Thanks to the recent TV series, Spartacus is now the best known gladiator of them all: breaking out of a gladiatorial ludus in Capua with a handful of men, from 73-71 BCE he defeated Roman armies time and time again, until he was defeated by Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives, then the richest man in Rome. We know little about his personality or aims, except that he originally came from Thrace (for more on Roman Thrace see here); vilified by the Romans he was rediscovered as a hero in the 19th century as a revolutionary hero and has remained so ever since.


Above is a map showing one version of the initial troop movements of the war (source); this interactive map allows you to track Spartacus’ movements around Italy (although it should be noted that our sources are contradictory and sometimes not all that clear about precise locations.)

The above is the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960). Everyone should watch that scene at least once in their lives, otherwise they have not truly lived.


To anyone interested not just in Spartacus but the two slave wars before him, both of which were fought in Sicily, I highly recommend Brent Shaw’s Spartacus and the Slaves Wars (2001); it contains a range of primary source documents about the wars and Roman slavery.


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