Forvm Romanvm: Dr Tamara Ilić gave a lecture “Manumissions in Byzantine law”
On April 2nd, 2021, the lecture “Manumissions in Byzantine Law” was given by Dr Tamara Ilić, research associate of the Institute of Byzantine Studies of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In the introduction, she spoke about the position of slaves in Byzantium – their social status, the gradual decline of their number, the assessment of whether they were considered to be things, but also of other, new categories of subordinate population. She also raised the issue of slave marriages and prisoners of war as a source of slavery. The main part of the lecture, however, was dedicated to the manumissions themselves – liberation from slavery – which could be conducted in several ways in the Rhomaian Empire: by a public statement of the master in front of witnesses (usually in a church), the master’s letter with the signatures of the same number of witnesses, the master’s will… We had the chance to hear of several examples of preserved testaments and codicils which contained provisions on the release of slaves, as well as some special orders in connection therewith (e.g. with regard to the education of the new freedman), and have seen norms governing various modes of release. We have seen both traces of ancient Roman law (like the wand used in manumission), and new norms created under the influence of Christianity. Finally, we have heard about the roles of tavelions and ekdikoi (as well as a special body – ekdikion) in the procedure of manumission, as well as about some elements of form in the documents on release.