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Spartacus and His Role in the Liberation of Slaves Term Paper

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Updated: Jan 26th, 2020


Spartacus was a Thracian warrior who lived between 109-71 BC. It is believed that Spartacus was born in Thrace. However, the exact date and place is not known. In addition, there is little information with regards to his childhood and early life. A lot of literature has been presented taking into account this issue.

However, this information normally contains a lot of contradicting facts. Due to this, there is no specific source that can be relied upon to present the early life of the hero. However, it is believed that Spartacus joined the Roman army. It is there that he received his early training in combat. Despite the service that he gave to the Roman army, Spartacus was condemned into slavery.

He was bought and trained as a Gladiator in Capua where he planned an escape that eventually led to an uprising against the Roman government. This is because he instigated the most famous rebellion of slaves in history. It is speculated that this rebellion comprised of over 100,000 slaves who were fighting for their freedom and recognition in the society. Most of them fought to death since they did not have much to live for.

This uprising was known as the Third Sevile War that lasted for several years. It is in the course of fighting these wars that it is believed that Spartacus lost his life[1]. The main aim of this essay is to have an insight of the life of Spartacus and the impacts that he had on history. Therefore, it will focus on his origin, history, his impacts on history and analyze how he managed to change or shape history. Therefore, this essay will account for the life of this hero and his achievements.

Origin and History of Spartacus

Most of the information that is written about Spartacus state that he was a Thracian. It was one of the ancient tribes of Rome during the early civilization. However, as it has been stated earlier, the exact place and date of birth of Spartacus are not identified. Plutarch states that Spartacus was a Thracian nomad. His main occupation was vending his domestic animals. To ensure that his animal had enough to feed on, Spartacus and his other tribesmen moved from one place to another in search of food and pasture[2].

On the other hand, Appian has a different account with regards to the early life of Spartacus. Appian states that Spartacus was a Thracian by birth. However, he joined the Roman army where he received a rigorous training in combat. However, as a result of unknown circumstances, he became a prisoner of the Roman government.

This led to his subsequent sale as a gladiator. He, therefore, had to fight for his life as a form of entertainment in front of huge crowds in Rome. Gladiator fights became one of the greatest sports in Rome during that period. People were fascinated with the great skills that these gladiators presented. In addition, they loved the degree of roughness and bloodshed that came as a result.

After being sold as a gladiator, Spartacus joined the School of Gladiators that was situated at Capua. This school belonged to Lentulus Batiatus[3]. Batiatus also owned all the slaves that were in his ludus (school). Through training, these slaves represented him in the gladiator wars that occurred frequently in the area. The gladiators fought as if making a career. This implies that they were paid for their services.

However, from the literature that was written about Spartacus, it is believed that Batiatus had promised his gladiators that if they saved a certain amount of their money, he would guarantee them their freedom. It is due to this fact, most of these gladiators made this kindof sport their business of life. However, this was just a hoax since Batiatus did not have any intension to set free any of his slaves.

Once the gladiators discovered that they would be never set free, a group of them plotted an escape from the ludus. Spartacus was among this group of men who wanted to gain their freedom back. There were, however, those slaves whodid not support that idea. It is also said that some of them were loyal to their master, Batiatus, and thus they would not escape regardless of the situation.

Once the plan was in place, Spartacus and other slaves seized kitchen implements and tools which they used to fight against the guards at the ludus. Due to their might and power, they were able to defeat the guards. It was a coincidence that during their escape, they managed to intercept a wagon that was transporting military tools and equipment.

These weapons made them stronger and more dangerous to their opponents which they faced during their flight. On getting the news of their escape, the Roman government sent a group of soldiers to stop them. All these groups were defeated by this group of slaves. The slaves managed to take over small towns and regions that surrounded Capua. Here, they freed other slaves who joined their army. After someperiod, they moved and settled down in a strategic region on Vesuvius.

By this time, they were a lot of them. To ensure that they had an effective and efficient organization, these slaves adopted a form of military organization. They were led by Spartacus and two other Gaul gladiators, Crixus and Oenomus[4]. However, there are authors who believe that this group of slaves comprised of a homogenous group of slaves with Spartacus being their ultimate leaders.

Importance of Spartacus and the Historical Impacts That He Had

The revolt of the slaves that was led by Spartacus was not considered as an issue of imminent threat by the Roman authority. As a result, they did not see the matter as a great problem. There are some scholars who say that the Roman government looked at the revolt as at the matter of policy[5].

They did not view the issue as a war or a threat to the peace and security of the empire. As a result, the Romans sent trained militia to control this uprising. They decided to use the militia because they thought the slaves did not pose much threat to the empire. In addition, the legions were engaged in other wars that Rome had. These wars were aimed at improving their external territory and influence over other states.

During that time, one group of the legions was engaged in fighting against a revolt that was taking place in Spain. Another group of the legions was taking part in the Third Mithridatic War. This, therefore, left the nation vulnerable for legions to fight the slave uprising in Capua. In addition, the legions were used only to fight in external wars not internal revolts.

Thus,a militia group led by [6].was sent to suppress the rebellion This group comprised of men who had received minimal combat training. They also did not have enough experience in using weapons and tools of war. Their main strategy was to seal the only road at the base of Vesuvius that led to its peak.

The main aim of this strategy was to protect the inner circles of Capua and its environs from Spartacus and his followers. With the militia protecting this entry, it was believed that the slaves would die from starvation. The slaves would also have no access to military supplies. Those who would not want to endure the pain, suffering of hunger and lack of basic amenities would beoffered to surrender to authority. From a theoretical approach, this strategy seemed to be brilliant.

On realising this, Spartacus ordered his crew to cut the vines that were growing at the apex of the mountain. With the experience that they had on using crude weapons and crafting, the slaves were able to make ladders and ropes with the help of these vines. At dusk, they slowly descended the volcano of the mountain using the ropes and ladders that they had made and crept into the unfortified Roman camp.

Within a few minutes, they succeeded to capture and kill the Roman guards that Glaber had put on watch. They waged their attack against another militia in the camp. The slaves managed to capture and kill most of them. In addition, they were able to seize their weapons and armour as well as their food and medical supplies.

When Rome heard about this, the senate sent two new troops of militia that were under the command of praetor Publius Varinius. The main aim of this second expedition was to bring the slaves into justice following their actions. However, the Romans did not have an idea of the strengths and capabilities of the gladiators. After their victory, many other slaves and shepherds within the plains had joined them. Their numbers had drastically increased as a result.

The authors considered their number torange between 40,000 to 50,000 at that time[7]. With this force, the militia that was under the command of praetor Publius Varinius stood no chance. The gladiators viciously attacked them and almost captured the praetor who was defenceless when his lieutenants had been killed. Thepraetor managed, however,to escape, that is why he was not captured.

These victories showed that Spartacus was not only a gifted warrior but a true leader. He was able to command and control his men. Due to his skills and tactics, those gladiators were always victorious. This, in turn, made many shepherds and slaves to join the army. Within months, it is speculated that the number of the gladiators had reached 100,000 men.

Their main aim was to bring an end to the reign of Romans on their lands. On the other hand, the Romans took the revolts of the insurgents as a serious issue. However, every attack that they planned on them failed. This was because they did not have a good understanding of the terrain where the insurgents were based at. In addition, the adverse weather conditions coupled with attacks of epidemics and diseases reduced their chances of being victorious.

These defeats made the Roman senate to take the uprising seriously. To respond to the attacks that were raised by Spartacus and his gladiators, the Roman authorities deployed a pair of legions to fight and defeat the slaves.

The legions were under the command of and [8]. The attacks of the legions were initially successful. With the training and skills that they had, they managed to attack and take over a group of slaves who were under the leadership of Crixus.

This group of slaves included about 30,000 gladiators. They were defeated by the legions during the war that took place near Mount Garganus. They victory was, however, short lived since the troop that was under the command of Spartacus was able to overpower the legions. In the process, they managed to free their fellow slaves.

The results of this encounter proved the might of Spartacus and his men. In addition, this brought a lot of tension on the Roman Senate. With no options, who was the richest man in Rome at that time was given the duty to control all the Roman legionnaires.

He assembled an army that comprised of six different troops. These troops went on ahead to attack Spartacus and his crew who had moved to the southern part of the country. It is believed that Spartacus wanted to escape to Sicily.

It is in the course of these wars that it is believed that Spartacus died. Crassus was capable of bringing an end to the Third Sevile War that had brought about a lot of instability in Rome. Despite his defeat, Spartacus left a huge mark in history. The initiation of the Third Sevile War and the consequent victories of the gladiators under his command is the main impact that Spartacus had in history.

Impacts of Spartacus on World History

As stated earlier, the main mark that Spartacus leftin history is the liberation of slaves. This was depicted by his efforts of organizing an escape of the gladiators from the ludus of Batiatus. In addition, he was leading an army of slaves during the Third Sevile War that gave the Roman government a huge resistance. It is through these actions that Spartacus managed to influence the mentality and attitudes of many individuals over the years.

In Haiti, there was a slave rebellion that lasted between 1791 and 1804. This rebellion was led by Henry Christopher. It was named Black Spartacus. These slaves fought for their freedom. In the course of their actions, Spartacus and his gladiators were their main mentors. Karl Marx, one of the greatest philosophers of all the times listed Spartacus as one of his mentors.

Spartacus has also found a lot of application in arts. He has been presented in literature, films and music. For example, in 1960, a film named Spartacus was released. It focused on the life of Spartacus and the war encounters that he had with the Romans. In 2010, a TV series named Spartacus: Blood and Sand was released. In sports, there are many teams that are named Spartacus. These teams use the name of the hero as a symbol of their might in the various games that they are involved in.


Although the origin of Spartacus is still not well known, he played a crucial role in the liberation of many slaves from captivity. Through the wars in which his gladiators were engaged andfought against the Romans and the victories that they had, Spartacus managed to influence many individuals over time.

Due to his story, people realise that they can fight for their lives and freedoms regardless of their status or position in the society. The actions of Spartacus couldbe, therefore, used as an early evidence of the fight for equality and freedom of man.


Burns, Israel et al. “The Roman Empire.”Ancient History 19 (1998):173–202.

Crisp, Bob et al.”Heroes and their Impacts.”Research Journal 1 (2000): 4-21.

Gray, Muir. The Gladiators of Sparta. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1997.

Shaw, Campbellet al. “Spartacus.”British Journal of History49 (1999): 967-970.

Quinn, Simon. “Protecting human subjects: Rebellion and Revolts.”World Historical Journal 94 (2004): 918–922.


  1. Israel Burns and others, The Roman Empire. Ancient History 19 (1998):173–202.
  2. Israel Burns and others, The Roman Empire. Ancient History 19 (1998):173–202.
  3. Campbell Shaw and others, Spartacus. British Journal of History49 (1999): 967-970.
  4. Campbell Shaw and others, Spartacus. British Journal of History49 (1999): 967-970.
  5. Crisp Bob and others, Heroes and their Impacts. Research Journal 1 (2000): 4-21.
  6. Quinn Simon, Protecting human subjects: Rebellion and Revolts. World Historical Journal 94 (2004): 918–922.
  7. Muir Gray, The Gladiators of Sparta. (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1997) 54.
  8. Muir Gray, The Gladiators of Sparta. (Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 1997) 54.
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