The Romans had a unique legal process called manumission in which an owner could free his or her slaves. Upon becoming freedmen, they would have many of the rights and privileges of Roman citizenship. More important, the children of a marriage between manumitted slaves had the full rights of Roman citizenship.
In THE DEADLIEST LIE, Phoebe rejects Miriam’s offer to manumit her:
“Do you ever think about being free, Phoebe? Of Papa’s paying the tax for your manumission and setting you up in a business in the agora like a perfumery? We have the connections for you to import aromatic gums from Somalia, Arabia, and India, and I could show you how to distill them so you could blend and market an exclusive scent.”
“Why would I want to do that?” Phoebe had drawn her eyebrows together and narrowed her eyes in a slight squint. “To leave the family? You are my family. Your mother saved my life, your father gave me an education, and you’re a sister to me. My joy is here, taking care of you and being a part of this family and its traditions.”
“But you could have your own life.”
“I like this life.”
“But didn’t you ever want to get married? You could if you were free, and then the children you’d have would also be free.”
Later, in anticipation of her marriage, Phoebe agrees to her manumission. In THE DEADLIEST SPORT, in keeping with her status as the wife of a successful freedman, she dresses in Chinese silk and adorns herself with necklaces, amulets, and pendants; a few snake bracelets; perhaps a brooch; and one or two massive rings, each studded with gems.
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