The article argues that the passages typically employed to document the Romans' exploitation of chained slaves in the Italian countryside from the mid-Republic into the Principate actually have a quite different meaning. The servus vinctus mentioned by Columella, Pliny and others is a label that became attached to slaves who were subjected (at least once) to punishment through chaining. The punishment reduced the value of the slave and, hence, it was a requirement upon sale to indicate whether a slave had been subjected to such chaining, that is whether they were servi vincti or servi soluti. What the passages in question do not show is how the Romans worked these or other slaves. Whatever their working conditions, the fate of servi vincti became worse in the Empire as a result of the lex Aelia Sentia that decreed that servi vincti could not receive Roman citizenship upon manumission: they had thus become men without hope.