Spartacus the Gladiator

Spartacus was a gladiator born around 109 BC, during the Roman Republic.

He was thracian, meaning that he was from one of the tribes found in southeast Europe (known as Thracia).

Thracia went to war with Rome and eventually the Romans conquered the region.

Spartacus joined the Roman army in Thracia in his early life but ran away for reasons that we don’t know.

Leaving the army like this was illegal so when he was caught, he was sold into slavery and became a gladiator.

Once enslaved, Spartacus was bought by Lentulus Batiatus, who owned a gladiator school in a Roman City called Capua.

Trained to Fight

Spartacus was trained how to fight in the school. As a gladiator, he was put into an arena to kill other gladiators and wild animals, such as wild boars and bears, to entertain Roman citizens.

Spartacus hated that he was made to risk his life everyday, forced to kill people and left in horrible conditions by his wealthy owner.

In 73 BC, he lead 70 other gladiators and fought their way out of the gladiator school to escape slavery.

They stole weapons and armour from the school and looted the area around Capua for important supplies.

Many more slaves joined them as they went. The group retreated to the volcano Mount Vesuvius and stayed there. This uprising started the Third Servile War.

Initially, Rome thought that this group of runaway slaves was not a threat. Rome sent a 3,000 man army to surround the group and wait for them to starve.

However, Spartacus had better plans. The gladiators climbed down the mountainside using tree vines and snuck up behind the Roman army, killing nearly all of the soldiers.

This win made more slaves join them so they nearly had 70,000 people!

Spartacus won a few more battles and raided the nearby towns for food and supplies.

Rome Sent more Men

Rome kept sending armies to squash the rebellion, but they were constantly defeated by the slave group.

The Romans were terrified of this large force roaming the country and gathered an army of 50,000 soldiers, lead by two great generals Marcus Crassus and Pompey.

After a few battles, Spartacus’s forces broke down as people fled the Roman legion.

In 71 BC, in one last showdown, Spartacus attacked the Roman army on the bank of the river Sele.

Spartacus was killed in the battle. The Roman army captured over 6,000 members of the revolution and crucified them all on the road from Rome to Capua, called the Appian Way.

Crassus and Pompey were both made consuls (leaders of the Roman Republic) as their reward for ending the rebellion.

Facts about Spartacus the Gladiator

  • Spartacus was a Thracian born in about 109 BC.
  • Spartacus became a slave because he ran away from the Roman army.
  • Lentulus Batiatus bought Spartacus and trained him to fight as a gladiator.
  • Gladiators were made to fight to the death, or to beg for mercy from the crowd if they were losing and wanted to live.
  • Spartacus and 70 other slaves escaped from the gladiator school and slavery.
  • The Third Servile War was the rebellion of the slaves against the Roman Republic.
  • Spartacus taught the slaves how to fight and initially beat down the Roman army.
  • Crassus and Pompey led an army of 50,000 soldiers to break apart Spartacus’s force, making many flee.
  • Spartacus was killed in battle in 71 BC and the rebellion broken up.

Questions :

  • Why was Spartacus a slave
    He ran away from the Roman army, which was illegal if you were a soldier.
  • Why did Spartacus plot an escape?
    He hated not being free and being forced to kill animals and other gladiators for sport.
  • How did Spartacus’s forces grow?
    Other slaves from the area heard about the rebellion and escaped to fight with them.
  • What happened to end the war?
    Spartacus was killed and 6,000 slaves were recaptured and crucified as punishment.