From the very foundation of the Roman Republic, there were slaves employed mainly by well-to-do citizens. As few literary sources suggest before 352 B.C the slavery was not widespread, generally employed in agriculture.1 They worked along with their owners in the field or were employed in the domestic sphere. While from the early days of Rome the number of slaves was few, by the third century B.C. their number grew steadily to an incredible size.
The expansion of the Roman Republic was due to constant wars – the first Italian peninsula and then the Carthaginians wars, which drew Rome outside Italy. The conquests supported the constant flow of slaves mainly from Italian countryside and Latin colonies all over Europe. Immediately after military campaigns captured people were sold into slavery first to slave traders following Romans in their ‘war tours.’ Some were given to commanding officers and the soldiers as a bonus.
Expansionist wars became the greatest source of slaves. In 210 BC Livy reports that Rome enslaved Capua people, in 167 BC Aemilius Paullus captured 150 000 people in Epirus, in 146 BC after the destruction of Carthage its people in a number 30 000 men and 25 000 women were enslaved. .
The first centuries of Rome witnessed no such flow of slaves as after the conquest of Corsica, Sardinia, Spain, Greece, and the Orient. In the time of Cato and even Plutarch buying a slave was rather costly and not everyone could allow a slave. When the conquests brought up a steady flow of slaves into the country, robust men of Spain, Thrace, and Sardinia could be bought for the price of an ox. Educated Greek and Eastern slaves had a higher price. .
Of course, the majority of slaves were provided by war. On the other hand, the regular source of slave supply was the slave-trade with a chief center at Delos. Men captured by sea or land were sold in the Delian slave-market, which put free voyagers in constant danger of enslavement. 4
In peace times Romans relied also on vernal or home-born slaves. With warfare as the greatest source of slaves during Republic breeding was also relied upon as a .steady source of new slaves. . Neither warfare nor trade could guarantee a constant flow of slaves over a long period of time.