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Home > Real Men > Military > Spartacus



Date of birth unkown--born in Thrace.


Spartacus grew up working in the fields of Thrace, but somehow ended up serving in the Roman Army. He deserted, and upon his capture was demoted to slavery. He was semt to Capua to endergo training to become a gladiator. He led an escape of several gladiators in 73 B.C. and captured Mount Vesuvias. They were joined by a large group of slaves from nearby regions who were motivated to fight for their freedom.

Spartacus led the runaways in the historic insurrection known as the Third Servile War, or Gladiators' War. His army overtook much of Campania and Lucania in southern Italy, defeating the minimal resistance sent by Rome. Despite a growing army of 70,000 followers, Spartacus knew that his army was no match for the well-equipped Roman army would easily defeat his group if the Roman Senate ordered. He suggested moving out of Italia, perhaps to the Alps. The Gauls and Goths vetoed this suggestion, deciding to stay and plunder Italian villages for money and goods. Being forced to remain in Italy, Spartacus headed south to avoid unwanted attention.

After nearly a year, the Senate finally decided that Spartacus and his army were a threat to internal security. Suprisingly, the consular armies that the senate ordered to crush the rebellion were defeated three times--both seperated and united. Spartacus pushed north and defeated the proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul at Mutina. His plan to escape into Gaul was again, thwarted by his men who refused leave Italy. With such stubborn troops, Spartacus most likely decided to head south and escape to Sicily.

Disgusted with the incompetance of the consuls and proconsul, the Senate placed Marcus Linius Crassus, the only proven general in Italy at the time, in command of six legions to stop Spartacus. When his initial attempt to failed, the senate considered summoning Pompey the Great, who was returning from Spain. Finally, in 71 B.C., Crassus forced Spartacus and his army into the peninsula of Rhegium (now known as Reggio di Calabria). They managed to escape through Roman lines, but Crassus pursued Spartacus to Lucania, where the rebels were defeated and Spartacus was killed in battle. His death ended the insurrection, and 6000 captured rebels were crucified along the Appian Way (the main road out of Rome). The few who escaped to the north were killed by Pompey's army, most likely due to chance more than any planning by Pompey.

The Gladiators' War sent a message to the Roman people. There was unrest and dissent among the slaves, and that was an ever present threat to the empire's internal security. Although the use of slaves continued long after the fall of Spartacus, it decreased gradually and social attitudes changed after the war, with some patricians becoming opposed to the usage of slaves.

The Movie

In 1960, Kirk Douglas (Spartacus), Laurence Olivier (Crassus) and Jean Simmons starred in what was at the time an epic movie based on the life of Spartacus. The movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, was shot over 167 days, employing more than 10,000 people, and costing over $12 million to make, at the time one of the most expensive movies ever. However, the film was a great success, winning 4 Acadamy Awards and the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture and grossing over $13 million within the year.

In 2004, Spartacus was re-made into a TV Mini-series.

Spartacus on the web...
A more in depth look at the real Spartacus.
Spartacus on Wikipedia


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