‘How to Manage Your Slaves’, by Jerry Toner

How to Manage Your Slaves, by Jerry Toner, Profile Books, RRP£14.99, 240 pages

Marcus Sidonius Falx is a Roman of “noble birth” – and he has kept slaves for many years. He believes there is a “science” to getting the most out of them, and this is his guide.

If Falx doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because he’s really an “amalgam of views” brought together by classicist Jerry Toner to explore the nature of slavery in the Roman Empire. Drawing on historical sources, the book shows how attitudes differed on matters such as selecting, feeding and punishing slaves.

The one thing that wasn’t questioned, though, was slavery itself – and Falx’s lofty rhetoric captures the complacency that allowed it to thrive in an otherwise civilised society. But, Toner reminds us soberingly, while we might think that we have advanced there are an estimated 27m slaves in the world today – more than in the Roman Empire. His thought-provoking and illuminating book encourages us to look at ourselves, too.

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