What was life like for slaves in the Roman world?
In the Roman Empire, multitudes became slaves through military conquest or kidnapping. Those captured were sold and typically never saw their homes or families again.
Many slaves were worked to death in the mines, while farm laborers and domestics fared better. A slave might be forced to wear an iron collar with an inscription or a tag promising a reward if after running away he was returned to his owner. Those who tried to escape repeatedly could be branded in the forehead, often with the letter F for fugitivus (fugitive).
The Bible book of Philemon discusses the apostle Paul’s sending the runaway slave Onesimus back to his owner, Philemon. Even though Philemon had the legal right to punish Onesimus severely, Paul asked Philemon to “receive him kindly,” on the basis of love and personal friendship.
Why was ancient Phoenicia famous for its purple dye?
Phoenicia, which roughly corresponded to modern-day Lebanon, was noted for its Tyrian purple dye, named after the city of Tyre. King Solomon of ancient Israel furnished his temple with “purple wool” produced by an artisan from Tyre.—2 Chronicles 2:13, 14.
Tyrian purple was the most precious dye of its time, in large part because of the labor required to produce it. First, fishers collected murex shellfish * from the sea in large numbers. As many as 12,000 were used to produce the dye for a single garment. Next, these marine snails were removed from their shells so that their dye glands could be extracted. Dye makers combined these with salt and exposed the mixture to the open air and the sun for three days. Then they placed the mass in a covered vat and simmered it with seawater for several more days.
For hundreds of years, through their commerce and colonizing, the Phoenicians maintained both the market for Tyrian purple and their capacity to produce it. Relics of their dye production have been found around the Mediterranean Sea and as far west as Cádiz, Spain.
^ par. 8 Their shells are between two and three inches (5-8 cm) in length.