“Arrest me, for I have run away”: Fugitive-Slave Hunting in the Roman Empire

Christopher J. Fuhrmann

in Policing the Roman Empire

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199737840
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199928576 | DOI:
“Arrest me, for I have run away”: Fugitive-Slave Hunting in the Roman Empire

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Like other slave-owning societies, Romans were extremely anxious about slaves illegally escaping their condition. This fear is evident in their laws and literature, and derived from Roman social norms and expectations. Fugitive slaves undermined the new imperial order established by Augustus, and blurred the dichotomy between slaves and free people. The Roman state expended considerable energy into stopping slave flight, with an unusually high level of coordination between different levels of government and police authority (emperors, senate, governors, local magistrates, landowners, civilian police, public slaves, harbour guards, out-posted soldiers). The main legal source for this assertion, Digesta 11.4, is tested against other types of evidence (papyri, Latin novels, the Saepinum inscription).

Keywords: slave flight; fugitive slave recovery; Roman slave law; Latin novels; the Saepinum inscription

Chapter.  11124 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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