Slavery

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1. With reference to either Petronius’ Satyricon or Plautus’ Pseudolus discuss what we can we learn about slavery in Roman culture from literary representations of slaves. Be sure to take into consideration the comic nature of these texts, as well as the fact that they were written for the enjoyment of free Roman citizens.

There are various aspects of Roman slavery that can be learned from reading Plautus’ Pseudolus. Although this work itself is comical and meant for entertainment of the free, it takes actual concerns such as the roles of slave and master and depicts the ambiguity present in them. It actually reverses the roles from a typical master being in control and the slave being subservient. For instance, this play does not make Calidorous out to seem like a typical master at all. In fact it shows him as weak, and “love sick” over a girl. Throughout the play he is constantly whining and unable to take care of things on his own. He must rely on his slave, Pseudolus. Pseudolus, however does not seem the least bit servient, but in fact in control and more like the master than the slave. Pseudolus is the cunning one, who devises the plan to deceive ballio the pimp, and help Calidorous get his lost love back. In terms of slave relations, ballio has a more typical relationship with his girls. He simply sells them, and seems in full control. He is quoted saying….do you want me to.. and the slaves seem helpless to his rule.

This story is refreshing, in that these roles are reversed and there is humor in them. The lack of realism would be appealing to the masses. Simo, Calidorous’ father threatens Pseudolus that if he cannot return the girl then he will be sent to…. For punishment. This is another aspect of slavery, the punishments and rewards. Calidorous reprsents the rewards, he places his trust in Pseudolus to complete the goal.

This story also also slave to slave relationships. Harpax seems like a good servant, carrying out only his...
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