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Mediterranean Chronology


d. 71 BC


          Spartacus was born in Thrace, an ancient country located in southeastern Europe in what is now Greece, Turkey and southern Bulgaria.  According to some sources, he was a member of the Medi tribe which inhabited the Rhodopes mountain, which is now in Bulgaria. When he was young he worked in the fields of his homeland. Somehow, he ended up serving as a Roman auxiliary in the legions. There is no clear evidence but it is believed that he deserted the Roman army and as a result of that was sold into slavery.

Back "End of the Roman Republic" Chronology

        Slavery became an important part of Roman life. As nobles became richer and lazier they began using slaves as gladiators for entertainment. Gladiators were trained slaves who were forced to fight wild animals and other slaves in huge arenas in front of thousands of people. It was a brutal and ugly sport and it was becoming very popular. While being enrolled in a training school in Capua in 73 B.C., Spartacus led a group of several other gladiators and fled the gladiatorial college capturing Mount Vesuvius. When other slaves heard about Spartacus they were motivated by his courage and readily joined him in the fight against the Roman nobility.
        Spartacus hoped that in search for freedom his soldiers are going to attempt to cross the Alps after which they could seek their own homelands. However, his plan didn't materialize as they preferred to plunder the rich Italian countryside. Grant Michael, p.193.) Within the space of two years they defeated no fewer than four Roman armies. With his huge army of 70,000 Spartacus' force overran much of Campania and Lucania defeating all the Roman opposition. Inside, however, Spartacus knew that if Romans really decided to make an effort his army stood no chance because "the well-equipped and numerous Roman legions would easily suppress his ragtag band."
        By 72, the Senate realized that Spartacus and his army were an internal threat to security and ordered the consuls to crush the slave revolt. It turned out to be harder than they thought. Surprisingly the Roman army was defeated three times. On numerous occasions Spartacus tried to persuade his men to leave Italy and move northward towards Gaul but they refused. Eventually, he decided to turn southward and go to Sicily. However, that was a turning point of the slave war. The Senate placed Crassus, an able and competent general, in command of six legions. Although his initial attempt to crush the revolt failed, at Brundisium (now Brindisi) in 71 B.C., his army defeated the slaves and gladiators. Spartacus was killed in the battle and 6,000 captured slaves were crucified. That was the end of the last of the series of slave wars extending back to the previous century and the end of a great leader, a man of courage and humanity.


Encyclopedia Britannica; Spartacus;

Grant, Michael; History of Rome; (1978)

Ong. Greg; The Slave Uprising of Spartacus; Copyright 1996-1998

Spartacus; Copyright 1994; Newfield Publications, Inc.; Young Students Learning Library;

Edited by: Evelyn Kida
Researched by: Magdalena Parusckiewicz
Written by: Polina Liberman
October 13, 1999
Last Revised November 1, 2004

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