Thursday 23 May 2024

The Kidnapping industry in ancient Gaul and Western Europe during the 1st century BCE - 1,100 AD

Although slavery was rife during the Roman era, a kidnapping industry existed to sell enslaved people to human traffickers throughout the northern Mediterranean. One person was worth one jar of red wine in Gaul. While slaves were indeed traded for various commodities, including wine, the value of a slave would have depended on factors such as age, health, skills, and demand in the market. 

Julius Caesar was once kidnapped by pirates in the eastern Mediterranean near the island of Pharmacusa (modern-day Pharmacusa, Greece), in a separate incident to events in Gaul, and redeemed for a ransom due to Caesar famously negotiating his own release. 

This continued in Western Europe for at least 1000 years. Even a king could be held hostage or kidnapped. King Richard the Lionheart of England was held hostage on his way back from the Third Crusade. He was captured by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, near Vienna on December 20, 1192. Richard had been returning to England after the conclusion of the Third Crusade, during which he had fought against Saladin for control of the Holy Land. His captivity lasted until February 4, 1194, when he was released after the payment of an exorbitant ransom, that almost bankrupted England.

There is historical evidence to suggest that kidnapping for the purpose of selling individuals into slavery did occur, including in Gaul (modern-day France). During the Roman period, Gaul was under Roman rule, and slavery was a significant aspect of the economy.

One notable example comes from the writings of Julius Caesar, who documented his conquest of Gaul in his work "Commentarii de Bello Gallico" (Commentaries on the Gallic War). In his accounts, Caesar describes instances where Gauls engaged in raids and warfare against neighboring tribes, capturing individuals whom they would then sell into slavery.

Additionally, archaeological evidence, such as inscriptions and legal texts, also provide insights into the practice of slavery in Gaul during the Roman period. These sources indicate that slavery was widespread and that individuals could be enslaved through various means, including capture in warfare, debt bondage, and kidnapping.

Kidnapping operated alongside more conventional operations which supplied enslaved persons. The slave trade in ancient Rome was complex and multifaceted, involving various methods of acquisition, including capture in warfare, debt bondage, and sale by individuals or groups.

Historical records do provide insights into the slave trade in ancient Rome. Slaves were acquired through various means, including capture in wars, piracy, debt bondage, and through the sale of individuals by their families or other parties. Additionally, there were slave markets where enslaved individuals were bought and sold, often by traders or slave dealers.

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