Sunday, December 7, 2008


Antonio Gonzales (ed.), La fin du statut servile? (affranchissement, libération, abolition) (2 vols.). Franche-Comté: Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2008. Pp. x, 563. ISBN 9782848672250. €45.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Deborah Kamen, University of Washington (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This two-volume work, provocatively titled "The End of Servile Status?," represents the proceedings of the 30th colloquium of the Groupe International de Recherches sur l'Esclavage dans l'Antiquité (GIREA), held in Besançon in December 2005. Edited by Antonio Gonzales, the work contains a brief dedication (in French) to Jacques Annequin, a lengthy bibliography of Annequin's work on slavery, and 42 articles (31 in French, 7 in Spanish, 3 in Italian, 1 in English).1 The two volumes are divided into three parts, entitled "becoming free" (vol. I), "being a freedman" (vols. I-II), and "the limits of manumission" (vol. II); within each part, the chapters are arranged roughly chronologically. Owing to the large number of articles, I will summarize each one only briefly and then offer some comments on the work as a whole.

Part I -- "becoming free" -- begins with an article by Bouvier that poses the question whether we can properly speak of "manumission" in Homeric poetry. Through a study of Odysseus's slave Eumaeus, he concludes that in the world of Homer the focus is on "adopting" a slave into the oikos, rather than on his or her manumission and incorporation into a citizen body. Ndoye's article, also on manumission in Homer, is a nice complement to Bouvier's, although there is no cross-referencing between the two. Employing the theory of "social death," Ndoye argues that Eumaeus, like other Homeric slaves, is desocialized and deracinated: while manumission ameliorates a given slave's situation, it represents only partial freedom, as it usually entails maintaining connections with one's former master. Gualerzi's quite long article surveys various Greek and Latin literary representations of the end of Andromache's slavery to Neoptolemus. Tamiolaki's excellent piece investigates the chorus's controversial line in Aristophanes (Frogs 694) that "slaves have become Plataians." She explains that Aristophanes' choice of the word "Plataians," as opposed to politai, served at least two purposes: to dissociate the slaves newly freed at Arginusae from the citizen body, and to give freedmen their own corporate identity. Paradiso discusses the politics of Helot manumission in Thucydides, arguing that the Spartans, at least as represented by Thucydides, offered the Helots manumission not as a means of social integration but instead as a means of control and repression. Valdés Guía demonstrates that the cult of Zeus Eleutherios was consolidated in the fourth century with the civic cult of Zeus Soter in Peloponnesian cities that had "liberated" themselves from the Spartan yoke.

In a short piece on Artemidorus's Oneiricritica, Annequin argues that manumission was fundamentally conceptualized as the dissolution of a relationship of belonging to one's master. Peyras explores the scriptural basis for Aristaeus's demand that the Jews be liberated, as well as the ways in which Josephus and Eusebius, readers of Aristaeus's letter, approached the same question. McClintock shows how, at least in the Roman imperial period, death sentences were thought to terminate a slave's relationship with his former dominus, since the slave was now subservient only to his penalty (servus poenae). Rodríguez Gervás and Pérez Sánchez demonstrate the ideological tension in the late Roman Empire between the dehumanization of barbarians and the necessity of their integration (framed as dependence rather than servitude) into the Roman world. El Bouzidi's chapter examines manumission in Muslim doctrine, revealing that the practice of liberating one's slaves was justified by the Koran and the Hadith (oral tradition about Mohammed) and further concretized by the Fikh (Islamic jurisprudence). Bazemo investigates the conception of manumission among the Peul in the Sahelian region of Burkina Faso in West Africa. In this culture, freed slaves called Rimaïmbé had only partial freedom, remaining, in a sense, tethered to their former masters.

Part II -- "being a freedman" -- opens with Youni's chapter tracing the juridical status of the Greek freedman from the archaic period to the Roman era.2 Serghidou examines the ways in which Herodotus evokes the emotional experience of deliverance from captivity to talk about eleutheria on a community or national level. Demaille studies the Publii Anthestii, a prominent freedman family in the Roman colony of Dion, and argues that their exceptional social mobility was facilitated by the cultural complexity of their colonial society; the chapter ends with a short appendix of inscriptions mentioning the P. Anthestii. García Mac Gaw investigates what CJ.4.43.2 -- a law of Constantine allowing parents in extreme poverty to sell their children, and also establishing means by which these children could be returned to citizenship -- can tell us about the construction of symbolic spaces of "slavery" and "freedom." In a short piece that ends somewhat abruptly, Reduzzi Merola discusses the representation of slaves and freedmen in Plautus and Terence. López Barja de Quiroga examines the Augustan laws on manumission, especially the lex Aelia Sentia, which he argues did not decrease the rate of manumission but only the number of freedmen who acquired citizenship.

There then follow six articles on Petronius. Hidalgo de la Vega contends, through a study of Trimalchio, that Roman manumission was an ideological mirage, bolstering the institution of slavery more than it benefited the slaves themselves. Grosdemouge argues that Petronius's critique of wealthy freedman such as Trimalchio is actually part of a broader critique of the acquisition of wealth as a transgression of societal values. The next two articles, by Brunet and Garrido-Hory, stem from a research project conducted at ISTA (Institut des Sciences et Techniques de l'Antiquité), namely the Index thématique des références à l'esclavage et à la dépendance chez Pétrone. Brunet presents some of the data from the Index, including the terminology used for servile and dependent statuses, in order to access Petronius's "vision" of the freedman and freedman values. Garrido-Hory argues that in tracing the behaviors of freed slaves, Petronius stresses the dangers of social mobility and its potential to threaten the society of free men. In the next article, Gonzales demonstrates that freedmen in Petronius occupy a precarious status, living in fear of losing their wealth and lacking the protection they had as slaves. The last piece on Petronius is by Prieto Arciniega, who compares the presentation of slaves and freedmen in Petronius's and Fellini's versions of the Satyricon; the differences between the two versions, he says, illuminate the fact that Roman society has always been observed from a variety of angles.

Next, Amiri reads the epithets used in the funerary inscriptions of freedmen in the Germanic provinces as a reflection of the values freed slaves were expected to embody in accordance with their social class. In order to understand the trajectory of the freed slave in Rome, Corbier argues that we need to compare similar historical phenomena (e.g., the integration of immigrants into modern societies, the paths taken by ex-slaves in the 19th and 20th centuries, etc.) and contextualize the freedman within his or legal framework (namely, the Roman household). Hernandez Guerra analyzes the epigraphic evidence for the legal, social, and economic standing of freedwomen in the province Terraconensis, and concludes with a 20-page catalogue of these inscriptions. Primarily through a toponymic study of the ager Barcinonensis, Olesti Vila shows the ways in which the freedmen of this port city both demonstrated and legitimized their new status by purchasing land. Finally, Chaulet examines the enslavement, and subsequent liberation, of Spanish Christians in North Africa in the 16th century.

Part III -- "the limits of manumission" -- begins with L'Homme Wéry's reinterpretation of Solon's "liberation." She argues that the horoi Solon tore up were actually Megarian boundary stones on the Thriasian plain; in this way, he liberated not only the plain but also various groups of men, both Eleusinians and Athenians, who had been affected by Megara's actions. Gallego argues that the Messenians underwent subject formation, and thus in a sense liberation, through their subjection to Sparta. According to a compelling argument by Buis, Aristophanes depicts Xanthias in the Frogs as a "freedman," and in doing so conveys, in comedic fashion, his audience's anxieties about contemporary status upheaval. Buis also suggests that this "theatrical apeleutheria" explains a line of the Peace (743) stating that Aristophanes, uniquely, tous doulous parelusen, "freed the slaves." Mactoux analyzes the practice of proclaiming manumissions at the Great Dionysia in Athens, arguing that the proclamation served both as a performative utterance facilitating the slave's transition into freedom and as a way of communicating to the audience the fundamental difference between free and slave. Gärtner's article looks at the differences between the way Lysias represents freedmen and the way he represents metics: whereas manumission is depicted as stemming from and causing further civic distress, metics are unproblematically integrated into the civic body as a group of near-citizens.

Plácido-Suarez then traces, from classical Greece to the Roman era, the development of thoughts about equality and the move toward non-servile forms of dependence, including that of freedman-clients. Guelfucci demonstrates the ways in which Polybius uses the relationships between slaves, freedmen, and clients and free men to think about and characterize political relationships. Alexianu presents and analyzes our evidence for halônetai, who, he concludes, were a category of Thracian slaves obtained by barter in exchange for salt. Mihailescu-Bîliba demonstrates through epigraphic evidence that, despite the lex Aelia Sentia, many slaves under the age of 30 continued to be manumitted -- in part, it seems, because of the close relationships these slaves had with their masters. Sastre and Plácido Suarez discuss the phenomenon of voluntary surrender (deditio) in the Roman provinces, especially Northwest Iberia, demonstrating that although dediticii paid tribute to Rome, they were peregrini who in essence regained their freedom. In a very long piece treating slavery over time and space, Pétré-Grenouilleau distinguishes three main modes of departing from slavery: systematic departures of slaves (through manumission, resistance, or revolt), the slow "decline" of a slave system, and abolitionism. Katsari and Dal Lago argue that the key difference between the slave systems of the antebellum American South and ancient Rome -- namely, exploitation based on racism -- accounts for the fact that whereas the South was a "closed" slave society (with rare manumission and frequent rebellion), Rome was "open" (with frequent manumission and rarer rebellion). Finally, Mignot argues that the Roman revocatio in servitutum, the reversal of manumission and the annulling of its effects, was used in 17th-century Antilles for similar reasons.

The organizational principle behind these two volumes -- grouping papers in a way that, in a sense, mirrors the life cycle of the freedman (becoming free, being free, and facing limits to one's freedom) -- is in theory an excellent idea, but the majority of the papers do not neatly fit in one of these categories to the exclusion of the others. The conference itself appears to have been organized into panels sharing a geographic, temporal, or generic focus: thus, e.g., there were panels on manumission in Greek literature, Roman law, the Roman provinces, and post-classical societies.3 Maintaining a similar type of categorization for the published proceedings might have been more effective. In addition, this work would have benefited greatly from a conclusion drawing together common themes and significant differences that arise over the course of the volumes.

This work displays a trait characteristic of many conference proceedings, namely that no attempt seems to have been made to standardize style: some papers are much longer than others; some read like polished articles whereas others read more like talks; some papers have bibliography appended to the end whereas others do not. More distracting is the abundance of typographic errors: there are on average a few typos per article; five contributors' names are spelled differently in the table of contents and in their respective chapters;4 there are many typographic problems with the Greek (especially in Peyras' chapter); and the one English-language contribution contains a number of spelling and capitalization errors. Money was clearly spent on the production of this work -- three chapters have full-color graphs or maps, something that does not seem entirely necessary -- but more care ought to have been taken in copy-editing. Despite these quibbles, however, I recommend this work for any scholars of ancient slavery. Far too little scholarship has been done on the liberation of slaves in the ancient world, and these volumes, covering an impressively wide geographic and temporal range, open up productive avenues for further inquiry.

Antonio Gonzales, Avant-propos

Bibliographie de Jacques Annequin sur l'esclavage  

I. Devenir libre

David Bouvier, Formes de "retours à la liberté" et statut de l'"affranchi" dans la poésie homérique

Malick Ndoye, L'affranchissement dans les poèmes homériques: de la parenté illusoire à l'adoption 

Saverio Gualzeri, La fine della schiavitù di Andromaca 

Hélène-Melina Tamiolaki, La libération et la citoyenneté des esclaves aux Arginuses: Platéens ou Athéniens? Un vers controversé d'Aristophane (Gren. 694) et l'idéologie de la société athénienne 

Annalisa Paradiso, Politiques de l'affranchissement chez Thucydide 

Miriam Valdés Guía, Zeus Eleutherios/Zeus Soter y la liberación de esclavos-dependientes en el Peloponeso

Jacques Annequin, Les esclaves et les signes oniriques de la liberté: l'Onirocriticon d'Artémidore 

Jean Peyras, Autour de la lettre d'Aristée: Recherche sur la libération des esclaves juifs, de la Bible des Septante à Eusèbe de Césareée

Aglaia McClintock, Liberàti dalla morte 

Manuel Rodriguez Gervas and Díonisio Pérez Sánchez, Integración ideológica y transformación del bárbaro: de servus a colonus 

Saïd El Bouzidi, L'affranchissement des dépendants en Islam: L'institutionnalisation du Tahrir Rakaba

Maurice Bazemo, L'affranchissement chez les Peul de la région sahélienne du Burkina Faso: la réalité 

II. Être affranchi

Maria Youni, Sur le statut juridique de l'affranchi grec dans le monde gréco-romain 

Anastasia Serghidou, Aspects culturels de la liberté personnelle chez Hérodote

Julien Demaille, Les P. Anthestii: une famille d'affranchis dans l'élite municipale de la colonie romaine de Dion 

Carlos García Mac Gaw, CJ.4.43.2: Esclavitud y Libertad, Representaciones Simbólicas y Prácticas Sociales 

Francesca Reduzzi Merola, La fin de l'esclavage chez les comiques latins 

Pedro Lopez Barja de Quiroga, Las leyes augusteas sobre manumisión 

María José Hidalgo de la Vega, El liberto Trimalción en el Satiricón de Petronio. Entre la libertad y la dependencia 

François Grosdemouge, L'accession à la richesse chez Pétrone 

Claude Brunet, La vision de l'affranchi chez Pétrone: terminologie et discours 

Marguerite Garrido-Hory, Les affranchis chez Pétrone: comportements et mentalités

Antonio Gonzales, Quid faciant leges, ubi sola pecunia regnat. Affranchis contre pauvres dans le Satiricon de Pétrone?

Alberto Prieto Arciniega, Esclaves et affranchis dans Fellini - Satyricon 

Bassir Amiri, De la différenciation à l'intégration: bene merens dans les epitaphs des Germanies 

Mireille Corbier, Famille et intégration sociale: la trajectoire des affranchi(e)s 

Liborio Hernandez Guerra, La liberta en Hispanie. Manifestations épigraphiques de la province tarraconense 

Oriol Olesti Vila, Libertos y propiedad de la tierra en el ager barcinonensis 

Rudy Chaulet, La rédemption des captifs espagnols d'Afrique du Nord dans les Descargos de Carlos Quinto (1559-1560) 

III. Limites d'affranchissement

Louise-Marie L'Homme-Wéry, Perdre sa liberté et la retrouver dans l'Athènes de Solon 

Julián Gallego, Convirtiéndose en griegos. La liberación de los mesenios  

Emiliano J. Buis, Les (en)jeux d'un 'affranchissement' dramatique: la subjectivité légale de Xanthias dans les Grenouilles d'Aristophane 

Marie-Madeleine Mactoux, Regards sur la proclamation de l'affranchissement au théâtre à Athènes 

Martine Gärtner, L'affranchissement dans le corpus lysiaque: une pratique contestée. Le regard d'un métèque sur l'affranchissement 

Domingo Placido Suarez, La théorie de l'égalité des êtres humains et l'évolution des formes de dépendance 

Marie-Rose Guelfucci, Conquëte des libertés et formes de dépendance sociale et politique dans les Histoires de Polybe 

Marius-Tiberius Alexianu, Une catégorie d'esclaves thraces: les halônetoi 

Lucretiu Mihailescu Bîrliba, Les âges d'affranchissement dans les provinces balkano-danubiennes 

Inés Sastre and Domingo Plácido Suarez, Deditio in fidem and peasant forms of dependence in the Roman provincial system: the case of Northwestern Iberia

Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, Modes de sortie de l'esclavage 

Constantina Katsari and Enrico Dal Lago, Manumissio e ribellione nell'Impero romano e nel Sud degli Stati Uniti prima della Guerra Civile 

Dominique Aimé Mignot, In servitutem reverteris... Exceptions à la sortie de l'esclavage aux Antilles 


1. This work omits 11 papers presented at the conference and includes 1 paper that was not presented (Guelfucci).

2. For further reading on this topic, not cited by Youni, see A. Calderini, La manomissione e la condizione dei liberti in Grecia (Milan 1908); H. Rädle's dissertation Untersuchungen zum griechischen Freilassungswesen (Munich 1969); R. Zelnick-Abramovitz, Not Wholly Free: The Concept of Manumission and the Status of Manumitted Slaves in the Ancient Greek World. Mnemosyne Suppl. 266 (Leiden 2005).

3. The program for the conference can be found here.

4. Thus the table of contents has Analisa Paradiso (cf. Annalisa in her chapter); Malik N'doye (cf. Malick Ndoye in his chapter); Louise-Marie L'Homme-Wery (cf. L'Homme-Wéry in her chapter); Marius Tiberiu Alexinanu (cf. Marius-Tiberius in his chapter); and Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau's (cf. Pétré Grenouilleau in his chapter). I have corrected these inconsistencies in the list of authors and titles.

1 comment:

  1. In the list of authors and titles, Saverio Gualerzi's name is misspelled. The reviewer apologizes for the error.


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