Household
Author: Bruijn, Charlotte de
Issue Date: 2017-08-31
Keywords: Roman Slaves
Pompeii
household archaeology
Abstract: This thesis explores the role of architecture in influencing the social position of slaves in the Pompeian household. While slaves were omnipresent in the elite household, research regarding their lives has been lagging behind. Besides architectural evidence from Pompeii, the thesis looks into textual, legal, and iconographic sources. Slaves in the Roman Empire did not possess any legal rights. However, they are often mentioned in legal documents concerned with ownership disputes. Lacking any legal protection, the life of a slave was dependent on his master, often making slaves a target for emotional and physical abuse. The slave could only endure such outbursts and continue working hard, for the only way to gain freedom was if the master granted him manumission. This is illustrated by the story of Lucius in Apuleius’ metamorphoses, a satirical comment on the lives of slaves. The well-off Lucius was transformed into a donkey. As a mule he is beaten and abused, worked half to death, humiliated and sold multiple times. Apuleius created a story which strikes a close resemblance to the life of a slave. Apart from literary sources, Pompeian art also shows how deeply the low status of slaves was embedded in Roman society, where slaves were represented as small and insignificant. Regarding the role of architecture, five different-sized Pompeian houses are examined, comparing floor-plans to identify characteristics common to these houses, and searching for places where slaves might have enjoyed privacy. The focus of this research points to the servile quarters such as the kitchen and the triclinium, allowing us to examine the role of architecture on the movement trajectories of slaves. All five houses have different sized doorways within the house, directing guests to big open doors, while slave staff had to use small and narrow doorways. The difference in the size of door apertures emphasises the social distinction within the house. The architecture of Roman houses aims to create sightlines to optimize visual effects. The triclinium (dining room) was an important part of the house and usually had the best view into the garden. To maintain this visual effect slaves had to avoid crossing this line of sight. The architecture thus contributed in controlling the movement of slaves.
Supervisor: Stoger, Hanna
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archeologie (Bachelor)
Specialisation: Archaeology of the classical world
ECTS Credits: 9
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/52938
 

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