Best known for: Leading a slave uprising against Rome
Not a lot is known about Spartacus' early life. He was a Thracian who joined the Roman army as a young man. However, things didn't work out. He tried to leave the army. When he was caught leaving, he was sold into slavery as a gladiator.
Life as a Gladiator
Spartacus lived the life of a gladiator. He was basically a slave who was forced to fight for the entertainment of the Romans. He was sent to a gladiator school where he constantly trained to fight. He was then put into the arena to fight animals or other gladiators. Some of the fights were to the death. He must have been both a good fighter and lucky to survive.
His life as a gladiator was difficult. He became tired of risking his life for the entertainment of others. He wanted to escape and go home.
In 73 BC, seventy gladiators, with Spartacus as their leader, escaped from the gladiator school. They were able to steal their weapons and armor and fight their way free. They fled to Mount Vesuvius near the city of Pompeii gathering more slaves to their small army as they went.
Rome sent an army of 3,000 men under the leadership of Claudius Glaber. Glaber surrounded the slaves at Mount Vesuvius and decided to wait them out. He figured they would eventually starve.
Spartacus, however, had a different idea. He and the gladiators used the vines from local trees to repel down the side of the mountain and sneak up behind the Roman forces. They killed nearly all 3,000 of the Roman soldiers.
Rome sent another army of around 6,000 soldiers. Spartacus and the slaves again defeated them.
More Slaves Join
As Spartacus continued to have success against the Roman army, more and more slaves began to desert their owners and join up with Spartacus. Soon Spartacus' forces had grown to over 70,000 slaves! The gladiators used their fighting experience to train the slaves how to fight. They also had lots of weapons and armor from defeating the Roman troops.
Over the winter of that year, Spartacus and his 70,000 slaves camped in northern Italy. They raided Roman towns for food and supplies and trained for the battles they knew would come.
The Romans became increasingly scared and worried about this large force of slaves and gladiators moving about the country. They gathered a large army of around 50,000 soldiers under the leadership of Crassus. At the same time Pompey the Great was returning from another war. The two generals defeated the slave revolt and killed Spartacus.
Interesting Facts about Spartacus
The slave uprising led by Spartacus is called the Third Servile War by historians.
The gladiators used kitchen utensils to fight their way to where their weapons and armor were stored.
Spartacus body was never found, however most historians agree that he was killed on the battlefield.
The Romans captured 6,000 slaves in the final battle. They crucified all 6,000 along a road called the Appian Way that went from Rome to Capua where the rebellion first began.
Both Crassus and Pompey were rewarded for putting down the revolt by being elected as consuls in 70 BC.
The character of Spartacus was played by Kirk Douglas in the 1960 film Spartacus. The movie won four Academy Awards.