Spartacus was an ancient Roman slave and gladiator who led a rebellion against the Roman Republic. This illustration depicts his death in battle.

Hermann Vogel

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  • Spartacus was born in Thrace, an area where the modern-day Balkans states, including Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece, are located. Though little is known about Spartacus’ early life, historians believe he may once have served in the Roman army.

    Spartacus was sold into slavery, perhaps due to rebellion against or desertion from the army. He was sent to the gladiatorial training school in Capua in 73 B.C. Soon after, he escaped with about 70 other gladiators and gathered his followers on nearby Mount Vesuvius. Gradually, more escaped slaves joined their ranks. It is estimated that there were 90,000 to 100,000 men in all. Together they used guerrilla tactics to fight off Roman attacks.

    After about a year, the group mobilized and started traveling throughout the Roman Empire. They marched as far north as Gaul (modern-day France). Rome initially considered the revolt a nuisance. With each of Spartacus’ victories, however, Roman leaders started to take the group more seriously. In 71 B.C., General Marcus Licinius Crassus defeated the rebel army at Lucania, about 56 kilometers (35 miles) southeast of Naples. Spartacus was believed to have died in this battle. Around 6,000 men survived the battle but were later captured and crucified by the Roman army.

    Spartacus has long served as an inspiration to those seeking to revolt against oppressive rule. He was considered a brave and able leader who fought against tremendous odds with remarkable success.

     

    Spartacus

    Spartacus was an ancient Roman slave and gladiator who led a rebellion against the Roman Republic. This illustration depicts his death in battle.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    army Noun

    military land forces.

    Balkan Adjective

    having to do with the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe.

    Gaul Noun

    Western European civilization that became a major part of ancient Rome.

    guerrilla Adjective

    having to do with warfare conducted by organized groups of civilians, not soldiers or the military.

    Mount Vesuvius Noun

    active volcano in southwest Italy. (1,190 meters/3,900 feet)

    nuisance Noun

    an annoying or bothersome thing.

    rebel Verb

    to resist or reject.

    rebellion Noun

    organized resistance to an authority.

    Roman Adjective

    having to do with the civilization of ancient Rome, including the kingdom, republic, and empire.

    Roman Empire Noun

    (27 BCE-476 CE) period in the history of ancient Rome when the state was ruled by an emperor.

    slavery Noun

    process and condition of owning another human being or being owned by another human being.

    tactic Noun

    procedure or method for accomplishing a goal.

    Thrace Noun

    part of the country of Turkey located in Europe.

    victory Noun

    success or triumph.