War of Spartacus

This is the real story of the Roman slave Spartacus, a biography of his life and history. There is little documented about Spartacus prior to his fame in leading a small band of gladiators and enlisting slaves to rebel against the authority of Rome. Known information has been put together to form a Timeline of Spartacus the leader of the slave uprising against the Roman Republic known as the Third Servile War and is also referred to as The War of Spartacus.
Background History to Spartacus - The Servile Wars (Slave Uprisings)
Here is a little history of the slave uprising. During 135 BC and 104 BC the First and Second Servile Wars, or slave uprisings, erupted in Sicily. These wars started with small bands of rebels but were joined by tens of thousands of slave followers wishing to escape the oppressive life of a Roman slave. Much of the Roman economy was based on the slave trade. It is estimated that the number of slaves in Roman Italy, at its peak, was about one and a half million which was about 25% of the total population. However the First and Second Servile Wars did not particularly concern those living in Rome. Sicily was quite a distance away - too far to worry the Romans. Third Servile War (War of Spartacus) was different. This slave uprising threatened the very heart of Rome. In the period that Spartacus lived it is estimated that about 1 million people lived in the city of Rome and that of these about 400,000 were slaves - it is therefore no wonder that the name of Spartacus struck terror into the hearts of Romans!
The real Spartacus was a freeborn provincial from Thrace, who may have served as an auxiliary in the Roman army in Macedonia. He deserted the army, was outlawed, captured, sold into slavery, and trained at the gladiatorial school of Batiatus in Capua. New Gladiators were formed into troupes called 'Familia gladiatorium' which were under the overall control of a manager (lanista) who recruited, arranged for training and made the decisions of where and when the gladiators fought. The gladiator schools also served as barracks, or in some cases prisons, for gladiators between their fights. There was one of these gladiator schools at Capua, which was owned by Batiatus.  The name of his troupe of gladiators was named after their owner e.g. Famalia Batiatus.
The regime at the training school was extremely strict and Spartacus together with 70 - 80 other gladiators rebelled and fought their way out of the school. They took knives from the kitchen and killed the guards. The band of gladiators, led by Spartacus and Crixus, succeeded in obtaining proper arms and weapons, and took refuge in the crater of Vesuvius, at that time an extinct volcano (73BC).
Spartacus and the band of gladiators were soon joined by large numbers of slaves. Spartacus was soon at the head of a formidable army. The desolation of the Social and Civil Wars had depopulated Italy, while the service of slave labor furnished Spartacus with an endless supply of soldiers. The runaway slaves included old people, women and children who camped with the gladiators in the crater of Mount Vesuvius. The small group of gladiators plunders and pillage around the area and are quickly joined by large numbers of runaway slaves. This triggers the Third Servile War.
The praetor Claudius Glaber, with 3,000 raw recruits for soldiers, was the first army to be sent by the Senate from Rome to quell the slave revolt. The over confident Glaber and his troops are defeated by the slave army at Mount Vesuvius. They thought they had trapped the rebels on Vesuvius. Glaber did not fortify his camp properly and his troops were taken by surprise when the gladiator army attacked. Spartacus led his men down the other side of the mountain using vines, fell on the rear of the soldiers, and routed them. The Roman troops suffered a humiliating defeat.
Spartacus subsequently defeated two forces of legionary cohorts; he wanted to lead his men across the Alps to escape from Italy, but the Gauls and Germans, led by Crixus, wanted to stay and plunder. They separated from Spartacus, who passed the winter near Thurii in southern Italy.
Spartacus had raised about 70,000 slaves, mostly from rural areas. The Senate, alarmed, finally sent the two consuls Publicola and Clodianus, each with two legions, against the rebels. The Gauls and Germans, separated from Spartacus, were defeated by Publicola, and Crixus was killed. Spartacus defeated Lentulus, and then Publicola; to avenge Crixus, Spartacus had 300 prisoners from these battles fight in pairs to the death.
At Picenum in central Italy Spartacus defeated the consular armies, then pushed north and defeated the proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul at Mutina. The Alps were now open to the rebels, but again the Gauls and Germans refused to go, so Spartacus returned to southern Italy, perhaps intending to ship to Sicily.
In the autumn, when the revolt was at its height and Spartacus had about 120,000 followers, the Senate voted to pass over the consuls and grant imperium to Crassus, who had been a praetor in 73 B.C. but currently held no office. Crassus was the wealthiest man in Rome, a noble from an old plebeian family; since he had received very little support from the conservative nobles who dominated the Senate, he had allied himself with the faction of the populares.
Crassus was given six new legions plus the four consular legions. When one of Crassus' legates attacked Spartacus with two legions, against orders, Spartacus roundly defeated them. Crassus decimated the most cowardly cohort, and then used his combined forces to defeat Spartacus, who retreated to Rhegium, in the toe of Italy. Spartacus tried to cross the straits into Sicily, but the Cilician pirates betrayed him.
After a long period of pursuit and a few engagements, the slave army was defeated near the headwaters of the Siler River in southern Italy. It is believed that Spartacus died in this battle; there were so many corpses that his body was never found. As many as 6,000 slaves escaped and fled northward, but they were captured by Pompey's army north of Rome as he was marching back from Spain. The historian Appian reports that 6,000 slaves were taken prisoner by Crassus and crucified along the Appian Way from Capua to Rome.
The story of Spartacus has served as inspiration for books, movies and a television series. He has often been made into a symbol for oppressed people rebelling to overturn their society.


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