was a Roman slave who
led a large slave uprising in what is now Italy in 73 - 71 B.C. His army
of escaped gladiators and slaves defeated several Roman legions in what
is known as the "Third Servile War".
Different sources claim that Spartacus was either a captured Thracian
soldier or a deserter who had served in the Roman Army. In 73 BC he broke
out of gladiators' school at Capua with 74 followers and fled to the caldera
of Mount Vesuvius (near Naples). There he raised a rebel army composed
of allegedly 70000 escaped slaves.
Spartacus’ forces defeated two Roman legions sent to crush them. They
spent the winter on the south coast and by spring marched towards the north
and Gaul. They defeated two more legions on the way. At Mutina (modern-day
Modena) they defeated yet another legion of Cassius Longinus, the Governor
of Cisalpine Gaul.
Spartacus had apparently intended to march his army out of Italy and
into Gaul. However, he changed his mind, possibly under the pressure of
his followers who wanted more plunder. They marched back south and defeated
two more legions under Licinius Crassus. At the end of 72 BC Spartacus
was camped in Rhegium (Reggio Calabria) near the Straits of Messina.
Spartacus’ deal with Sicilian pirates to get them to Sicily fell through.
In the beginning of 71 BC eight legions of Marcus Licinius Crassus isolated
Spartacus’ army in Calabria. The Roman Senate also recalled Pompey from
Iberia and Lucullus from northern Turkey.
Spartacus managed to break through Crassus’ lines and escape towards
Brundisium (modern-day Brindisi). Crassus’ forces intercepted them in Lucania
and Spartacus was killed in the subsequent battle. The last survivors fled
north but were killed by Pompey, coming back from Iberia.
6000 of the captured slaves were crucified along the Via Appia from
Capua to Rome. Legionnaires found 3000 unharmed Roman prisoners from his
camp. His body was never identified.
Many revolutionaries and the like have used the name Spartacus. They
include Adam Weishaupt and the left-wing Spartacus League of Weimar Republic
Howard Fast wrote the historical novel Spartacus. Stanley Kubrick
made his film Spartacus based on it in 1960. It starred Kirk Douglas
in the title role. It was re-released in 1967 and again in 1991, with "restored"
scenes that had been cut for being too racy in 1960.