A famous fighter, by birth a Thracian, and successively a shepherd, a soldier, and a chief
of banditti. On one of his predatory expeditions he was taken prisoner, and sold to a trainer
of gladiators. In B.C. 73 he was a member of the gladiatorial company of Lentulus, and was
detained in his school at Capus, in readiness for the games at Rome. He persuaded his
fellow-prisoners to make an attempt to gain their freedom. About seventy of them broke out of
the trainingschool of Lentulus, and took refuge in the crater of Vesuvius. Spartacus was
chosen leader, and was soon joined by a number of runaway slaves. These were blockaded by C.
Claudius Pulcher at the head of three thousand men, but Spartacus attacked the besiegers and
put them to flight. His numbers rapidly increased, and for two years (B.C. 73-71) he defeated
one Roman army after another, and laid waste Italy, from the foot of the Alps to the
southernmost corner of the peninsula. After both the consuls of the year 72 had been defeated
by Spartacus, M. Licinius Crassus, the praetor, was appointed to the command of the war.
Crassus carried on the contest with vigour and success; and, after gaining several advantages
over the enemy, at length defeated them on the River Silarus in a decisive battle, in which
Spartacus was slain. The character of Spartacus has been maligned by the Roman writers. Cicero
compares the vilest of his contemporaries to him: Horace speaks of him (
Carm. iii. 14, 19
) as a common robber; none recognize his greatness,
but the terror of his name survived to a late period of the Empire. Accident made Spartacus a
shepherd, a freebooter, and a gladiator; nature formed him a hero. The excesses of his
followers he could not always repress, and his efforts to restrain them often cost him his
popularity. But he was in himself not less mild and just than he was able and valiant.