Freedman (Libertus)

When a slave got his freedom he automatically became a Roman citizen. He wouldn’t be completely free from his family though – he’d take part of his old family’s name so that people would know whose household he came from. He’d also formally become a client of his former owner (who became his patron), which meant that he was still obliged to help out his master. The patron-client network was a way of holding society together and of providing for the poor. Every rich man acted as a patron for people of lower status. Every day, at the first hour, the patron and client met at the salutatio. Clients had to go to their master’s house to pay their respects.

 Although a freedman was a citizen, he was not entitled to hold public office and was often looked down on. He could however become very wealthy. The sons of freedmen though were entirely free and could run for public office. Many freedmen were very ambitious for their sons. In Pompeii, after the earthquake, one man paid for the rebuilding of the Temple of Isis in his son’s name. It worked, in return the town council let the boy join them.


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