When we recline at table one slave wipes up the spit, another crouches to take up the leavings of the drunks. One carves the costly game, separating the portions by deft sweeps of a practiced hand - unhappy man, to live solely for the purpose of carving fowl neatly Add the caterers with their refined expertise of the master's palate; they know what flavors will titilate him, what table decorations will please his fancy, what novelty might restore his appetitie when he feels nauseous, what tidbit he would crave on a particular day.
With slaves like these the master cannot bear to dine; he would count it an affront to his dignity to come to table with his own slave. Heaven forbid! Nardo, The poor treatment of slaves was so widespread it came to be regarded as natural. One needed to break the slaves' will as an individual in order to have a compliant servant who would meet the expectations of a slave in Roman society. Free labor meant greater leisure and profit for those who owned slaves but those slaves were only profitable if they were submissive and did as they were told without question or hesitation.
The fact that the slave population was so great is testament to the Roman ability to maintain this kind of control over those they enslaved. It should be noted that not all slaves were treated poorly. In Seneca's same letter, he writes of slaves who were treated well by their masters and who would give their lives to safeguard the home, property, and life of that master.
Two famous philosophers were slaves, Diogenes of Sinope c. Diogenes was given complete control over the education of the boys of the house and Epictetus' master sent him to study stoic philosophy. These are notable exceptions to the general rule, however, and most slaves endured hard lives with little hope of winning their freedom and no rights under the law.
In time, there were more slaves than free people in Rome. The unemployment rate rose sharply as more and more slaves were used for jobs which Roman citizens used to hold and the countryside around the city of Rome increasingly became a vast network of slave colonies residing on large plantations of the very rich. Those slaves not employed in domestic or agricultural jobs were used as gladiators in the arena.
If the life of the house-slave was bad, that of the gladiator was worse. The gladiator was a slave whose sole purpose was to fight for the entertainment of the Roman crowds. Gladiators were usually male though there were some females and could win freedom through exceptional feats but, most of the time, lived and died a slave in the arena.
Slaves were most often selected as gladiators based on a robust physique which would be appealing to spectators; and one of these was Spartacus. Spartacus was a Thracian, originally from a region north of Macedonia, which was considered by both Greeks and Romans as uncivilized and barbaric. Spartacus, however, is described by Plutarch as "more Greek than Thracian" and notes that he was exceptionally intelligent and highly cultured.
Nothing is known of his youth nor how he became a slave to Rome. The primary sources on Spartacus' revolt are the historians Appian, Florus c. According to Appian he was a Thracian "who had once fought against the Romans and, after being taken prisoner and sold, had become a gladiator" Civil Wars, I. Florus claims he was a Roman mercenary in the legions who was imprisoned for desertion and robbery before being selected as a gladiator "thanks to his strength".
Plutarch gives a similar account of Spartacus as a mercenary for Rome but adds he was captured along with his wife after deserting. His wife is described as a prophetess of her people who escaped with Spartacus during the revolt and traveled with his army afterwards, most likely dying with him in the final clash with Rome. However he was captured, and for whatever reasons, his military training and physique made him a perfect candidate for the arena. Spartacus is described by all the ancient sources as tall and exceptionally strong. He was bought by a trainer named Lentulus Batiatus and sent to a gladiatorial school south of Rome in Capua.
These schools regularly relied on harsh treatment of the slaves to prepare them for the games in the arena and this discipline, like that used with all slaves, was intended to break the individual's will and make them compliant. In 73 BCE, Spartacus and some other conspirators devised a plan to escape from the compound and head north to freedom beyond the Apenines.
This plan included over other slaves and, with so many involved, it was no surprise when word was leaked to the authorities. Spartacus knew they would be tortured before they were killed and so led 78 of his fellow slaves in a revolt.
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They raided the kitchen and armed themselves with knives and spits and then murdered their instructors and captors. Once they were free they found more weapons in the storerooms and a transport wagon and then fled the school for the nearby countryside where they encamped somewhere on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
The Early Life Of Spartacus
There they elected Spartacus, Oenomaus, and Crixus as their leaders. Although the slaves elected three leaders, each ancient source claims Spartacus soon became supreme commander. Appian writes, "With the gladiators Oenomaus and Crixus as his subordinates, he plundered the nearby areas, and because he divided the spoils in equal shares, his numbers quickly swelled. The Roman senate considered all of this more of a bother than a threat and sent a force of largely untrained soldiers under the general Gaius Cluadius Glaber to take care of the problem. Glaber and the senate seem to have thought that a group of runaway slaves would be easily defeated as they could not possibly know anything about military tactics or warfare.
Spartacus surprised them, however. Glaber surrounded the slaves in their camp on the mountainside, keeping them penned in, and prepared to starve them into submission. The mountain was thick with vine branches, however, and Spartacus ordered his men to weave these into ladders by which they were able to climb down an area which Glaber had neglected, thinking it inaccessible, and attacked from behind Glaber's lines, defeating him and looting the camp for weapons.
A second force was then sent against the slaves led by Publius Varinus who chose to divide his forces, perhaps hoping to catch his enemy in a vice and crush them. Whatever his plan may have been is unknown but its failure was spectacular; Varinus' army was defeated and scattered. Spartacus' victory was so complete that Varinus lost even the horse he had ridden into battle.
After these two victories, more slaves left their master's homes and joined the revolt. The Roman senate realized they had seriously underestimated Spartacus, who now commanded an army of over 70, former slaves, and called on the consuls Publicola and Clodianus to lead their forces against him. Spartacus controlled the countryside now with new recruits flocking to his cause almost daily. Livy notes how Spartacus' army "laid waste [the cities ] of Nola, Nuceria, Thurii, and Metapontum with terrible destruction.
Spartacus had no intention of marching on Rome, however, and led his army north out of Italy to cross the Apenines and allow his followers to return to their homes. His force was too large to move singly, however, so he divided it in two and placed his second-in-command Crixus in charge of one.
Crixus's forces were beaten back with heavy losses but Spartacus defeated Clodianus and then drove Publicola from the field. Crixus was killed in the battle and Spartacus honored him by sacrificing Roman prisoners according to Appian. He then held his own gladiatorial shows using the remaining Roman captives for the spectacle. Florus writes how he forced the Romans to fight each other at the funeral pyres of his fallen officers "just as though he wished to wipe out all his past dishonor by having become, instead of a gladiator, a giver of gladitorial shows.
There is no record of why Spartacus abandoned his plan to lead his forces to freedom by leaving Italy but, for whatever reason, the ever-growing army of former slaves now marched south. Two more armies were sent against Spartacus and he defeated them both. Appian writes, "The war had now lasted three years and was causing the Romans great concern, although at the beginning it had been laughed at and regarded as trivial because it was against gladiators.
He first punished the legions for their failure through decimation where the soldiers drew lots and every tenth man was put to death. Crassus meant to end the war quickly and, according to Appian, "established himself in the eyes of his men as more to be feared than a defeat at the hands of the enemy.
Spartacus' plan was to work with the Cilician pirates to take over the Roman-occupied island of Sicily and make it a free nation for his followers. The pirates were supposed to have met him at the coast of Bruttium but they never arrived. Crassus had his army of over 32, soldiers move quickly and build a wall which trapped Spartacus behind it.
Crassus felt confident in waiting out his opponent since Spartacus, with the sea behind him and the wall in front, had nowhere to go. Spartacus tried to break out but was driven back with the loss of over 6, of his men. According to Florus, Spartacus then tried to escape by launching "rafts of beams and casks bound together with ropes on the swift waters of the straits" but failed.
Appian and Plutarch both claim that Spartacus resorted to guerilla tactics at this point. Appian writes how he "conducted many separate harassing operations against his besiegers" and "crucified a Roman prisoner in no-man's land to demonstrate to his own troops the fate awaiting them if they were defeated. The Roman senate, however, felt that Crassus was not moving quickly enough and brought in the famous general Pompey, the conqueror of Spain. Crassus now stepped up his attacks in order to defeat Spartacus before Pompey could arrive to steal the glory. Spartacus, seeing an opportunity to divide the Roman generals before Pompey's arrival, asked to negotiate terms with Crassus but was refused.
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Seeing there was no hope, Spartacus rallied his men and, according to Plutarch, "when his horse was brought to him, he drew he sword and killed it, saying that the enemy had plenty of good horses which would be his if he won and, if he lost, he would not need a horse at all. Finally, when his own men had taken to flight, he himself, surrounded by enemies, stood his ground and died fighting to the last. Although Crassus had defeated Spartacus on the field, the glory for the victory went to Pompey. Pompey arrived as the battle was ending and his troops engaged the fugitive slaves who ran from the field.
Plutarch writes that "Pompey, in his dispatch to the senate, was able to say that, while Crassus certainly had conquered the slaves in open battle, he himself had dug the war up by the roots" by eliminating any who might have continued the struggle.
Spartacus: Vengeance - Wikipedia
The 6, survivors of Spartacus' army were then crucified along the Appian Way from Rome to Capua and their bodies left there to rot for years as a warning against any future insurrections. Although the early Roman historians viewed him as a dangerous rebel and criminal, all their accounts show a grudging and sometimes outright respect for the gladiator-general. A war against slaves was considered a dishonor and the fact that Spartacus had prolonged the conflict so successfully for so long was especially difficult for Roman pride.
Pompey was given a triumph for his victories in Spain and, almost as an afterthought, ending the Third Servile War while Crassus, for his efforts, was given the much less prestigious ovation , a foot parade with none of the spectacle of the triumph. Even so, the tone of the narratives - especially Plutarch's account - is unmistakably admirable whenever the writers mention Spartacus' victories and, especially, in relating his death. These narratives inspired later artists to present Spartacus as a freedom fighter battling the might of Rome to end slavery even though none of the ancient accounts support this conclusion.
Spartacus is clearly depicted in every version as a gladiator who sought his own freedom and wound up as leader of a slave revolt. His modern status as freedom fighter and cult hero developed much later but draws on the histories of these Roman writers. The concept of Spartacus as the noble rebel fighting for freedom can be traced back to a French tragedy, Spartacus , written by Bernard-Joseph Saurin in CE which was inspired by Plutarch's account.
Saurin was trying to draw a parallel between the oppressive conditions of ancient Rome and those of his own time in 18th century CE France. Historian Maria Wyke explains how, in the midth century:. Spartacus began to be elevated in Western European literature , historiography, political rhetoric, and visual art into an idealized champion of both the oppressed and the enslaved. From this period, representations of the ancient slave rebellion and the gladiator Spartacus were profoundly driven by the political concerns of the present Saurin's very popular play was revived in CE following the French Revolution and statues of Spartacus began to appear in France as early as CE.
His story was taken up by the Italian novelist Raffaello Giovagnoli in CE in his historical novel Spartacus which drew paralells between the ancient Thracian gladiator and the nationalist general Giuseppe Garibaldi who united Italy in the 's. Rome initially considered the revolt a nuisance. In 71 B. Spartacus was believed to have died in this battle. Around 6, men survived the battle but were later captured and crucified by the Roman army.
Spartacus has long served as an inspiration to those seeking to revolt against oppressive rule. He was considered a brave and able leader who fought against tremendous odds with remarkable success. The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit.
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Spartacus: History of Gladiator Revolt Leader
If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media. Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service. Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives. Others say that Aeneas and some of his followers escaped the fall of Troy and established the town. A people known for their military, political, and social institutions, the ancient Romans conquered vast amounts of land in Europe and northern Africa, built roads and aqueducts, and spread Latin, their language, far and wide.
Skip to content Donate Account. Spartacus Spartacus was an ancient Roman slave and gladiator who led a rebellion against the Roman Republic.