Friday, February 07, 2003

Chariot Racing and Slavery

In this morning's lecture on public entertainments in ancient Rome, Dr. Fagan said that chariot racing was so popular that the streets of Rome were utterly deserted on racing day. The Emperor Augustus began stationing clusters of troops around the city to prevent looting. He also said the racing fans could be quite fanatic. In Thessalonika, a chariot driver was imprisoned for making a homosexual advance to a Roman general. The driver's fans rioted, breaking the man out of prison, but continued their violence throughout the city until troops had to be called out and in the end 7,000 people were killed.

A couple of days ago in his lecture on Roman slavery, Dr. Fagan said that if a slave killed a master, all slaves of that master would be executed and this did, in fact, happen occasionally. I was unaware of that aspect of Roman slavery. He also said that if a slave was granted manumission that the law stated that within three generations, the descendants of the former slave would be allowed to run for office (if they met the wealth criteria for a knight or senator). The Romans were quite meticulous about their social orders!