Spartacus's struggle, often interpreted as an example of oppressed people fighting for their freedom against a slave-owning oligarchy, has found new meaning since the 19th century. The story of Spartacus has also proven inspirational to many modern authors of literature, history, political commentary, film, and television.
Balkantribes, including the Maedi
The ancient sources agree that Spartacus was a Thracian. Plutarch describes him as "a Thracian of Nomadic stock". Appian says he was "a Thracian by birth, who had once served as a soldier with the Romans, but had since been a prisoner and sold for a Gladiator". Florus (2.8.8) described him as one "who from Thracian mercenary, had become a Roman soldier, of asoldier a deserter and robber, and afterward, from consideration of his strength, a gladiator". Some authors refer to the Thracian tribe of the Maedi, which in historic times occupied the area on the southwestern fringes of Thrace (present day south-western Bulgaria). Plutarch also writes that Spartacus's wife, a prophetess of the Maedi tribe, was enslaved with him.
The nameSpartacus is otherwise attested in the Black Sea region: kings of the Thracian dynasty of the Cimmerian Bosporus and Pontus are known to have borne it, and a Thracian "Sparta" "Spardacus" or "Sparadokos", father of Seuthes I of the Odrysae, is also known.
Enslavement and escape
The Roman Republic at 100 BCE
According to the differing sources and their interpretation,Spartacus either was an auxiliary from the Roman legions later condemned to slavery, or a captive taken by the legions. Spartacus was trained at the gladiatorial school (ludus) near Capua belonging to Lentulus Batiatus. In 73 BCE, Spartacus was among a group of gladiators plotting an escape. The plot was betrayed but about 70 men seized kitchen implements, fought their way free from the school,and seized several wagons of gladiatorial weapons and armor. The escaped slaves defeated a small force sent after them, plundered the region surrounding Capua, recruited many other slaves into their ranks, and eventually retired to a more defensible position on Mount Vesuvius.
Once free, the escaped gladiators chose Spartacus and two Gallic slaves—Crixus and Oenomaus—as their leaders.Although Roman authors assumed that the slaves were a homogeneous group with Spartacus as their leader, they may have projected their own hierarchical view of military leadership onto the spontaneous organization of the slaves, reducing other slave leaders to subordinate positions in their accounts. The positions of Crixus and Oenomaus—and later, Castus—cannot be clearly determined from thesources.
Third Servile War
For more details on this topic, see Third Servile War.
The response of the Romans was hampered by the absence of the Roman legions, which were already engaged in fighting a revolt in Spain and the Third Mithridatic War. Furthermore, the Romans considered the rebellion more of a policing matter than a war. Rome dispatched militia under the commandof praetor Gaius Claudius Glaber, which besieged the slaves on the mountain, hoping that starvation would force the slaves to surrender. They were surprised when Spartacus had ropes made from vines, climbed down the cliff side of the volcano with his men and attacked the unfortified Roman camp in the rear, killing most of them. The slaves also defeated a second expedition, nearly capturing...