In the Roman world, slavery played a crucial role. Besides private slaves, owned by individual masters, and—from the beginning of the Principate—imperial slaves, who were the property of the emperors, there were also the so-called public slaves: non-free individuals who were owned by a community, such as the Roman people as a whole in Rome (serui publici populi Romani), or the citizen body of a colony or a municipium in Italy or in the provinces (serui ciuitatum). Public slaves in Rome were employed for numerous public services and acted under the authority of the Senate as assistants to public magistrates, officers or priests. Similarly, in Italian and in provincial cities, they juridically depended on the decisions of local councils and performed various activities within the civic administration, beholden to the magistrates.
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