Finding one's own replacement

In the second and first centuries BC, Rome brought something like a million-and-a-half slaves back to the Italian peninsula from overseas. Who was doing this bringing? The Roman armies, of course.

And what did the soldiers who had been busy capturing these slaves find when they left military service to return home? The work they had been doing before they had entered service was now being done by the very slaves they had helped to capture. They had been busy finding the replacements that would leave them without employment.


  1. Some might argue that there isn't a fixed number of jobs.

    1. Yes, certainly *in theory* there is no limit. But depending on culture and institutions, *in reality* there may be a real limit. And in Rome, it turned out there was: remember the "bread and circuses" for the massive number of unemployed?

  2. Do you have a source discussing slaves taking the jobs of free men in Rome? My understanding is that employment as we think of it today didn't exist in Rome; it wasn't like someone needed something done and they hired someone to do it. The closest thing to employment was the patron-client system, where people known as clients would do things to please wealthy patrons, and in exchange would receive money or food from the patrons. And as far as I know, slave labor never supplanted the tasks that clients did for their patrons.

    Perhaps you're talking about former slaves who joined the military and then when they came back home found that they'd been supplanted by the new slaves they had brought to Rome?

    1. "My understanding is that employment as we think of it today didn't exist in Rome..."
      "In early societies, free
      hired labour (though widely documented) was spasmodic, casual, marginal."

      But the authors gone on to argue it is more prevalent than Finley thinks.

      But in any case, the main way slaves replaced soldiers was that plantation agriculture with slave labor replaced small freeholds.


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