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July 77AD

 

It was a season of change - not in the weather, but in the household of one Titus Sulpicius Rufus, who had been appointed to a position in the east, in Judea. It meant upheaval in the household - his wife and children were going with him, and his secretary and body slave, and some others.

But not the majority of the household slaves - transporting all of them would be difficult and expensive and there were surely slave markets in Judea where he could outfit his new quarters, whatever they were. So the house in Rome was to be shut up, or left under the auspices of the master's father, or something. Slaves' gossip was not entirely accurate when it pertained to things, and what was pertinent was that the majority of the household slaves were to be disposed of. It didn't matter whether they had been in the house seven years or seven days, they were surplus to requirements.

Which was why, eight years after entering the house, Davus had left it for the last time and now found himself for sale for a sixth time. The warehouse was clean and tidy, the slaves provided with a good hard-wearing tunic (if they hadn't come with their own), and the guards not rough brutes as many slave-dealers would have used. It was a small enough thing to be grateful for in a world of swirling uncertainty about the future, and yet Davus was grateful for it, for the master's final kindness in choosing a dealer who wasn't a brute - of course he wanted to maximise his profits, but there were so many slave dealers in Rome.

He went where he was told, keeping his mouth shut and his head down, despite the frantic whirl of thoughts and prayers that he might find himself in a good place, with a good master.

 

@Sarah

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It was always a bit of a mixed bag, taking a job lot from a household that was reorganising, for whatever reason. According to his factor who'd found them, their dominus was taking up a post in Judea, and only taking some of the household with him. Not uncommon, and it was under such circumstances that Spurius often ended up with a batch of slaves that could be anything from nigh on useless to very valuable, but usually spread somewhere in between. It was up to him, as the experienced slave trader, to sort through them, judge their skills and worth, and put a price on them. He was good at it, and he took care that the right slaves went to the right owners; it was part of why his business was so successful. 

The slaves had been given a light meal of boiled grains, and those who needed it had been given a tunica each, along with the simple wool square that could be a cloak or a blanket. Slaves were much easier to handle when they were comfortable. Spurius was working his way through the new acquisitions, questioning them over their skills and previous duties, making notes on his wax tablet. Having finished with a middle aged woman who'd been a housekeeper, the next in the row was a youngish man with dark, curly hair, broad brows and full lips suggestive of some foreign parentage. Spurius saws a lot like that; he kept a pair himself. The twins had a Roman father and a Germanic mother. Or this young man might have several generations of mixed heritage. He might even know. 

"What did your dominus call you?" He asked, fixing his hazel gaze on the young fellow. Not 'what is your name'; slaves had whatever name they were given. Spurius wanted to know what name he'd last been given, more to see whether it needed to be changed. Some people called their slaves all sorts of fanciful things, which future owners then didn't care for. What worked best at sale was something simple and easy to pronounce; of the new owner wanted something different, that was their prerogative. 

@Sharpie

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Davus was observant, mostly from habit and self-interest - it was always a good idea to know what was going on around you and how it affected the master, after all. The man who was in charge here was tall for a Roman, with a horsey sort of face marked by frown lines across his brows. He used what appeared to be a shepherd's crook to support himself - the limp was noticeable - and Davus didn't like to think how else that stick might be used. Despite appearances, though, he didn't seem to be a brutal sort of man, nor to allow brutality from those who worked under him, unlike some Davus had witnessed in the slave markets of Greece.

They had been lined up and the dealer himself was making his way down the line, asking questions of each of them - which made sense, he supposed. He'd want to know their skills and everything, after all.

Eventually, he was standing in front of Davus, who did not have to look too far down in order not to meet his eyes, the citizen's chin being about level with Davus' eyes if he was looking straight ahead. He lowered his eyeline to the neck of the other's tunic anyway.

"What did your dominus call you?"

"Davus, sir," he said, and fell silent, uncertain of the man's temperament and unwilling to do anything to irritate or annoy him.

 

@Sarah

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"Davus." The trader echoed, and made a note on his tablet. It would do. The young man was taller than many Romans, though not so tall as Spurius himself. He looked fit and healthy and was handsome enough; he should sell quickly. The question really was to whom; and for how much. 

"Show me your teeth." Spurius commanded. Slaves with bad teeth could have difficulty eating in a few years, becoming a liability. "What duties did you perform for your dominus?" He asked, watching the young man carefully for any signs of sullenness or stubbornness. So far he hadn't seen any, and Davus's demeanour was appropriately quiet and subservient. That was good. Troublesome slaves were a problem wherever they ended up, and that tended to be in the harder, harsher roles. Like the mines. But an obedient young fellow could find himself in a good household with comparatively easy duties. Certainly this one seemed to have come from that kind of background. 

"Do you have any particular skills? Can you read or write?" He asked, continuing to get the fellow's measure. 

@Sharpie

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"Show me your teeth."

Slavery was a fact of life, the world would never function without them. It didn't stop things being uncomfortable for those who happened to be slaves. Being sold was a fact of life for slaves, and this was far from the first time Davus had been inspected by a dealer or a buyer. That didn't mean that he liked being treated like an animal. He closed his eyes, opened his mouth and tipped his head back so the other could get a proper look, not resisting should the dealer need to move his head.

It was a moment before the dealer asked him the next question, apparently satisfied. "What duties did you perform for your dominus?"

"I was a house-slave, sir," he said, resuming his original position and eye-line. "Um. General household chores, shopping and other errands, sweeping, tidying, serving at dinner." The usual kind of thing - a lot of the time he'd been the one following the Dacian woman, Zia, doing the things she'd been supposed to do and had merely half-assed.

"No, sir. I could learn, though. And I can speak Greek and some Egyptian." Half the empire could speak Greek, and he hadn't spoken Egyptian with any frequency since he was ten, though he tried to hold conversations with himself in it, quietly, while he was working. He didn't want to lose it completely - it was the only thing he had to remind him of his mother.

 

@Sarah

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