Module Catalogue 2020/21

CAH2061 : Slavery in Greco-Roman antiquity

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Simon Corcoran
  • Lecturer: Dr Jane Webster, Dr Micaela Langellotti
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



The aim of the course is to understand a fundamental, but often under-appreciated, aspect of the Greek and Roman worlds in its varied social, economic, legal and ideological contexts. This is to be done primarily through the study of antique writers, documents, artefacts and archaeology, and by engaging in particular with the problems caused by this uneven ancient evidence, in which the views of slave-owners are well represented, while slaves seldom have an explicit voice. Understanding the modern historiography is also key, since contemporary disputes, resonances and sensitivities (e.g. the reparations debate) form a further inescapable part of the context for studying this ancient topic.

Outline Of Syllabus

1] Introduction: the modern historiography of the subject, the range of ancient sources, and the definition of ‘slavery’.
2] Ideas and ideology about slaves in Greek and Roman writers.
3] Becoming or acquiring a slave, including the sources of slaves, the slave trade, legal aspects, and the demography of ancient slave populations.
4] Labour, including the ideology of ‘work’; the range of slave jobs, domestic, commercial, agricultural, and public; their economic and/or social importance.
5] The treatment of slaves, public and private, in particular the role of violence and torture.
6] Slave responses to slavery, including major revolts.
7] Manumission: purposes and processes.
8] Freedmen: obligations and opportunities.
9] The imperial ‘familia’ and the Roman civil service.
10] Other forms of ‘unfree’ labour, including debt-bondage and Helotage.
11] Christianity and slavery.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of the course, the student should:
1] Have a broad knowledge of the nature of slavery in its social, economic, legal and ideological contexts across Antiquity, but including within this at least some clear familiarity with Classical Athens (5th/4th cent. BC) and early imperial Rome (1st cent. BC to 3rd cent. AD).
2] Know how to define slavery and other forms of ‘unfree’ labour.
3] Understand in contextualized detail several key ancient texts relevant to slavery.
4] Know the ancient ideological background to slavery.
5] Know the life stages of a slave, from acquisition/birth, through work and life in the ‘familia’, to death/manumission, with awareness of the varied experiences of these for slaves and masters.
6] Understand the rules of manumission and status of freedmen.
7] Be familiar with at least one modern slave narrative.
8] Understand the role of contemporary contexts upon the scholarship and historiography of slavery.

Intended Skill Outcomes

At the end of the course, the student should be able to:
1] Analyse ancient evidence in the light of its ancient context, including not only literary sources, but also legal texts, documents, artefacts and archaeology.
2] Draw contrasts between particular periods and places in antiquity.
3] Construct an argument by judicious use of ancient evidence.
4] Use non-ancient evidence such as comparative history.
5] Take account of the contemporary contexts of modern scholarship.
6] Engage with and make judgements about ancient evidence and modern scholarship, while being sensitive to the effect of their own assumptions on their writing.
7] Work collaboratively with their peers.
8] Make clear and relevant oral contributions.
9] Construct a clear and well-written argument.
10] Undertake independent study.

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.