slaves

In Rome, they had always treated their slaves with consideration, spurring their slaves to effort by offering them pay and bonuses which accumulated to form a nest egg that as a rule served ultimately to buy their freedom. With few exceptions, slavery in Rome was neither eternal nor, while it lasted, intolerable. From the first century of the republic it had been recognized that the slave had a soul of his own, and the free citizens had, in practice, permitted him to join them in the service of whatever cult he preferred.. even in externals the slave is in no way distinguished from his master, and unless his master wore the toga praetexta of the magistrate, the two were dressed alike.. after a slave had regained his liberty he lived on terms of absolute equality with the Roman citizen.. Once his emancipation had been duly pronounced.. the slave obtained by the grace of his master, living or dead, the name and status of a Roman citizen..

The slaves who benefited by the ever-increasing numbers of manumissions were placed on a footing of complete equality with other Roman citizens, enabled to secure positions and fortunes and to purchase droves of slaves, in their turn.. In the empire there were sixty million slaves. In the eyes of the law a slave was a "living tool", a thing and not a person at all. A master could fling out an old slave as he could fling out an old spade or hoe. He could amuse himself by torturing his slaves; he could even kill them. For slaves there was no such thing as marriage; even their children belonged to the master.

It was the glory of Christianity that it made people who were things into real men and women, nay more, into sons and daughters. No respect, self respect; no life, life eternal; it told men that even if they did not matter to men they still mattered intensely to God. It was men, who in the eyes of the world, were worthless, that, in the eyes of God, they were worth the death of God's only son. Slavery has been condemned both by the spirit and by the teaching of Jesus. When he taught the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man followed, and the end of slavery became a matter of time.

The disappearance of the Jews through slavery was an immediate and practical problem. To avert this danger, Jewish leaders formulated the principle that every Jew was his brother's keeper, and that all Jews were brothers. In those days when someone was sold into slavery, he was a doomed man, unless he came of a prominent family, in which case he might be ransomed. The Jews devised an entirely new concept. Henceforth, any Jew sold into slavery had to be ransomed within seven years by Jews in the nearest community. At the lowest extreme of the social scale were millions of slaves, without family, without religion, without possessions, who had no recognized rights, and towards whom none had any recognized duties, passing normally from a childhood of degradation to a manhood of hardship, and an old age of unpitied neglect. When a man was sold as a slave, the kind of life he could expect depended on his skills and the temper of his master. The master was a matter of lick; one owner might whip his slaves and work them to death, while another would treat them with some kindness. But skills were a matter of education, and they made a great difference. How could the slave-driver evangelist ever touch the heart of the slave whom he had morally alienated by doing him so grievous a wrong? The Christian religion must indeed be animated by an invincible spiritual power if it can win converts under such conditions.

The unskilled men and women who worked on farms or spent their days in the dark tunnels of the mines knew nothing but suffering. They slept in filthy huts, had only enough food to keep them working, and were often kept in chains. When they grew old or fell sick, no one did much about it. It was cheaper to let them die and buy young, healthy replacements. Paul's belief in the speedy return of Jesus made him attach little importance to freedom of servitude. From a social viewpoint Paul's was opposed to slavery on principle, a unique phenomenon in antiquity - Godís law had established a weekly day of rest and contained a host of protective rules in favor of workers, debtors, women, children and the poor.
[80, 365, 296, 314, 327, 330, 344, 374, 393]



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