Spartacus: Wikis


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Spartacus by Denis Foyatier, 1830

Spartacus (Greek: Σπάρτακος; Latin: Spartacus[1]) (c. 109–71 BC) was the most notable leader of the slaves in the Third Servile War, a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic. Little is known about Spartacus beyond the events of the war, and surviving historical accounts are sometimes contradictory and may not always be reliable.

Spartacus' struggle, often seen as oppressed people fighting for their freedom against a slave-owning aristocracy, has found new meaning for modern writers since the 19th century. The rebellion of Spartacus has proven inspirational to many modern literary and political writers, making Spartacus a folk hero among cultures both ancient and modern.




Thracian tribes, including the Maedi.

The ancient sources agree that Spartacus was a Thracian. Plutarch describes him as "a Thracian of Nomadic stock," but "more Hellenic than Thracian" when referring to his character.[2] Appian says he was "a Thracian by birth, who had once served as a soldier with the Romans, but had since been a prisoner and sold for a Gladiator".[3] Florus (2.8.8) described him as one "who from Thracian mercenary, had become a Roman soldier, of a soldier a deserter and robber, and afterwards, from consideration of his strength, a gladiator".[4] Some authors refer to the Thracian tribe of the Maedi,[5] which in historic times occupied the area on the southwestern fringes of Thrace (present-day north-eastern Greece, south-western Bulgaria).[6] Plutarch also writes that Spartacus's wife, a prophetess of the same tribe, was enslaved with him.

The name Spartacus is otherwise attested in the Black Sea region: kings of the Thracian dynasty of the Cimmerian Bosporus[7] and Pontus[8] are known to have borne it, and a Thracian "Spardacus"[9] or "Sparadokos",[10] father of Seuthes I of the Odrysae, is also known.

Enslavement and escape

The Roman Republic at 100 BC

According to the differing sources and their interpretation, Spartacus either was an auxiliary from the Roman legions later condemned to slavery, or a captive taken by the legions.[11] Spartacus was trained at the gladiatorial school (ludus) near Capua, belonging to Lentulus Batiatus.

In 73 BC, Spartacus was among a group of gladiators plotting an escape. The plot was betrayed but about 70 men seized kitchen implements, fought their way free from the school, and seized several wagons of gladiatorial weapons and armor.[12] The escaped slaves defeated a small force sent after them, plundered the region surrounding Capua, recruited many other slaves into their ranks, and eventually retired to a more defensible position on Mount Vesuvius.[13][14]

Once free, the escaped gladiators chose Spartacus and two Gallic slaves — Crixus and Oenomaus — as their leaders. Though Roman authors assume that the slaves were a homogeneous group with Spartacus as their leader, this may be the Romans projecting their own hierarchical view of military leadership on the spontaneous organization of the slaves, reducing other slave leaders to subordinate positions in their accounts. The positions of Crixus and Oenomaus — and later, Castus — cannot be clearly determined from the sources.

Third Servile War

The response of the Roman authorities was hampered by the absence of the Roman legions, which were already engaged in fighting a revolt in Spain and the Third Mithridatic War. Furthermore, the Romans considered the rebellion more a policing matter rather than a war. Rome dispatched militia under a praetor, which besieged the slaves on the mountain, hoping that starvation would force the slaves to surrender but were surprised when Spartacus had ropes made from vines and with his men, climbed down a cliff on the other side of the volcano, and attacked the unfortified Roman camp in the rear, killing most of them.[15] The slaves also defeated a second praetorian expedition, nearly capturing the praetor, killing his lieutenants and seizing the military equipment.[16] With these successes, more and more slaves flocked to the Spartacan forces, as did “many of the herdsmen and shepherds of the region”, swelling their ranks to some 70,000.[17]

In these altercations, Spartacus, with his military experience, proved to be an excellent tactician. Though the slaves lacked military training, they displayed ingenuity in their use of available local materials, and in their use of clever, unusual tactics when facing the disciplined Roman armies.[18] They spent the winter of 73–72 BC training, arming and equipping their new recruits, and expanding their raiding territory to include the towns of Nola, Nuceria, Thurii and Metapontum.[19] The distance between these locations and the subsequent events indicate that the slaves operated in two groups commanded by the remaining leaders Spartacus and Crixus.

In spring of 72 BC, the slaves left their winter encampments and began to move northwards. At the same time, the Roman Senate, alarmed by the defeat of the praetorian forces, dispatched a pair of consular legions under the command of Lucius Gellius Publicola and Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus.[20] The two legions were initially successful — defeating a group of 30,000 slaves commanded by Crixus near Mount Garganus.[21] — but then were defeated by Spartacus. These defeats are depicted in divergent ways by the two most comprehensive (extant) histories of the war by Appian and Plutarch.[22][23][24][25]

Alarmed by the apparently unstoppable rebellion, the Senate charged Marcus Licinius Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome and the only volunteer for the position, with ending the rebellion. Crassus was put in charge of eight legions, approximately 40,000–50,000 trained Roman soldiers[26][27], which he treated with harsh, even brutal, discipline, reviving the punishment of unit decimation within his army.[28] Crassus engaged Spartacus in a running battle forcing him further south through Lucania as Crassus gained the upper hand. By the end of 72 BC, Spartacus was encamped in Rhegium (Reggio Calabria), near the Strait of Messina.

When Spartacus and his followers, who for unclear reasons had retreated to the south of Italy, moved northwards again in early 71 BC, Crassus deployed six of his legions on the borders of the region and detached his legate Mummius with two legions to maneuver behind Spartacus. Though ordered not to engage the slaves, Mummius attacked at a seemingly opportune moment but was routed.[29] After this, Crassus' legions were victorious in several engagements, killing thousands of the rebel slaves, and forcing Spartacus to retreat south through Lucania to the straits near Messina.

According to Plutarch, Spartacus made a bargain with Cilician pirates to transport him and some 2,000 of his men to Sicily, where he intended to incite a slave revolt and gather reinforcements. However, he was betrayed by the pirates, who took payment and then abandoned the rebel slaves.[29] Minor sources mention that there were some attempts at raft and shipbuilding by the rebels as a means to escape, but that Crassus took unspecified measures to ensure the rebels could not cross to Sicily, and their efforts were abandoned.[30] Spartacus' forces then retreated towards Rhegium. Crassus' legions followed and upon arrival built fortifications across the isthmus at Rhegium, despite harassing raids from the rebel slaves. The rebels were under siege and cut off from their supplies.[31]

The Fall of Spartacus.

At this time, the legions of Pompey returned from Spain and were ordered by the Senate to head south to aid Crassus.[32] While Crassus feared that Pompey's arrival would cost him the credit, Spartacus unsuccessfully tried to reach an agreement with Crassus.[33] When Crassus refused, a portion of Spartacus' forces fled toward the mountains west of Petelia (modern Strongoli) in Bruttium, with Crassus' legions in pursuit.[34] When the legions managed to catch a portion of the rebels separated from the main army,[35] discipline among Spartacus's forces broke down as small groups were independently attacking the oncoming legions.[36] Spartacus now turned his forces around and brought his entire strength to bear on the legions in a last stand, in which the slaves were routed completely, with the vast majority of them being killed on the battlefield.[37]

The eventual fate of Spartacus himself is unknown, as his body was never found, but he is accounted by historians to have perished in battle along with his men.[38]


Classical historians were divided as to what the motives of Spartacus were. While Plutarch writes that Spartacus merely wished to escape northwards into Cisalpine Gaul and disperse his men back to their homes[39], Appian and Florus write that he intended to march on Rome itself.[40] Appian also states that he later abandoned that goal, which might have been no more than a reflection of Roman fears. None of Spartacus' actions suggest that he aimed at reforming Roman society or abolishing slavery, as is sometimes depicted in fictional accounts, such as Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film Spartacus.

Based on the events in late 73 BC and early 72 BC, which suggest independently operating groups of slaves[41] and a statement by Plutarch that some of the escaped slaves preferred to plunder Italy, rather than escape over the Alps[39], modern authors have deduced a factional split between those under Spartacus, who wished to escape over the Alps to freedom, and those under Crixus, who wished to stay in southern Italy to continue raiding and plundering.

Modern references



Film and television

  • Most famously, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Howard Fast's novel, as Spartacus, in 1960. The phrase "I am Spartacus!" from this film has been referenced in a number of other films, television programs, and commercials.
  • An unofficial sequel to Kubrick's film was made in Italy under the title Il Figlio di Spartacus (The Son of Spartacus) in 1963. The titular character (performed by Steve Reeves), first appearing as a Roman centurion, eventually learns of his true identity and takes revenge against Crassus, the murderer of his father.
  • The title character of the 1985–1987 cartoon series Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea is loosely based on Spartacus.
  • In the 1995 film Clueless, Christian uses Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of the film as part of a subtle campaign to reveal his homosexuality.
  • The 2000 film Gladiator is loosely based on Spartacus with its lead character Maximus Decimus Meridius as a Roman General who was betrayed, his family killed, himself enslaved, and eventually trained as a gladiator and sent into the Arena for not submitting to Emperor Commodus rule. Like Spartacus he lead a servile uprising and his plot was betrayed, but unlike Spartacus who succeeded despite the betrayal, Maximus's failed from the start. In a match with Commodus at the Coliseum, Maximus killed him but Maximus also died soon after Commodus due to a unfair wound inflicted by Commodus.
  • In 2004, Fast's novel was adapted as Spartacus, a made-for-TV movie, by the USA Network, with Goran Višnjić in the main role.
  • One episode of 2007-2008 BBC's docudrama Heroes and Villains features Spartacus.
  • The television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, produced by Sam Raimi and starring Andy Whitfield in the title role, premièred on the Starz premium cable network in January 2010. [44][45]


  • Howard Fast wrote the historical novel Spartacus, the basis of Stanley Kubrick's 1960 film starring Kirk Douglas.
  • Arthur Koestler wrote a novel about Spartacus called The Gladiators.
  • The Scottish writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon wrote a novel Spartacus.
  • Spartacus is a prominent character in the novel Fortune's Favorites by Colleen McCullough.
  • The Italian writer Rafaello Giovagnoli wrote his historical novel, Spartacus, in 1874. His novel has been subsequently translated and published in many European countries.
  • There is also a novel Uczniowie Spartakusa (The Students of Spartacus) by the Polish writer Halina Rudnicka.
  • The Reverend Elijah Kellogg's Spartacus to the Gladiators at Capua has been used effectively by schoolboys to practice their oratory skills for ages.
  • Spartacus also appears in Conn Iggulden's 'Emperor' series in the book The Death of Kings.
  • Spartacus and His Glorious Gladiators, by Toby Brown, is part of the Dead Famous series of children's history books.
  • In the Bolo novel Bolo Rising by William H. Keith, the character HCT "Hector" is based on Spartacus.
  • In the novel Flip by David Lubar, one of the legends Ryan becomes is Spartacus, specifically when he is challenged to a fight by the school bully.
  • Amal Donkol, the Egyptian modern poet wrote his masterpiece "The Last Words of Spartacus".
  • Steven Saylor's novel Arms of Nemesis, part of his Roma Sub Rosa series, is set during the Third Servile War.
  • Max Gallo wrote the novel "Les Romains.Spartacus.La Revolte des Esclaves", Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2006.
  • In 2010 Peter Stothard combined an account of Spartacus' uprising with elements of autobiography, in his memoir On the Spartacus Road.



  • Spartacus is a character in the real-time strategy game Rome: Total War.
  • The board game Heroscape features Spartacus as one of the game pieces.


  • In "The Histories of Pliny the Elder" – a 1957 episode of the British radio comedy The Goon Show parodying epic films – Spartacus is used as a pseudonym for Bloodnok after he has an affair with Caesar's wife and has to escape from Caesar; "You know that saying, 'Caesar's wife is above suspicion'? Well I put an end to all that rubbish!".




  1. ^ M. Tullius Cicero,
  2. ^ Plutarch, Crassus 8
  3. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 1.116
  4. ^ Florus, Epitome of Roman History 2.8
  5. ^ The Histories, Sallust, Patrick McGushin, Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-19-872143-9, p. 112.
  6. ^ Balkan history, Thracian tribes, Maedi.
  7. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library Book 12
  8. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library Book 16
  9. ^ Theucidides, History of the Peloponnesian War 2.101
  10. ^ Tribes, Dynasts and Kingdoms of Northern Greece: History and Numismatics
  11. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:116; Plutarch, Crassus, 8:2. Note: Spartacus' status as an auxilia is taken from the Loeb edition of Appian translated by Horace White, which states “…who had once served as a soldier with the Romans…”. However, the translation by John Carter in the Penguin Classics version reads: “…who had once fought against the Romans and after being taken prisoner and sold…”.
  12. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 8:1–2; Appian, Civil Wars, 1:116; Livy, Periochae, 95:2; Florus, Epitome, 2.8. Plutarch claims 78 escaped, Livy claims 74, Appian “about seventy”, and Florus says “thirty or rather more men”. “Choppers and spits” is from Life of Crassus.
  13. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 9:1.
  14. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:116; Florus, Epitome, 2.8.
  15. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 9:1–3; Frontinus, Stratagems, Book I, 5:20–22; Appian, Civil Wars, 1:116; Broughton, Magistrates of the Roman Republic, p. 109.
  16. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 9:4–5; Livy, Periochae , 95; Appian, Civil Wars, 1:116; Sallust, Histories, 3:64–67.
  17. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 9:3; Appian, Civil War, 1:116.
  18. ^ Frontinus, Stratagems, Book I, 5:20–22 and Book VII:6.
  19. ^ Florus, Epitome, 2.8.
  20. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:116–117; Plutarch, Crassus 9:6; Sallust, Histories, 3:64–67.
  21. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:117; Plutarch, Crassus 9:7; Livy, Periochae 96.
  22. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:117.
  23. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 9:7.
  24. ^ Spartacus and the Slave Rebellion
  25. ^ Shaw, Brent D. (2001). Spartacus and the slave wars: a brief history with documents. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0312237030. 
  26. ^ Plutarch, Crassus 10:1.
  27. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:118; Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, "Exercitus", p.494.
  28. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:118.
  29. ^ a b Plutarch, Crassus, 10:1–3.
  30. ^ Florus, Epitome, 2.8; Cicero, Orations, "For Quintius, Sextus Roscius...", 5.2
  31. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 10:4–5.
  32. ^ Contrast Plutarch, Crassus, 11:2 with Appian, Civil Wars, 1:119.
  33. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:120.
  34. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:120; Plutarch, Crassus, 10:6.
  35. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 11:3; Livy, Periochae, 97:1. Bradley, Slavery and Rebellion. p. 97; Plutarch, Crassus, 11:4.
  36. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 11:5;.
  37. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:120; Plutarch, Crassus, 11:6–7; Livy, Periochae, 97.1.
  38. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:120; Florus, Epitome, 2.8.
  39. ^ a b Plutarch, Crassus, 9:5–6.
  40. ^ Appian, Civil Wars, 1:117; Florus, Epitome, 2.8.
  41. ^ Plutarch, Crassus, 9:7; Appian, Civil Wars, 1:117.
  42. ^ Karl Marx's "Confession"[1]
  43. ^ Letter from Marx to Engels In Manchester
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ History of Spartak, (Russian)
  47. ^ Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, volume 24 (part 1), p. 286, Moscow, Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya publisher, 1976


Classical authors

  • Appian. Civil Wars. Translated by J. Carter. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1996)
  • Florus. Epitome of Roman History. (London: W. Heinemann, 1947)
  • Orosius. The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans. Translated by Roy J. Deferrari. (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1964).
  • Plutarch. Fall of the Roman Republic. Translated by R. Warner. (London: Penguin Books, 1972), with special emphasis placed on "The Life of Crassus" and "The Life of Pompey".
  • Sallust. Conspiracy of Catiline and the War of Jugurtha. (London: Constable, 1924)

Modern historiography

  • Bradley, Keith R. Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World, 140 B.C.–70 B.C. Bloomington; Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989 (hardcover, ISBN 0-253-31259-0); 1998 (paperback, ISBN 0-253-21169-7). [Chapter V] The Slave War of Spartacus, pp. 83–101.
  • Rubinsohn, Wolfgang Zeev. Spartacus' Uprising and Soviet Historical Writing. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 1987 (paperback, ISBN 0-9511243-1-5).
  • Spartacus: Film and History, edited by Martin M. Winkler. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2007 (hardcover, ISBN 1-4051-3180-2; paperback, ISBN 1-4051-3181-0).
  • Trow, M.J. Spartacus: The Myth and the Man. Stroud, United Kingdom: Sutton Publishing, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-7509-3907-9).
  • Genner, Michael. "Spartakus. Eine Gegengeschichte des Altertums nach den Legenden der Zigeuner". Two volumes. Paperback. Trikont Verlag, Munchen 1979/1980. Vol 1 ISBN 3-88167-053-X Vol 2 ISBN 3-88167-0

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From Wikiquote

Spartacus (1960) is a film directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel of the same name by Howard Fast about the life of Spartacus and the Third Servile War. The film stars Kirk Douglas as rebellious slave Spartacus and Laurence Olivier as his foe, the Roman general and politician Marcus Licinius Crassus.



  • I'd rather be here, a free man among brothers, facing a long march and a hard fight, than the richest citizen in Rome: fat with food he didn't work for, and surrounded by slaves.
  • We've traveled a long ways together. We've fought many battles and won many victories. Now, instead of taking ships to our homes across the sea, we must fight again once more. Maybe there's no peace in this world, for us or for anyone else. I don't know. I do know that we're brothers, and as long as we live, we must remain true to ourselves.
  • When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That's why he's not afraid of it. That's why we'll win.
  • I am Spartacus!
  • Crixus always wanted to march on Rome. Now he doesn't have to. Rome has come to us.


  • Good luck, and may fortune smile upon... most of you.
  • But I'm a civilian. I'm more of a civilian than most civilians.

Marcus Licinius Crassus

  • If there was no Rome, I'd dream of her. If there were no gods, I'd revere them.
  • I promise you, a new Rome, a new Italy and a new empire. I promise the destruction of the slave army, and the restoration of order. I promise the living body of Spartacus for whatever punishment you may deem fit. That, or his head. This I have sworn, in the name of my fathers, in the temple that guards their bones.
  • I'm not after glory, I'm after Spartacus! And gentlemen, I mean to have him. However, this campaign is not about killing Spartacus. It is to kill the legend of Spartacus.
  • One of the disadvantages of being a patrician is that occasionally you're obliged to act like one.


  • You know, this republic of ours is something like a rich widow. Most Romans love her as their mother, but Crassus dreams of marrying the old girl, to put it politely.


Spartacus: What is your name?
Draba: You don't want to know mine. I don't want to know your name.
Spartacus: Just a friendly question.
Draba: Gladiators don't make friends. If we're ever matched in the arena together, I have to kill you.

Dionysus: [watching two Roman nobles being forced by a slave on horseback to fight to the death] Ah-ha ha! Come on, fat boy! Yeah!
Slaves: [as Spartacus enters the arena] Spartacus! Hey, Spartacus!
Spartacus: Noble Romans, fight each other like animals. [gestures to the slaves on the balcony] Your new masters, betting to see who'll die first. [the slaves laugh] Drop your weapons. [the slaves start booing]
Slaves: No! No! No! No!
Crixus: I want to see their blood, right here where Draba died! [jumps down and draws his sword] When I fight matched pairs, they fight to the death!
Spartacus: I made myself a promise, Crixus. I swore that if I ever get out of here alive, I'd die before I saw two men fight to the death again. Draba made that promise too. He kept it. [turns to the nobles] Go. [Spartacus turns to the slaves as the nobles scurry out of the arena] What's happening to us? Have we learned nothing? What are we becoming, Romans? We hunt wine when we should be looking for bread.
Dionysus: When you got wine, you don't need bread!
Spartacus: You can't just be a gang of drunken raiders.
Dionysus: What else can we be?
Spartacus: Gladiators, an army of gladiators. There's never been an army like that. One gladiator is worth any two Roman soldiers that ever lived.
Crixus: We beat the Romans guards here, but a Roman army is different. They fight different than we do, too.
Spartacus: We can beat anything they send against us if we really want to.
Crixus: It takes a big army.
Spartacus: We'll have a big army. Once we're on the march, we'll free every slave in every town and village. Can anybody get a bigger army.
Dionysus: That's right. Once we cross the Alps, we're safe.
Crixus: Nobody can cross the Alps. Every pass is defended by it's own legion.

Spartacus: Stand up. On your feet. Stand up, the way a noble Roman should.
Slave: That's Roman pride for you, Spartacus! [the slaves laugh]
Spartacus: That's better. What's your name?
Glabrus: Marcus, Glabrus.
Spartacus: Glabrus.
Glabrus: Commander of the Garrison of Rome!
Spartacus: Commander?
Crixus: He was commanding it on his belly when we found him, playing dead! [the slaves laugh]
Spartacus: You disappoint me, Marcus Glabrus, playing dead. You afraid to die? It's easy to die. Haven't you seen enough gladiators in the arena to see how easy it is to die?
Glabrus: Why...what are you going to do to me?
Spartacus: I don't know. [turns to the slaves] What should we do with him?
Dionysus: Let's have a matched pair, him and me! [the slaves laugh]
Glabrus: I'll not fight like a gladiator!
Spartacus: [showing Glabrus a Roman baton] You keep staring at this. You recognize this baton?
Glabrus: Yes.
Spartacus: You should! It was in your tent. [holds up the baton] The symbol of the Senate! All the power of Rome! [grips and snaps the baton in two]
Dionysus: That's the power of Rome!
Spartacus: [thrusting the broken baton at Glabrus] Take that back to your senate. Tell them you and that broken stick is all that's left of the garrison of Rome! Tell them we want nothing from Rome, nothing, except our freedom!

Crassus: Do you steal?
Antoninus: No, master.
Crassus: Do you lie?
Antoninus: Not if I can avoid it.
Crassus': Have you... ever dishonored the gods?
Antoninus: No, master.
Crassus': Do you refrain from these vices out of respect for moral virtues?
Antoninus: Yes, master.
Crassus: Do you eat oysters?
Antoninus: When I have them, master.
Crassus: Do you eat snails?
Antoninus: No, master.
Crassus: Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral, and the eating of snails to be immoral?
Antoninus: No, master.
Crassus: Of course not. It is all a matter of taste, isn't it?
Antoninus: Yes, master.
Crassus: And taste is not the same as appetite, and therefore not a question of morals, hmm?
Antoninus: It could be argued so, master.
Crassus: My robe, Antoninus. My taste includes both snails and oysters. [approaches a balcony] Antoninus, look, across the river. There is something you must see. [looking toward Rome, as the garrison sets out] There, boy, is Rome. The might, the majesty, the terror of Rome. There is the power that bestrides the known world like a colossus. No man can withstand Rome. No nation can withstand her. How much less... a boy! Hmm? [chuckles] There is one way to deal with Rome, Antoninus. You must serve her. You must abase yourself before her. You must grovel at her feet. You must... love her. Isn't that so, Antoninus? [turns around, and sees Antoninus gone] Antoninus? Antoninus?

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SPARTACUS, leader in the Slave or Gladiatorial War against Rome (73-7171 B.C.), a Thracian by birth. He served in the Roman army, but seems to have deserted, for we are told that he was taken prisoner and sold as a slave. Destined for the arena, he, with a band of his fellow-gladiators, broke out of a training school at Capua and took refuge on Mt Vesuvius (73). Here he maintained himself as a captain of brigands, his lieutenants being two Celts named Crixus and Oenomaus, who like himself had been gladiators. A hastily collected force of 3000 men under C. Claudius Pulcher endeavoured to starve out the rebels, but the latter clambered down the precipices and put the Romans to flight. Swarms of hardy and desperate men now joined the rebels, and when the praetor Publius Varinius took the field against them he found them entrenched like a regular army on the plain. But they gave him the slip, and when he advanced to storm their lines he found them deserted. From Campania the rebels marched into Lucania, a country better suited for guerrilla warfare. Varinius followed, but was defeated in several engagements and narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. The insurgents reoccupied Campania, and by the defeat of C. Thoranius, the quaestor of Varinius, obtained possession of nearly the whole of southern Italy. Nola and Nuceria in Campania, Thurii and Metapontum in Lucania were sacked. The senate at last despatched both consuls against the rebels (72). The German slaves under Crixus were defeated at Mt Garganus in Apulia by the praetor Q. Arrius. But Spartacus overthrew both consuls, one after the other, and then pressed towards the Alps. Gaius Cassius, governor of Cisalpine Gaul, and the praetor Gnaeus Manlius, who attempted to stop him, were defeated at Mutina. Freedom was within sight, but with fatal infatuation the slaves refused to abandon Italy. Spartacus led them against Rome, but their hearts seem to have failed them; and instead of attacking the capital, he passed on again to Lucania. The conduct of the war was now entrusted to the praetor Marcus Licinius Crassus. In the next battle Spartacus was worsted and retreated towards the straits of Messina, intending to cross into Sicily, where he would have been welcomed by fresh hordes of slaves; but the pirates who had agreed to transport his army proved faithless. Crassus endeavoured to shut in the rebels by carrying a ditch and rampart right across the peninsula, but Spartacus forced the lines, and once more Italy lay at his feet. Disunion, however, was at work in the rebel camp. The Gauls and Germans, who had withdrawn from the main body, were attacked and destroyed. Spartacus now took up a strong position in the mountainous country of Petelia (near Strongoli in Calabria) and inflicted a severe defeat on the vanguard of the pursuing army. But his men refused to retreat farther, and in a pitched battle which followed soon afterwards the rebel army was annihilated. Spartacus, who had stabbed his horse before the battle, fell sword in hand. A body of the rebels which had escaped from the field was met and cut to pieces at the foot of the Alps by Pompey (the Great), who was returning from Spain. Pompey claimed the credit of finishing the war, and received the honour of a triumph, while only a simple ovation was decreed to Crassus. Spartacus was a capable and energetic leader; he did his best to check the excesses of the lawless bands which he commanded, and treated his prisoners with humanity. His character has been misrepresented by Roman writers, whom his name inspired with terror down to the times of the empire.

The story has to be pieced together from the vague and somewhat discrepant accounts of Plutarch (Crassus, 8 - II; Pompey, 21), Appian (Bell. civ. 116-120), Florus, (ii. 8), Livy (Epic. 95-97), and the fragments of the Histories of Sallust, whose account seems to have been full and graphic.

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Simple English

in Paris, France]]

Spartacus (circa 120 BC[1] – circa 70 BC, at the end of the Third Servile War), according to Roman historians, was a gladiator-slave who became the alleged leader of an unsuccessful slave uprising against the Roman Republic.


  1. (Russian) Валентин Лесков. Спартак. М.: Молодая гвардия, 1987

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