Rome was a society built on slavery. After the fall of Rome slavery gradually disappeared in Euope. The peasants of the feudal system were similar in many ways to slaves, but Christian theology based on the value of individual souls did not support slavery and as a result slavery gradually disappeared in Europe. With the European explosion into foreign lands in the 16th century there was a revival of slavery. There was slavery permitted in colonies which became race based. This was in part justified by denying the essential humanity of the enslaved people. A major debate occurred in Spain over the issue of whether the Native Americans were human. Similar attitudes were directed at Africans although there was never any formalized legal debate. There were, however, still some remants of both slavery and slave trading. In addition, the Mongols and Ottoman Turks conquered large areas of southern and eastern Europe. There was also Arab slave trading into Europe,
Rome was a society built on slavery. After the fall of Rome slavery gradually disappeared in Euope. Slavery was central to the Roman economy, perhaps more so than any other ancient civilization. Slavery was a minor institution in the early years of the Republic. This gradually changed as Rome expanded through conquest. Slaves were were primarily war captives, both captured wariors and the women and children of conquered populations. The offspring of these enslaved people provided a vast slave work force. The victors in battle might enslave the losers rather than killing them. Slavery in Rome were major components of the work force. The performed virtually every occupation required in the Romn economy. The citize farmer was the bed-rock of the early Republic. Gradually farming with the influx of slaves shifted to estate slavery which relied on chain gangs to work the fields. Large numbers of slaves were also used to work the mines, commonly under atrocious conditions under brutal overloads. Slaves were also employed as servants and artisans in the cities. Slaves working as domestics in private houshold had the best opportunity to engratiate themselves with their masters and perhap earn their freedom. Slaves were drawn from widly differing peoples and there was no association with race. Slaves might be blond, blue eyed Anglo-Saxons from Britania or blacks from Sahara as well as evry other racial type. Slavery in Rome had no racial basis. Even those of Italian stock were enslaved. It was thus impossible to tell from one's physical appearance if one was a slave.
It was only the Western Empire that fell (5th century). The Eastern or Buzantine Empire survived for another 1,000 years. There was a sizeable slave population in Byzantium. There were both "infidel" and "heathen" slaves. There were also important slave markets in Byzantium. Slavery in Byzantium and the Byzantine Mediterranean had its own unique chracter and was distinct in many ways to the slavery practiced in America, including law, the labor market, medieval politics, and religion. [Rotman] Byzantium had to deal with the Islanic outburst and the power of first the Islamic Caliphate and then the Ottoman Empire.
The term slavery can include widely different social system. Gradually the Byzantines shifted cultural perception of slaves as individuals. Increasingly the Byzantines viewed slaves as human beings and persons rather than mere property.
After the fall of Rome, the Feudal system developed in Europe. The Feudalism was an economic, social, and economic system based apportionment of land in exchange for the provision of fealty and service. The system was based on the king granting land to his important noblemen who became barons. These land grants became heritary. The king also granted land to the Church. These nobels in exchange pledged loyally to the king and to provide soldiers and supplies in time of war. The great nobels in turn divied their fiefdom among lesser lords or knights who became his vassals. This system ws based on the laborof the lowest rung of the social order. Most Europeans were peasant farmers working on the land of a Feudal nobleman--the lor of the manner. They did not own their land, but allowed to work it in exchange for a hare of the crop and labor when required. As the Feudal system developed, the peasants or serfs became tied to the land, not allowed to leave it without permission of the lord of the manner. The Feudal system began to weaken in Western Europe by the 16th century, but persisted much longer in Eastern Europe. The serfs in Russia werenot legal freed until the 19th century and it was not until the Revolution in the 20th century that the still essentially Feudal estates were broken up. The peasants or serfs of the feudal system were similar in many ways to slaves, but Christian theology based on the value of individual souls did not support slavery and as a result slavery gradually disappeared in Europe.
Slavey n Europe declined during the medieval slavery. This was because just as in Egypt and other ancient civilizations, the status of te peasantry was very close to slavery. Sefs were not slaves, but they were also not fee persons. Their status varied from place to place and over time. The slavery of the Romsan Empire was replaced with the serfdom of medieval Europe. A factor here ws the Church which did not approve of slavery, at least for Christian subjects. f course the Vikings were non-Christians and part of the allure of the Viking raids (9th-10th century) was to capture Christians that could be sold as slsaves. Among Christians, there was no prohibition on holding Muslims, Jews, and other non-Chtistians as slaves. And this was the case as late as the 15th century when Europe was beginning its maritime outreach (15th century). By this time slavery had virtually disappeared in northern Europe where it came to be seen as backward and uneconomic. As the feudal system declined in northern Europe (England, the Low Lands, northern France, and northern Germany), the system of free labor and wages became increasingly accepted. This was not the case in the principal Muslim power--the Ottoman Empire. Here slavey was an important part of the economny and social system. It was also practiced in the Barbary states which. And as late as the 15th century, the African slave trade accross the Sahara and Indian Ocean still greatly exceed the Africans being captured by the Portuguese in the Atlantic. [Thomas] The Barbary states also seized Christains ships and raided increasingly prosperous Europe for booty, including taking captives to be sold as slaves. Slaves unlike northern Europe were still important in southern Europe, especially Spain and Portugal. A major factor here was the wars between Cht\ristian and Muslim states. But not all slaves in the Iberian Pensinsual were captured Muslims and Africans. There are reports of Eastern Europeans (Bosnians, Circasians, Poles, and Russians). The Slavs were psartiulsarly important. Note that the word slave has developed from "slav" and not the old Roman (Latin) word "servus". There were active slave amekes in what would become Spain (Barcelona and Valencia) as well as Genoa and Naples. [Verlinden]
With the European explosion into foreign lands in the 16th century there was a revival of slavery. There was slavery permitted in colonies which became race based. This was in part justified by denying the essential humanity of the enslaved people. A major debate occurred in Spain over the issue of whether the Native Americans were human. Similar attitudes were directed at Africans although there was never any formalized legal debate.
With the fall of Rome (5th century) there were still many non-Christian people in Europe. And indeed most of the Germanic invaders who overwealmed the Empire were pagans. Most of these pagan peoples condoned slavery and some even conducted raids to obtain slavery. St. Patrick was a Briton taken by pgan Irish raiders.
There were, however, still some remants of both slavery and slave trading in medieval Europe. The Moors brought slavery back to the Iberian Peninsula (8th century). The Scandinavian raiders better known as the Vikings enslaved captives taken in the West (9th century). The Vikings that moved east into Russia sold captives into slavery to the Ottomns. The Mongols captured arge areas of Eastern Europe (13th century). The Ottoman Turks conquered large areas of south and eastern Europe (14th century).
The Moors brought slavery back to the Iberian Peninsula (8th century). There wee slaves of Slavic origin in Al-Andalus. They were supplied by Vikings/Varangians who captured them.
Some were assigned to the Caliph's guard and over time acquired important posts in the his army. They became known as "saqaliba". They played an important role in the civil war within the Western Caliphate. Medieval reports describe long columns of slaves moving from northern Europe beyond the Carolingian Empire through the Rhône valley and over the Pyrenees to supply slave markets in Cordoba, Seville, and Grenada.
The Scandinavian raiders better known as the Vikings enslaved captives taken in the West (9th century). The Vikings that moved east into Russia sold captive Slavs into slavery to the Ottomns and Arabs. Viking merchants operating in the Volga did a brisk business in slaves with Muslim merchants.
The Mongols captured arge areas of Eastern Europe (13th century).
Slavery is an ancient central to the ecomonies of many ancient societies. This did not change with the coming of Islam and subsequently the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Slavery as an institution is recognized and thus sanctioned by the Holy Koran. The Koran consuls fair treatment of slaves, but slavery is sanctioned by Sharia Law. Thus approved by both religion and custom, slavery became an important institution in both the Ottoman economy and society. It was not as important as in some societies, but it was important. Slavery was entrenched in the operation of the Ottoman state in both administrative and militiary areas. [Erdem, p. 18.] Slavery was was a central element in the harem system as part of the use of slave domestics and concubines. Slavery was an important aspect of the private lives of individuals in the Muslim areas of the Empire. This was much less true in the Christian areas (primarily the Balkans) where slavery had largely disappeared by the time of the Ottoman conquest. The source of slaves varied over time. Both the Crimean Tartars and the Arabs played an important role in the Ottoman slave trade. The famed Janissary soldiers of the Ottoman Empire were in fact children of Christian parents who were made the Sultan's slaves.The Ottoman Turks conquered large areas of south and eastern Europe (14th century). Christian boys were taken from their families to serve as slaves of the caliph. They were well treated and educated. Some served in administrative posts. Others made up the famed Janisaries.
Christian slaves were reported in Asian countries from the earlies phases of the Caliphare. It is often not clear where they were obtained. In the early years it would have been from the Middle East which until the Arab conquest was largely Christian. Later as the Middle East was Imlamicized, Christians would have had to come mostly from Europe. Non-Muslim slaves were valued in Arab harems. They served as both harem girls, but also other roles such as gate-keeper, servant, odalisque, musician, dancer, and court dwarf). Non-Muslims were required for these roles because Islamic law did not allow Muslim boys to be castrated for such service. This was, however acceptable for Christians and other non-Muslims. the Caliph Al-Amin in Baghdad is reported to have owned approximately 7,000 black African eunuchs (who were completely emasculated) and 4,000 white eunuchs (who were castrated). [Lewis] The later would have been mostly European Christians castrated as young boys. Of course many did not survive the operation.
There was also Arab slave trading into Europe. This is not a well-examined historical phenomenon, but there is considerable historical evidence confirming that North African Muslim leaders sponsored or tolerated slave raids along the mediterranean coasts of Christian Europe. Some were even reported as distant as the British Isles and Iceland. The best known of these Arab slave raiders were the Barbary pirates. They were noted for seizing European merchant ships, but conducted land raids as well. These raids occurred during the Medieval period, but are not well documented. More is know about the 17th and 18th centuries, mostly as a resultv of naritives left by captives who survived. The raiders were motivated both by profit and Islam.
The captives were enslaved and often worked and perished in appalling conditions. They reprtedly died in huge numbers. One way of surviving was to convert to Islam. One fascinating account was left by Thomas Pellow, an 11-year old Cornish cabin boy. [Milton] European countries negotiated treaties with the Barbary states, in essence paying tribute. This caused aproblem when America achieved its independence (1783). The Barbary pirates began seizing American ships, no longer covered by their treaty with America. The result was an American naval expedition to North Africa.
Slaves were also transported into the Arab world through Central Asia caravan routes. This was the origins of the Egyptian Mamaluks. The word apparently meant slave in Arabic. They were first introduced to Egypt by Fatimite caliphs (10th century). The Ayyubite caliphs continued the practice. Some of these slaves were used to form military units, some obtaining elite rank and eventually seized control of the state. I have noted various descritions such as "Turkish slaves". This seems to mean slave taken or purchased by the Turks, mostly Europeans of Christian origins. Thids is a topic tht requires further investigation.
Lewis, Bernard. Race and Color in Islam (1979).
Milton, Giles. White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam's One Million White Slaves .
Thomas, Hugh. The Slkave Trade (Lonmdfon, 1977).
Rotman, Youval. Jane Marie Todd, trans. Byzantine Slavery and the Mediterranean World
Verlinden, Charles. L'Esclavage dans l'Europe médiévale Vol. I (Bruges, 1955). This is an excellent discussion of Spanish and Italian slavery during the medieval period.
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