chapter  2
BIRTH: THE FREEDMAN’S CONDITION
Pages 45

The fact has aroused comment, both in ancient and in modern times,1 that, unlike the rest of the Greco-Roman world, the Romans normally gave slaves citizenship upon manumission. Not only that, but although the state through its magistrates had to be involved at some point for manumission to result in the creation of a new citizen, the initiative for manumission rested with an individual Roman, the slave’s owner, and the rôle of the state’s officers, for much of the history of the institution, appears to have amounted to little more than acquiescing in the owner’s action, without imposing any restrictions or controls. The watershed is the reign of Augustus. Under the Republic, manumission without reference to a magistrate did not even confer juridical freedom; under the empire, from the reign of Augustus onwards, it did-but not citizenship. Under the Republic, owners were free to manumit any and as many slaves as they chose; the empire brought in restrictions on whom an owner might manumit. The reasons for these restrictions are not strictly ‘political’ in the Republican sense. The decay of the voting assemblies under the empire curtailed the individual citizen’s opportunity for active participation in political life; the new restrictions are concerned more with social order and stability, and reveal a certain concern for the successful integration of the new citizen. Under the Republic, the state’s officers do not appear to challenge the wish of an individual owner to have his slave admitted into the citizen body.