Skip to comments.The Real Spartacus
Posted on 05/02/2004 10:20:05 AM PDT by Destro
The Real Spartacus
The real Spartacus was a freeborn provincial from Thrace (Greek, but from the hill country and not considered "a real Greek" by the Athenians or the Romans.) He may have served as an auxiliary in the Roman army in Macedonia. He deserted the army, was outlawed, captured and sold into slavery. He was eventually purchased by Lentulus Batiatus and trained at his gladiatorial school in Capua. Spartacus means "from the city of Sparta" in Latin.
73 B.C.: Spartacus escaped with 70-80 gladiators, seizing the knives in the cook's shop and a wagon full of weapons. They camped on Vesuvius and were joined by other rural slaves, overrunning the region with much plunder and pillage, although Spartacus apparently tried to restrain them. His chief aides were gladiators from Gaul, named Crixus and Oenomaus.
The Senate sent a praetor, Claudius Glaber against the rebel slaves with about 3000 raw recruits hastily drafted from the region. The Romans were overconfident in approaching Vesuvius. They thought they had trapped the rebels on the mountain, but Spartacus led his men down the other side using vines, fell on the rear of the Roman soldiers, and routed them.
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.
72 B.C.: Spartacus had raised about 70,000 slaves, mostly from rural areas. The Senate, alarmed, finally sent the two consuls (L. Gellius Publicola and Cn. Cornelius Lentulus 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 take ships 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 (Commander-in-Chief of all the armies) to Marcus Licinius Crassus, who had been a praetor in 73 B.C. but currently held no office.
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, 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.
Meanwhile, the Senate recalled Pompey and his legions from Spain, and they began the journey overland; Marcus Licinius Lucullus landed in Brundisium in the heel of Italy with his legions from Macedonia. When Spartacus finally fought his way out of the toe of Italy, he could not march to Brundisium and take ship to the east because of the presence of Lucullus.
71 B.C.: When Spartacus started north some of the Gauls and Germans separated from him and were nearly defeated by Crassus before Spartacus rescued them. The slaves gained one more minor victory against part of Crassus' forces, but they were finally wiped out by Crassus' legions in a major battle in southern Italy, near the headwaters of the Siler river. It is believed that Spartacus died in this battle; there were so many corpses that his body was never found. The historian Appian reports that 6000 slaves were taken prisoner by Crassus and crucified along the Appian Way from Capua to Rome.
As many as 5000 slaves escaped and fled northward, but they were captured by Pompey's army north of Rome as he was marching down the peninsula enroute from Spain; Pompey subsequently tried to claim the glory of victory from Crassus, although he had not actually participated in any of the battles. The Senate voted Pompey a triumph because of his previous victory in Spain, but they decreed an ovation (a far less splendid and prestigious parade) for Crassus because his victory had been merely over slaves. There were no political purges or proscriptions after the rebellion was crushed.
70 B.C.: Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls, although Pompey was six years too young for the office and had never held any of the lower magistracies. As consuls, they repealed some of the unpopular laws of Sulla and restored the power of the tribunes.
(Excerpt) Read more at historyinfilm.com ...
The gladiator games had a religious significance to them. They were a form of human sacrifice (even if no one was killed) and the fighting styles of the gladiators were highly stylized to act out some sort of quasi-religous cosmic play.
It is a relatively short book, and was a NYT best seller for many months.
I show Spartacus every year whenever I teach world history. I show this film because there so few content appropriate movies that I can show that are anywhere near the actual history.
But I also show "The Devil's Brigade" with William Holden for WWII and "The Green Berets" with John Wayne for Vietnam. In none of these cases are my liberal fellow teachers very pleased. They don't like Spartacus because it shows slaves rising up with violence against their masters and to them violence under any circumstances is a B-A-D thing. The John Wayne film especially turns their stomachs.
Paths was directed by a young Stanley Kubrick. Spartacus was initially directed by Anthony Mann, but he and Douglas had a falling out, and Douglas replaced him with Kubrick. Kubrick later disowned the film, which his devotees saw as indubitable proof that the movie stunk. However, if you compare the work Kubrick did for Douglas to the work he did as an independent producer-director, you see the Douglas films suffused with a humanity that Kubrick's "classic" independent films were bereft of. It wasn't Kubrick who saved Douglas, but the other way around.
Although I have been an anti-communist since I was a child, and I fully understand the political subtext of Spartacus as an attack on the then recently-deceased Tailgunner Joe, I cannot hate Douglas, or even Trumbo, two men who have brought so much joy and beauty to my life.
If I were still teaching, and wanted to show a movie about the war in Vietnam, I don't know what I'd do. I don't think there are any particularly accurate movies about that war. The Deer Hunter is the great masterpiece to come out of that war, and while John Ford would likely have approved of it, had he lived to see it, it is more a work of poetry than history. As for WWII, based on my late uncle, who served in WWII and Korea, and who used to speak of the tedium, I would think that the one movie that best captured what those servicemen who survived the war experienced, would be Mister Roberts.
The Devil's Brigade might have been made because of The Dirty Dozen but it is pretty historically accurate as well, right down to the final assault on the mountain in Italy. They were made up of misfits from Americans and crack Canadian troops; and yeah there was a lot of Hollywood (like the training and brawling) but a lot was fairly accurate, too. The First Special Service Force never retreated and never lost a battle, but they took heavy casualties and were disbanded before the end of the war due to attrition.
That depends on the service member, I would guess. I never knew that my wife's dad had a DFC and two bronze stars with "V" Device for valor until I literally stumbled across the awards cleaning out his garage. The old guy flew with "Pappy Boyington" and the Black Sheep. Also served in Blackburns Irregulars the sister squadron. His DFC says he attacked forty zero's by himself knocking down eight in the first ten minutes until help arrived. Doesn't sound like a lot of tedium to me. Shot down twice fished out of the drink by a sub both times. He never said a word and refused to discuss them with me until I got him a little tipsy one night. That to me, is the epitome of the word "hero."
The man did not like to talk about the war much but I talked to him a little here and there about it for years. He died before I could get him to really open up.
Thank God the school year is almost over. I've been in those trenches for the last seven years. That's forty thousand miles on my car in travel to work alone. I gotta transfer someplace nearer to my home to keep my zest for teaching. This is the first year I've been there that things have gotten truly dangerous. Three gun incidents this year, one threatening a teacher. Two teachers beaten this year, too. This past week, three kids cut, one requiring over forty stitches. Nobody gives a damn.
A few weeks ago, a friend of one of my students got really brazen and interrupted my class. Real thug, dread locks and gold teeth. Tried to just push inside the room and "take over." I planted myself in his way and he said I ought not to do that cause I might "get hurt." I told him: "You feel froggy? Anytime you want, just JUMP!" we locked eyes and his buddies ran up and dragged him out my room spewing apologies. I was cold as ice on the outside and shaking on the inside. I'm 47 next week, I don't need this. Thanks for letting me vent, lol.
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