Pima Community College|
We know very little of Spartacus before he joined the Roman Army. We do know that Spartacus was born a free man around 100 B.C. He was born in ancient Thrace an unstable territory on the fringes of Rome’s empire, which is what we know as Bulgaria. This is where historians have picked up on Spartacus, when he joined the Roman Army. Some believe that he joined the army because it was an opportunity to not be poor anymore. Spartacus soon fled the army when he was asked to fight against his own people. Any deserter would be tracked down by the Roman army and face their punishment. The punishment for desertion was enslavement. Spartacus and his wife were both sold into slavery in a town sixty miles south of Rome, called Cupua. Spartacus was sold as a gladiator, trained to fight and kill for entertainment.
Spartacus and the other gladiators formulate a plan to escape. They use improvised kitchen utensils as weapons. Since they train daily in hand to hand combat, the guards are no match for the gladiators. They kill their way out of the compound and steal the weapons of the guards they kill. Before reinforcements can be called seventy-four gladiators kill everyone in the compound and escape into the countryside. Knowing they would be killed if captured, the now fugitives need structure and a leader. They elect Spartacus; he is a natural leader and has good charisma with the men. They travel through Italy, stealing weapons, food and clothing as they go. They need to set up camp somewhere they will have the advantage when the Romans come for them. They head to the scarcely populated dormant volcano, Vesuvius. There the men can prepare a defense for when the Romans attack.
The senate of Rome doesn’t think much of the news that seventy-four slaves escaped. They send a small platoon of new recruits and a rookie commander, Glavia, to take care of them. A Glavia set up camp at the bottom of the Vesuvius, on what he thinks is the only path down from the volcano. Spartacus and his men use vines to repel down from the steep mountain at night and do a stealth attack. Only a few guards are awake, the rest of the camp is asleep. Spartacus and his men easily defeat the small platoon and take over the camp and everything in it.
Slaves from all over hear about what Spartacus and his men are doing. Many slaves run away from their masters just to be commanded by Spartacus, most of them are just normal slaves that work in the fields. They only want to be free and Spartacus gives them that opportunity. The slaves come from different backgrounds and many speak different languages. They are captives taken from where ever Rome’s armies have fought. They attack when the Romans don’t expect it and they fight dirty/guerilla type warfare. It is said that when it appeared that Spartacus’s men were cornered, that Spartacus would have corpses hung by stakes in the ground. From a distance they looked like guards and Spartacus would sneak his men out with the cover of night.
Spartacus has been a part of the Roman Army; he knows its strengths and its weaknesses. He knows the weapons and shields and body armor they use and trains his men to attack certain areas to be more lethal, more deadly to the soldier. He’s going to know how to use all of that knowledge against them to defeat them. For almost a year, Spartacus and his men defeat or evade every Roman force sent to face them. There were even rumors that women and children were a part of the army. Free peasants were rumored to have joined his army to help fight the Roman Empire. His army grew from seventy-four to 100,000 people in a year, all dreaming of freedom.
The next goal for Spartacus and his army is to travel north along the Italian peninsula and cross the Alps and to finally be home in Thrace. Spartacus wants to train his men to be drilled discipline soldiers. He trains the original seventy-four the way he wants all his men to be trained. They each then train a group of people and then they each train a group and so on. Some of the men begin to think that they don’t need to escape; they think they can stay and fight the Romans. Led by Crixus, one of the gladiators that have been with Spartacus since Capua, they go their separate ways. In 72 B.C. Spartacus heads north and Crixus abandons Spartacus and heads east with up to 30,000 men.
At the same time Spartacus’s army splits, the Romans send their counter strike. Two armies, one sent to cut off Spartacus and the other east to battle Crixus. The Romans easily handle Crixus and his men, and then head north to battle Spartacus. Spartacus gets word of Crixus’s death and swears to avenge him. Spartacus comes out fighting; the Romans had expected him to run. As Spartacus’s army hits the first Roman army with such force and anger, the Romans turn and run. He brings his army around and attacks the second army and defeats them with ease. He now turns his focus into leaving Rome and kills anyone and everyone that stands in his way.
After weeks of fighting and marching, Spartacus and his army are finally at the foothills of the Alps. On the other side, Thrace, Spartacus’s homeland, this is the moment Spartacus has been dreaming about. However, the army doesn’t want to go. They want to stay in Rome for the gold, the food, and everything they could get their hands on and the demand that Spartacus stays with them. He reluctantly stays with his army. He wants to be free but doesn’t want them to suffer the same fate that Crixus and his men did. He leads them south into the lion’s mouth, Rome. The army is depleted but battle tested and confident. Spartacus has to decide whether to keep plundering and dare someone to stop him or go for the ultimate prized and go after the Roman Empire head to head.
Once news arrives to the citizens that the slave army is heading south, they are hit by a wave of fear. Crassus, Rome’s richest man, seizes the opportunity to try and defeat Spartacus and his army. Crassus knows that the man who saves Rome, there will be honor, gold, and power. Crassus is a self-centered person that only did things that would benefit him, whereas Spartacus was more of a humanitarian. Crassus was intimidating but he was no military front man. He was more of a stay behind the scenes and be the brains of the operation. Rome still gives him four legions and he buys another six legions out of his own pocket. A force of 60,000 well trained troops at his disposal.
Spartacus avoids battle with Crassus at first. He wants to get to Sicily, Roman rule is weak there and he can regroup and recruit. He pays for ships to take him and his army the two mile journey across the water to Sicily but soon realizes they’ll never come. Spartacus is trapped at the end of the peninsula. Crassus has his army build a fortification thirty five miles long and blocks every path of escape.
To show his men that he will not give up and will fight to the very end, he crucifies a Roman prisoner. Romans never got crucified. Only slaves were crucified, Spartacus was trying to humiliate his enemy as well as get his troops riled up to fight the final battle. When the final battle starts, Spartacus sees Crassus and tries to fight his way to him. He is vastly outnumbered and is killed on his way to him. His body will never be found as there were too many dead bodies to count. Some say that 30,000 slaves died and some say that 60,000 slaves died in the final battle.
Crassus in an attempt to show the world how powerful Rome is and Rome how powerful he is, crucifies 6,000 slaves along the most important road in Rome. Crassus wants to create his own legend with this gesture and buy his place in history. Spartacus may not have won the battle but he essentially wins the war. Everyone knows Spartacus, no one really knows Crassus. Crassus will never be as much of a historic figure because he was just another greedy rich man. Spartacus was the real hero, the real legend. Everyone will remember him for all time as the slave, the gladiator, the man that freed so many slaves and almost brought down the single biggest empire in the history of the world.
Spartacus: Behind the Myth. DVD.