The stories of legendary slave warrior – Spartacus have inspired millions of people worldwide for millennia. Sold to slavery and turned into a gladiator, Spartacus eventually fled and revolted against the mighty Rome (you will learn a lot about him in our article Spartacus facts.)
Some say that he wanted to end the era of slavery while others say that he just wanted his freedom. Very little is recorded about him in history but all historians unanimously agree that he was one of three leaders of the Third Servile War.
Let us learn 30 interesting Spartacus facts and find out what made this legendary gladiator immortal in the annals of history.
Interesting Spartacus Facts: 1-5
1. Spartacus was born in 111 BCE. According to Plutarch – a Roman essayist, Spartacus was a Thracian Nomadic stock.
2. According to Appian, a Roman historian but Greek by birth, Spartacus was born in Thrace but once served as a soldier of Rome. Later he was sold into slavery from where he was sold into a gladiator school known as ludus in ancient Rome.
3. There is a difference in opinion among historians. Some say that Spartacus was possibly an auxiliary from Roman legions and was later sold into slavery.
4. Other say that he was not an auxiliary of Roman legions but was rather only captured by the legions and sold into slavery.
5. He was later sold to a ludus owned by Lentulus Batiatus where he trained to become a murmillo (heavyweight gladiator).
Interesting Spartacus Facts: 6-10
6. Murmillos were known for their trademark scutum and gladius. A gladius was a straight broad sword measuring about 18 inches in length. A scutum was an oblong shield that was big and heavy.
7. Ludus were known for extremely harsh treatment of the gladiators in training. Disciplinary actions were nothing less than atrocities that common man will fail to endure. It was possibly the harsh treatment of the ludus that provoked Spartacus to plot an escape.
8. In 73 BCE, Spartacus along with 70 other slaves receiving gladiator training plotted a proper escape. They captured some kitchen implements and defeated the ludus guards and managed to escape from the school.
9. During their escape, Spartacus and other slaves managed to capture a wagon that was full of weapons and armors meant for gladiators. Though the weapons were not really of military issue, the escaped slaves managed to use those weapons and defeat a small force that was tasked with the capture of the 70 escaped slaves.
10. With this first win, the slaves gathered enough courage to plunder the regions near their ludus in Capua. Equipped with gladiatorial skills, they managed to free many other slaves and recruited them.
Interesting Spartacus Facts: 11-15
11. As the man power of Spartacus and his slave force continued to increase, the entire group of escaped slaves eventually moved to a place near Mount Vesuvius. The area was remote, abandoned for a long time and had greater defensive advantage.
12. The escaped and free slaves took Spartacus, Oenomaus and Crixus as their leaders. Oenomaus and Crixus were of Gallic origins.
13. Some historians believe that the slaves who escaped were actually a homogenous group and they chose Spartacus as their leader. However, some other historians believe that the group had their own hierarchical views when it came to military leadership and that Spartacus was the supreme leader with other military leaders like Oenomaus and Crixus holding positions under him.
14. Historians are not very clear about the positions held by Oenomaus and Crixus and later Castus and Gannicus.
15. Rome was unable to dispatch proper legions for the capture of the growing numbers of escaped slaves because the legions were already engaged in Third Mithridatic War and a revolt in Hispania.
Interesting Spartacus Facts: 16-20
16. In order to take down the revolting slaves, Rome dispatched a militia under the command of Gaius Claudius Glaber, who was a Praetor. Through Glaber managed to capture the hideout of the Spartacus and his men, they managed to escape towards the top of Vesuvius.
17. Glaber hoped that Spartacus and his men will starve up there and eventually come down for food when they Roman militia will slaughter those men. This was an error at Glaber’s end.
18. Stationed on top of Vesuvius, Spartacus and his men made ropes using vines and used those ropes to climb down from the steep cliff side of Vesuvius and attacked the Romans.
Glaber was almost captured but he managed to escape. However, Glaber’s lieutenants were killed by Spartacus and his men and all military equipment were seized.
19. This Roman defeat increased the popularity of Spartacus and more slaves and nearby shepherds and herdsmen joined him. This swelled up Spartacus’ man power to 70,000. Some provide the figure as somewhere between 90,000 to 130,000.
20. Spartacus was a very capable tactician. He and his force used very unconventional tactics to deal with disciplined Roman soldiers.
Interesting Spartacus Facts: 21-25
21. After defeating Glaber and his forces, Spartacus and his men spent the winter of 73-72 BCE training and recruiting new people. They also captured several territories and managed to take four towns – Metapontum, Thurii, Nuceria and Nola.
22. On the other side, Rome become worried about the defeat of Glaber and dispatched two consular legions to deal with uprising slave revolt. The two legions were commanded by Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus and Lucius Gellius Publicola.
23. The Roman legions under the command of the two Roman leaders faced some 30,000 slave army under the command of Crixus at Mount Garganus. Crixus and his men were defeated but the Roman joy was short-lived. The Roman legions were later defeated by Spartacus.
24. This second major defeat at the hands of Spartacus seriously alarmed the Roman Empire, which under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus dispatched 8 legions of 40,000 trained soldiers in total to deal with Spartacus. Marcus Licinius Crassus was the wealthiest man in Rome and was the only person who willingly volunteered to take on Spartacus.
25. After defeating the two Roman legions commanded by Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus and Lucius Gellius Publicola, Spartacus and his men moved to south of Italy but again in early 71 BC, they moved back northward.
Interesting Spartacus Facts: 26-30
26. Taking advantage of Spartacus’ movement, Crassus dispatched 6 legions to meet Spartacus at the border and the remaining two were maneuvered to engage Spartacus from behind. These two legions were ordered not to engage Spartacus until commanded but finding an opportune moment, they did and were very quickly defeated by Spartacus.
27. The remaining legions under Crassus’ command however managed to engage Spartacus on several occasions and earned significant success. By end of 71 BCE, Spartacus had suffered significant losses and he and his men were pushed near the Strait of Messina.
28. Spartacus attempted to take help of Cilician pirates to enter Sicily. The pirates took payment but never helped Spartacus and his 2000 men. Sieging this opportunity, Crassus ensured that Spartacus and his rebels never manage to get into Sicily.
29. In the meantime legions engaged in Hispania returned and were ordered to help Crassus. Spartacus tried to negotiate and reach an agreement with Crassus. Crassus declined any kind of negotiation in response to which a portion of Spartacus’ forces tried to flee to the mountains lying to the west of Petelia in Bruttium.
30. The retreating men were pursued by legions of Crassus and a significant portion was captured. With this capture, the remaining of Spartacus’ forces lost discipline and started independent attacks on the legions. Noticing the chaos, Spartacus gathered all men and turned to face the Roman legions in one last stand. The entire rebel army was defeated and Spartacus died in battle.
Romans failed to find the body of Spartacus. However, the Romans did capture 6,000 rebels and crucified them along the roadside of Appian Way connecting Rome and Capua.