The Disappearance of Ancient Slavery
McGill University (2003)
Slavery was extremely prevalent in the Roman world of the first centuries A.D., but it almost completely disappeared by the end of the tenth century. It was replaced in many areas by a new type of servitude, serfdom. The disappearance and transformation of ancient slavery did not happen suddenly at one particular time, nor was it caused by any one particular event. It occurred in fits and starts over a period of several centuries, and was caused by a combination of military and political events, economic factors, slave rebellions, shortages of supplies of slaves and religious influences.
When discussing the causes of the disappearance of ancient slavery, two subordinate issues appear. One is the importance of finding a clear means of differentiating between slaves and serfs. Since historians agree virtually unanimously that the partially free serfs were clearly different from slaves, issues relating to serfdom will only be discussed here when they clearly relate to slaves as well. The second question which will be examined is when slavery came to an end, since this gives a context to the disappearance of ancient slavery.