zanscar xii.33

Even in the darkest moments of the human condition, the desire for freedom and self-determination has never been extinguished.  Even in societies which generation after generation kept others in bondage, time has preserved for us the aspirations of slaves seeking liberty and greater control over their fate.  Roman society was particularly generous, granting the children of freedmen the full rights of citizenship, an especially coveted status that would enable the numerous descendants of freedmen to enter public life and eventually rise to positions of influence among the highest authorities in the Empire.

Individuals who today state that many slaves were “better off” in their servitude and even that they preferred bondage are sadly deluded, ignoring the evidence of history — and of their own eyes.  Human trafficking in the present is simply the latest way of referring to the ongoing slave trade, one which may at times mirror low-wage employment.  But any form of compulsive, imposed dependence is itself a form of oppression, and one which unwillingly restricts self-determination is nothing less than slavery.  Indentured servitude is another such polite way of expressing the same basic idea, though in this case the promise of freedom is held out as motivation, like a carrot on a stick, but much like the cartoon analogy, the prize is all too often an illusion.  Some see this reality, others do not or choose to ignore it, but all work towards a single common goal.  Unlike most common goals, however, this particular goal is shared in name only, for despite the fact they all seek the same end-state, they work towards it individually rather than collectively.

What is this goal?  Quite simply, the betterment of their offspring.  Continue reading “zanscar xii.33”

Review of ‘The Army in the Roman Revolution’ by Arthur Keaveney (2007)

Keaveny, Arthur. 2007. The Army in the Roman Revolution. London: Routledge.

In the late 2nd and early 1st centuries BCE, the Roman army underwent major reforms which changed both its organizational structure and ideological orientation.  Foremost among these was the recruitment of men from among the capite censi, a class of landless urban peasants who had previously been exempted from military service.  Although there is evidence to suggest that capite censi — like slaves — had previously been enrolled as soldiers in the army, it has become something nearing scripture to see the year 107 BCE as a watershed moment.  In that year, Marius, having experienced difficulty filling the ranks of the army bound to fight Jugurtha, admitted members of the capite censi.  It is as that moment, the narrative continues, that the aspirations of the peasant-soldiery for land first began to hold the state hostage to their demands in a cycle that would bring about the series of disastrous civil wars which ultimately undid the republic.
Continue reading “Review of ‘The Army in the Roman Revolution’ by Arthur Keaveney (2007)”

Soldiers in the city of Pompeii

I wrote this in response to a reader’s question on Academia.edu.  The reader had been reading an excerpt from my undergraduate thesis when she asked to know more about soldiers stationed in the city of Pompeii at the time of Mt Vesuvius’ (in)famous eruption of 79 CE.  The original text of my response has been edited and expanded to include additional commentary, as well as images. Continue reading “Soldiers in the city of Pompeii”