Schiavitù a Roma in età moderna

di Francisco Bethencourt

Serena di Nepi wrote an excellent book, I Confini della Salvezza. Schiavitù, conversione e libertà nella Roma di età moderna (Rome: Viella, 2022). It concerns the possibility of emancipation of slaves and recognition of citizenship created by Pius V in Rome in 1566, inspired by the imperial Constitutio Antoniniana from 212. The idea was to highlight the supremacy of the holy city as an exceptional space of redemption. The slave would need to prove baptism and request directly the three Conservatori at Campidoglio in a public ceremony. The book studies this little-known story of 917 emancipated slaves until 1797, most of them of Muslim origin. These numbers are minimal compared to the thousands of slaves in this period and beyond. Despite the political and legal disruption created by the Napoleonic troops in 1798, there was a continuity of slavery into the nineteenth century, as shown by Giulia Bonazza. Serena di Nepi rightly contrasts the exceptional “favour” of the integration of minorities on an individual basis to the liberal model of enlarged citizenship based on the notion of inherent rights. The limits of cosmopolitanism were at stake since individual emancipation did not challenge pervasive slavery. The book has a lot to offer concerning a solid study of the legal notion of slavery and Christian doctrines, the management of the privilege given to the magistrates of Rome, the status of citizenship and its different layers, the vocabulary of notaries, the relationship with the Islamic world, the implications and limits of slave conversion. It is a crucial book for those interested in the different dimensions of slavery and the legal evolution of citizenship in Italy.

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