Died 71 B.C.

Roman slave and rebel leader

Spartacus was a gladiator* from Thrace who led a massive slave revolt during the late Roman Republic*. In 73 B.C. Spartacus started to incite rebellion at the gladiatorial schools in Capua, the main city of the region of Campania in southern Italy. His first followers were gladiators who had come from other lands, but he soon attracted support from among the free peasants and slaves who worked on the large estates of southern Italy. Spartacus’s rebel band soon included between 70,000 and 120,000 people.

By the end of 73 B.C., Spartacus had defeated two Roman commanders, and the rebellion had spread throughout southern Italy. The next year Spartacus defeated both Roman consuls*, and his rebel band reached northern Italy. Believing that the rebellion had been successful, Spartacus tried to persuade his followers to disband and return to their homelands. However, the rebels preferred to continue their attack and plunder* of Italy. The rebels attacked Lucania in southern Italy and planned to invade the island of Sicily. In 71 B.C. the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus received the command to quell the rebellion. He defeated Spartacus’s army at Lucania, and Spartacus was killed. The captured rebels were crucified*. The Roman general Pompey hunted down the rebels who escaped.

Spartacus became a legend for his bravery in battle and his daring victories against the mighty Roman army. He was also famous for his humane treatment of those he led. (See also Slavery.)

* gladiator in ancient Rome, slave or captive who participated in combats that were staged for public entertainment

* Roman Republic Rome during the period from 509 B.C. to 31 B.C., when popular assemblies annually elected their governmental officials

* consul one of two chief governmental officials of Rome, chosen annually and serving for a year

* plunder to steal property by force, usually after a conquest

* crucify to put to death by binding or nailing a person’s hands and feet to a cross

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