Who Was Spartacus in Real Life

     You have certainly heard of Spartacus. Nowadays, Spartacus is synonymous with Freedom, but it wasn't always like that ... A lifetime ago, Spartacus was just a slave. Who was Spartacus in real life.

Spartacus Gladiator:

     Spartacus (109 BC - ca. 71 BC) was a gladiator of Thracian origin, lived in the Roman Republic and was the leader of the most famous slave revolt in Ancient Rome, known as " Third Servile War "," Slave War "or" Gladiator War ". Spartacus led, during the revolt, a rebel army that had almost 40,000 ex-slaves. He ended up losing the war against the legions of Crassus, a member of the first triumvirate. The body of Spartacus was never found by the Roman commander.


     According to vague references by Roman authors (Apiano, Floro and Plutarco), Spartacus was of Thracian origin and, having deserted from an auxiliary troop of the Roman army, was captured and reduced to slavery. Due to his physical strength, he was bought by a merchant in the service of the lanista, Lêntulo Batiato, and taken to the gladiator school of Capua, in Campania (Italy).

     The ancient authors say of him:

  • Plutarch: "He was an intelligent and cultured man, more Hellenic than barbaric"
  • Floro: "Mercenary of Thrace, admitted to our army, defector soldier, bandit promoted to gladiator by his strength"


     In 73 BC, about two hundred slaves from the Batiato school revolted, due (according to Plutarch) to the mistreatment they received from the lanista, and armed only with kitchen knives, attacked the school guards. According to Plutarco, seventy-eight of them (or just thirty, according to Floro) managed to escape. On the way, they came across carts loaded with weapons used by the gladiators, taking possession of them. With this weaponry, they repelled the Capua garrison sent to capture them.


     Rome then organized the first expedition against the rebels. In front of three thousand men, the Roman praetor Caio Cláudio Glabro besieged them in his fort, a hill of painful and narrow ascent surrounded by high rocks carved with pike, with a great quantity of wild vines on top. Since the climb was guarded by Claudio, the besieged cut the longest and strongest shoots of such vines, made long stairs that skimmed the plain, and, tying them up, they all descended quietly. Only one of them stayed on top, to throw their weapons at them, at the end of which was also safe. The Romans did not suspect the operation; surrounded the hill, the besieged attacked them from the rear, chasing them away and taking their camp. Many cowboys and shepherds guarding their flocks joined the fugitives, some armed by them and others sent to spy.


     On that occasion, Rome sent commander Publius Varinius to dismantle them. In a first combat they defeated the lieutenant named Furio, along with two thousand men and three bears (military commanders). Then they also defeated another lieutenant, Cossino, who had been imposed on him as a counselor and companion, and with great power. 

     There was an attempt to imprison Spartacus when he bathed in a place called Salinas, however the commander, costly, managed to save himself. Nevertheless, Spartacus took possession of his luggage, and, pursuing him tenaciously, he also took possession of his camp, having cost him the lives of many of his men, among them, Cossímo. Also having won in many battles the praetor-chief himself, imprisoning the sergeants who drove the axes in front of him, as well as his own horse. Spartacus acquired such value that everyone came to fear it. 

     However, carefully calculating his strengths and endowments, and seeing that they could not surpass those of the Romans, he took his army to the Alps, considering that, once transposed, each returned to his land, that is, to Gaul and to Thrace. His men, however, relying on their numbers, and promising great achievements, did not want to attend to him, and began to roam and plunder the entire Italian peninsula again.


     Finding the senate restless, not only because of the shame and affront of his men being overcome by rebellious slaves, but also because of the apprehension and danger in which the entire Italian peninsula was located, he sent the two consuls there, as if he were one of the most arduous and dangerous wars that they should face. Lucius Gélio Publícola, one of the consuls, by surprise attacking a troop of Germans, who, out of pride and contempt, had separated and moved away from the Spartacus camp, subjected it to the sword; Lentulus, his companion, with numerous forces besieged Spartacus and all who followed him, attacked them, defeated them, and took all their luggage. 

     That is why, advancing to the Alps, Cassio, praetor and governor of Gaul in the suburb of the River Po, faced him with an army of ten thousand men. A great fight was fought, in which he was defeated, having lost many soldiers and managed to save himself at great cost and in haste. Aware of this, the Senate declared itself quite unhappy with its two consuls; ordering them not to get involved in this fight anymore, he attributed the entire burden to Marco Licínio Crassus in 71 BC, which was followed by numerous noble young men, thanks to his high reputation and the great esteem that they voted for him.


     Crassus went to set up his camp in Romagna to wait for Spartacus on his way there, and sent Mummius, one of his lieutenants, with two legions, to involve the enemy from the rear, ordering him to always follow him, and forbidding him expressly attack him and skirmish him in any way. Despite all these determinations, as soon as Mummius saw the possibility of doing something, he attacked him, being defeated, with the loss of many of his men. Those who managed to save themselves on the run, just lost their weapons. 

     Crassus was very angry with him; and, collecting the fugitives, he gave them other weapons, demanding guarantors to guarantee their best service thereafter, something that had never been done before. And, the five hundred who were in the first rows, and who were the first to start the flight, he divided them into fifty dozen, in each of which he drew one, (decimation) subject to the death penalty. In this way, the ancient Romans' way of punishing cowardly soldiers was revived, something that had long since been abandoned, because it was ignominious, and produced horror and astonishment to the audience, when performed publicly.


     Crassus, who had written to the Senate that it was necessary to call Lucius of Thrace and Pompey of Hispania, regretting having done so, endeavored as much as possible to end this war before they arrived, knowing that they would attribute all the glory of its conclusion to the newcomer who was to his aid, and not to him. That is why he decided first to attack those who had revolted and entrenched separately, under the orders of captains Caio Canício and Casto

     To this end, he followed six thousand infantrymen, to take command of an eminence, ordering them to do everything to avoid being seen or discovered by the enemies. What they sought to accomplish the best possible, covering their dies and helmets. Nevertheless, they were noticed by two women who were secretly making sacrifices in favor of their enemies, and were at risk of being lost. Crassus, however, rescued them in time, giving the enemies the harshest combat of those who took place in that war. In the fight, twelve thousand three hundred men perished, fighting valiantly.


     After this defeat, Spartacus withdrew to the mountains of Petélia, pursued and skirmish relentlessly, by the rear, by Quinto, one of the lieutenants of Crassus, and his treasurer Escroía. At the end of the day, however, everything changed suddenly, and Spartacus defeated the Romans, the treasurer being seriously wounded and saved at cost. 

     This advantage obtained over the Romans gave rise to the final ruin of Spartacus, because his warriors, almost all fugitive slaves, were filled with such pride and audacity that they did not want to stop fighting, nor did they obey their commander anymore. On the contrary, as they were on their way, they surrounded us and told them that, whether they wanted to or not, it was necessary that they return quickly and lead them through Lucania against the Romans, which was what Crassus asked, because he knew that Pompey was approaching, and that many in Rome argued and fought for his sake, saying that the final victory of this war was due to him, and that as soon as he arrived there everything would be decided with a single fight.


     So, trying to fight, and getting as close to his enemies as possible, Crassus one day opened a trench, which the fugitives tried to prevent, furiously charging those who were engaged in this task. The fight became violent. And as reinforcements arrived from side to side at all times, Spartacus was forced to use all resources. Taking the horse on which he was to fight, he drew his sword, and, killing him in plain sight, said:

"If I am defeated in this fight, he will be of no use to me. And if I am victorious, many of them, beautiful and excellent, will have enemies at my disposal."

     This done, he launched himself under the pressure of the Romans, trying to get close to Crassus, without succeeding, and killed two Roman centurions who faced him. Finally, all those around him fled, and he stood firm in his post, completely surrounded, fighting valiantly, being shredded. After the battle, Spartacus' body was never discovered. Without a grave, his body remained on the battlefield. We do not know whether Crassus endeavored to discover the corpse of the commander-gladiator or whether, finally the war won, he was not concerned with this matter.


     Although Crassus was very happy and fulfilled all his duties as a good commander and brave man, exposing himself to all dangers, he could not prevent the honor of the end of that war from being attributed to Pompey, because those who escaped this last combat fell at his hands and he annihilated them, writing to the Senate that Crassus had defeated the fugitives in regular combat, but he had destroyed all the roots of this war! Thus Pompey had a triumphal entry into Rome, having won Sertório and regained Hispania. Crassus was given an ovation after his victory. He did not receive a triumph because he was won against slaves, but the Senate allowed him to wear the laurel wreath instead of the myrtle crown, considering the importance of this victory. 

     Crassus punished those who survived his onslaught against Spartacus, having 6000 rebels crucified along the Appian Way (from Capua to Rome). This punishment was not a whim of the Roman commander, it was mandatory under the laws of the Republic. Crassus, who also traded slaves, certainly would have liked to have been able to sell them, but Roman law demanded the crucifixion of the rebellious slaves and so he just did what the laws ordered.


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