Some people are invisible.  I don't mean that you can't see them if you look right at them.  I mean they don't make it into the history books because the people of the time did not even think of them as people.  Roman masters thought of slaves as property, like a wagon to carry things or a plow to till the fields.  What was it like to be invisible?  Are you sure you want to know?  Very well . . .  Screaming and fire and then someone grabs you.  Your hands are tied behind your back and you're carried to the dock where you're thrown onto a ship.  The rise and fall of the waves turns your stomach.  It's dark down in the bottom of the ship, but you can hear people around you.  Other people who were also taken.  Listen to the stories of the invisible.

The PoW

"I'm not supposed to be here!  I'm just a farmer.  I was working my field when my city was attacked by another city, and because we lost the fight, the attackers thought they could just kidnap me.  I tried to run, but I wasn't fast enough.  They caught me and they felt my arms and legs to see how strong I was.  They only cared that I can work, like a tool or an animal that talks.  I don't want to be a Prisoner of War, a prisoner taken by the other side like stolen gold or horses.  Where are we going?  I need to get back to my land and my family!"

The Chef's Tale

"Dry your eyes, farmer.  Life in slavery may not be so bad.  It was Seneca, the great philosopher, who said that all slaves should be treated as well as their masters can because then the slaves will work harder.  Of course some slaves are treated better than others.  I will do well, I believe.  I am a very talented cook.  I make a delicious soup that . . . I am sorry.  I should not talk about food at a time like this . . .  Someone will pay a high price for me and my skill.  I am valuable to rich Romans in the aristocracy.  Things could be worse."

The Child's Tale

A boy is crying in the corner.  A woman holds him.

"That's true," she says.  "Things could be worse.  This boy came from Rome where times are hard now.  His father is a carpenter and could not afford to feed his family.  So he sold the boy into slavery.  Lucky for this kid, he learned a thing or two from his dad, or else . . ."  She covers the boy's ears.  "Just think being this young, taken away from everything you know and going to an island like Delos.  Haven't you heard of it?  Delos is an island in the middle of the sea that's one of the worst slave markets.  Cicilian pirates, like the ones sailing the ship we're on, take the people they've captured to be sold there.  That's where we must be headed.  I will try to keep an eye on the poor thing, but who knows what will happen when we get there."

The Freeman's Tale

"We may get lucky.  I have been captured before.  I won't say my last master was a good man . . . but he treated me well so I would work harder.  And work hard I did.  I also obeyed him.  I became a freeman, a person freed from slavery.  My master gave me the chance to buy my freedom by raising as much money as what he paid for me.  I could not earn that in a lifetime, so he let me pay only half and set me free.  I have known others who were lucky enough to just be set free without a price.  Maybe you will all be lucky and become freeman like me after we are sold . . .  I keep saying I am a freeman.  I was a freeman . . . Was."

The boat falls quiet as the caught people think about their fate.  The PoW, prisoner of war, shakes his head and wonders how he got here.  The chef grins, thinking of Seneca's rule of treating slaves well, and knowing his trade will give him favor among rich Romans.  The boy rocks in the woman's arms, thinking of the family that sold him.  The former freeman rubs his hands and wonders if he'll ever be free again.  You cannot see any of them in the darkness, just as the people who buy them will not see them.  Not as people, anyway.  They are invisible.  You all sail off across the sea, where Delos the slave market waits.


Ancient History Encyclopedia.  "Slavery in the Roman World", 2013.  

PBS.  "Slaves and Freemen", 2011.  

History Learning Site.  "Roman Slaves", 2012.