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As you've mentioned, they could be freed after becoming gladiators and surviving or winning a certain number of battles, they could be released after doing something heroic, but there were a number of other circumstances in which a slave could gain their freedom.
A master could simply declare a slave as a citizen on the census thus legally freeing him or her. There were many other instances where a master could free a slave but often the freed slave also still owed that previous master a type of allegiance as he was considered the slave's patron and expected continued obedience.
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