Cato, Varro and Columella all agree that slave labour was to be preferred to free except in unhealthy regions and for large occasional operations, which probably transcended the capacity of the permanent familia rustica.
The slaves of a private Roman were divided between the familia rustica and the familia urbana.
To the familia urbana belonged those who discharged the duties of domestic attendance, the service of the toilet, bath, table and kitchen, besides the entertainment of the master and his guests by dancing, singing and other arts.
In the familia urbana the favourites of the master had good treatment, and might exercise some influence over him which would lead to their receiving flattery and gifts from those who sought his vote or solicited his support.
His examination of archives during his travels had awakened in him a taste for historical research, and under his rule St Blasien became a notable centre of the methodical study of history; it was here that Marquard Herrgott wrote his Monuments domus Austriacae, of which the first two volumes were edited, for the second edition, by Gerbert, who also published a Codex epistolaris Rudolphi I., Romani regis (1772) and De Rudolpho Suevico comite de Rhinfelden, duce et rege, deque ejus familia (1785).
This is indeed an exaggeration; the colonatus was not an oppressive system; it afforded real security against unreasonable demands and wanton disturbance, and it was a great advance on the system of the familia rustica.
At the head of the familia rustica was the villicus, himself a slave, with the wife who was given him at once to aid him and to bind him to his duties.
Gomes Coelho, better known as Julio Diniz, records his experiences of English society in Oporto in A Familia ingleza, and for his romantic idealism he has been dubbed British; Portuguese critics have accused him of imitating Dickens.