This article discusses historiographical myths on the role and the size of slavery in the Roman empire (200 BC-AD 200). The text focuses on the misleading comparison between classical slavery in Rome and Atlantic slave trade in modern ages (18th and 19th centuries). Ancient and modern slavery share some common features; however, modern historiography has often over-interpreted this apparent similarity, ignoring many social, economic and juridical differences between these two models. Such a misunderstanding affects two particular topics, above all: the attempts to calculate the rank of salve population in Roman empire and the model-explanation of classical villa, which is often conceived as a colonial plantation.
Keywords: Slavery, plantation, demography, manpower, Roman villa, slave trade.