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Plautus's Pseudolus

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03/29/2013 08:22 PM
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Slavery was commonly practiced throughout ancient history, but no other civilization owned so many slaves and depended on them as much as the Romans did. Slavery in Rome was essential to the economy and was the social backbone of the society.   Slavery was accepted as a way of life in ancient Rome by the slaves and by the society. This is depicted in the slapstick comedy play Pseudolus that enacts the story of the condition of slaves and their relationship with their masters.

Amongst doing daily chores, slaves could offer to help their masters in exchange for money, which they could ultimately use to buy their freedom and become a freed man. This was depicted in the play Pseudolus where the main character Pseudolus, the slave to Simo, offered to help his master’s (Simo) son Calidorus. This was evident when Pseudolus tells Calidorus “Will you be happy if today I make this girl your One and only-or if I give you twenty minae” (Plautus’ Pseudolus 112-113). However, Pseudolus takes the twenty minae from his master Simo which, is evident in “I guarantee you’ll be giving me that money! Or, to be more precise, I’ll be taking it from you” (Plautus’ Pseudolus 507-508). However, the manner in which Pseudolus says makes it seem more authoritative than the manner slaves behaved around their masters.

Another common characteristics of Roman slaves was that they would work with other slaves other than their master’s in order to get money or in Pseudolus’s case, to help their master. This was depicted when Pseudolus collaborated with Simia who was Charinus’s slave to fleece Ballio, the pimp. This was evident when Charinus tells Pseudolus “Yes, but let’s proceed with the matter at hand” (Plautus’s Pseudolus 919) which meant disguising the slave Simia in order to fleece Ballio and free Calidorus’ lover. But again, based on the dialogue, the slave Pseudolus was given the appearance of a smart master rather than a slave.

Roman slaves, although serving their masters, could...
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