Tuesday, 18 August 2015
Servi, Serfs And Servants
In SM Stirling's Draka History, we find a small militarized society reviving Classical military terminology, e.g., "Centurion," and dominating a much larger population of serfs differing only in name from slaves (Latin: servi). The status of the Draka's serfs is approximately that of slaves:
"...under Roman law: pro nullis, pro mortis, pro quadrupedis: 'as nothing, as one who is dead, like a beast.'" (Marching Through Georgia, p. 407)
They were called indentured servants or "bondservants" until the colloquial term "serfs" was legalized in the 1880s.
it is remarkable that, in our timeline, a single word-root has survived essentially unchanged through three historical eras:
Roman servi, property;
feudal serfs, tied to the land;
modern servants, wage-earning workers.
Economic systems change but language preserves history.