Spartacus. This is a 1960 American film Starring Kirk Douglas as Spartacus a rebellious slave.





This is a 1960 American film Starring Kirk Douglas as Spartacus a rebellious slave. The film also stars Gauls Crixus, Castus, Gannicus, and Oenomaus all who fought alongside Spartacus against the Romans. Slavery was on the rise with Lentulus Batiatus as a huge slave trader. John Gavin stars as Julius Caesar and Laurence Olivier as the Roman general and politician. The film depicts real events that took place at around 73 BC. Though there is no accurate information about Spartacus many sources believe that he was a Thracian (people from Thrace a region found as present day Bulgaria) (Punta, 45). Spartacus served as a Roman soldier, a thief, mercenary, and due to his strength he was also a gladiator. He was later taken captive together with his wife and sold as slaves to the Romans. Spartacus was sold to a gladiator school in Capua belonging to Lentulus Batiatus where he and other captives fit to fight, were trained to be gladiators. The slaves managed to escape from the school and managed to acquire weapons from a wagon. Trained to be gladiators the slaves were deft and proficient in combat. They managed to defeat several troops sent to take them down as well as take over several towns surrounding Capua recruiting more slaves to form an alliance against the Romans. After the number of recruited slaves swelled the new community settled around Mount Vesuvuis. Free from slavery the community of redeemed slaves chose Spartacus as their leader, Crixus and Oenomaus as his subordinates. However, historical data does not explain what positions Castus and Gannicus held (Punta, 67). The Romans were slow to respond to the treacherous deed for the army was already at war in Hispania and they also regarded the issue to be more of a violation of the law rather than an act of war.

Led by Gaius Claudius Glaber a small army was sent to capture Spartacus and his men in Mount Vesuvius. However, their plot failed and most of the soldiers lost their lives. A second attempt was made against Spartacus but they also failed with the slaves almost capturing the commander. The slaves built a good reputation across the region which attracted more and more slaves to join the group. Spartacus was a tactful leader who trained his men to use available tools to defeat the enemy. Between 73 and 72 BC, during the winter season, the men trained and searched and made weapons. Their territory expanded inclusive of towns such as Nola, Metapontum, and Nuceria. In 72 BC the Roman Empire realised that Spartacus was growing to be a great threat to empire. The slaves divided into two groups one led by Crixus while the other was led by Spartacus. The Roman legions led by Lucius Gellius and Gnaeus Cornelius managed to defeat a group of thirty thousand men led by Crixus near Mount Garganus but were then defeated by Spartacus. Rome assigned Marcus Licinius Crassus the task of leading 40,000 soldiers towards the North where they were to face Spartacus. Crassus treated the soldiers with utmost brutality and demanded discipline from the troops. When Spartacus and his disciples moved north from Italy, Crassus deployed six of his eight groups to monitor the borders. The two remaining groups went to fight Spartacus. During the final battle, which is assumed Spartacus died, took place in 71 BC. Many of the slaves died during this battle with some freeing to the mountains in the North. The battle took place in present day Senerchia where much later at around 1900 swords and shields were recovered. Spartacus’s body was never found while captives were crucified on the route between Rome and Capua.


The main theme of the films is slavery, struggle for freedom, and corruption. Spartacus is taken as a slave by the Romans. They also take other people whom they force to fight to death in the arena just for entertainment. Crassus bribes the pirates to betray Spartacus in a bid to kill him. Throughout the film struggle for redemption and freedom is depicted through the many wars between slaves and Rome.


The roman Republic had embraced corruption around 1st BC and practiced slave trade. One of the slaves was a great man known as Spartacus who was condemned as a gladiator. He is trained at a school in the house of Batiatus where Marcellus the trainer treated Spartacus harshly so as to break his spirit. One day Crassus visits Batiatus and during the visit Crassus requests to watch Spartacus fight. A dark skinned gladiator rages towards the Roman spectators but is killed by a guard. The following day, tension was still on the rise. Spartacus and other slaves took the opportunity to escape where they manage to escape and kill Marcellus. The group escapes to the Italian country side. Spartacus is appointed the leader of the fugitives. He leads the slaves in a number of battles freeing slaves from other Roman empires. Countless slaves join the group creating a large number of soldiers. Spartacus proves to be a tactful leader regardless of the many years in servitude. Varinia a young woman who flees from Crassus becomes Spartacus’s informal wife. The Roman leaders are now more afraid than Spartacus more than before. With his army building up Spartacus was able to win the favour of Pirates from Cilicia who were also foes to the Romans. Afraid of Spartacus, the Roman leaders give Crassus full power. Crassus bribes the pirates to betray Spartacus and secretly uses the Roman army to drive the rebels towards Rome. Surrounded by enemy troops Spartacus tells his people to face the Romans with honour and fight for what is right for them. In the battle against Crassus many slaves lose their lives. In the pursuit to conceal Spartacus’s identity several people including Gannicus perform several killings while posing themselves as Spartacus. Crassus reciprocates by crucifying each one of them. Crassus takes Varinia and Spartacus’s son prisoner in the attempt to flash out Spartacus. Varinia refuses to comply which infuriates Crassus. He furiously Seeks for Spartacus and forces him to fight Antoninus to death. The survivor was to be crucified together with the rest of the captives. Spartacus kills Antoninus to save him the humiliation. Crassus is worried by the fact that Spartacus will die a martyr and the fact that Caesar will overthrow him. Grachuss commits suicide after he witnesses fall into tyranny. He asks that Varinia and Spartacus son be saved from Crassus. During his dying moments Varinia comforts Spartacus by showing him his son who shall live as a free child.

The main characters in the film are Spartacus who is a strong, willing and brave person who believes in importance for all people of all kinds. He both has a tender heart for the oppressed and a heart of hatred towards the oppressors (Douglas, 3). Crassus who is a wealthy proud and heartless man is also a character in the film. He depicts a power hungry that would do anything at all costs to be at the top. He is a selfish and brutal ruler to even his own people. Crixus the second in command after Spartacus also shares the same love for freedom as Spartacus. He is compassionate but fierce when it comes to his enemies. He lacks the skill of leadership as his feelings compromise his ability to lead well. The main events in the film include the escape from the gladiator school of Lentulus Batiatus where Spartacus and other captives lead each other through Italy. Spartacus alongside his comrades takes over other Roman Empires freeing slaves from captivity and building his own army. The War between Crassus’s troops and slaves where many slaves die and some are taken as captives again. Spartacus is also killed but before he dies all slaves are free including his son.

The film based on several sources is both accurate and inaccurate. Comparison between the Plot of the film and the true historical events shows a match and mismatch of events and character. Spartacus was a real slave and gladiator as the movie depicts. As the movie reveals, the gladiators used basic kitchen utensils to fight their way out of the school with Spartacus leading the raid. It is also true based on historical evidence that Spartacus had a companion, a wife whom he loved. The events that took place including the battles also match together with the events that took place in the real story. However, some aspects do differ between the true events and the film. In the movie Spartacus was born a slave but in the real life he was born a free child. In the rue history, Spartacus first started as a Roman soldier and fought for Rome. His became a slave and gladiator for no apparent reason which the Romans themselves admit.

Spartacus and Crassus share a great deal of similarity with the true versions of themselves. Spartacus was a strong willed person who believed in freedom and honour for everyone. The true Spartacus also fought for the freedom of other people and he cared for them. Crassus on the other hand was a wealthy heartless and power hungry ruler who cared about nothing but his thirst for power. He was also brutal by crucifying his captives and treating his own soldiers mercilessly.

This film is recommendable for viewing as it gives a clear overview of the major events that took place at 72 BC. The film provides substantial information about the life and deeds of Spartacus and his accomplices. The film also describes slavery as it was around the time, how strong men were used as gladiators in the arena as entertainment for the people of Rome (Douglas, 45). However, it is not recommended if the main aim is to study the personal life of Spartacus as we have already seen the film differs with the true life history of Spartacus.


Punter, Russell, and Gustavo Mazali. Spartacus. London: Usborne, 2013. Print.

Douglas, Kirk, and George Clooney. I am Spartacus!: making a film, breaking the blacklist. New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012. Print.

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