ISBN: 978-2-87457-060-5
14,50 €

The Rise and Decline of the (Contractual) Slave Mode of Production in Central Italy

 = Paper =

The paper challenges the view that villas utilized slave labor because free labor was made scarce by Rome’s imperialist wars. The basic point is that local experts in producing high quality wine were not available in sufficient numbers when they were needed to supply new export markets in later Republican times. If small farmers had been willing to make the necessary investments in forming human and physical capital there would have been no upsurge in large (basically inefficient) firms (villas) employing skilled slaves. It is tentatively proposed that the skilled slaves utilized in villa wine production were Syrian and Italian volunteers (contractual slaves), not forcible captives. There is no reason to assume that small landholders lost their land to villas because they were unable to repay debts accumulated while they served in the army. The entrepreneurs who organized wine-exporting villas valued the land of the smallholders more highly than they did themselves. Consequently, it was to the advantage of smallholders to sell just as it was to the advantage of entrepreneurs to buy. Finally, the paper concludes that the demise of the “slave mode of production” in the earlier Empire was at the same time an efflorescence of commercial wine production by small farmers.

Special issue around the theme: "The rural World during the ancient Medditerranean Culture: Right/Laws, Religion, Trade, Practices"