Alte Geschichte




Freigelassene in der Spätantike (J. Barschdorf)

In the last decades Late Antiquity has become a subject of great interest for researchers. One of the most important topics was the discussion about late-Antique slavery. At the end of the 1980s it was shown that slaves were prominent in society at the end of the Roman Empire.

Starting from this conclusion research into “what came after Slavery” is a topic of fundamental importance in late-Roman social history. Freedmen played an important part in the administration and business of the Early and High Empire (and before). As yet nobody has researched the social role of this group in Late Antiquity.

This topic will be the focus of my dissertation. After a short review of the different forms of manumission the first important section will address the relationship between the patron and his former slave. The first analysis of the sources – literary, ecclesiastical and juridical – has shown that the ties between them became stronger. The sources also suggest that it was not uncommon for an ex-slave to work and live far away from his former owner.

The last and most important part of this work will investigate how freedmen were integrated in the late Antique society. Many factors have to be taken into account. Most prominent is the role of the state as it set the political and legal framework for the freedmen. Many legal historians have worked on this topic but most of their work contains only legal sources and no others. After this framework has been recognized I intend to research how the state enforced the laws and what effect their measures had?

Another important part of the topic is played by the now recognized church. Did the church promote the manumission of slaves and how did it treat the freedmen? Could they become priests? The Church fathers and the councils are very good sources for these questions.

The general population are the last group which will be addressed. It was here that the freed men lived out their lives.. The problems the ex-slaves could have faced are perhaps paralleled in the USA after the abolition of slavery in 1865. This did not seem to be the case in the Roman Empire. It appears that the people did not discriminate against the freedmen. This has already been demonstrated for the High Empire but must be proven for later periods.

The question remains how it was the emancipated slaves could live their lives. What employment were they able to find? Who could they marry – or who were the supposed to marry? Other points which must be taken into account for the everyday life are heritage, fees and the social life.

Through the consideration of the points listed above, I hope to be able to construct a fuller picture of the everyday realities faced by emancipated slaves in Late Antiquity, and make a real contribution to social history of this period.



Jens Barschdorf M.A.