Resource Library

ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY
ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Spartacus

Spartacus

Spartacus was a Roman slave and gladiator who led a revolt against Rome, which turned into the Third Servile War (73 B.C.E. to 71 B.C.E.).

Grades

9 - 12

Subjects

Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts and Music

Image

Spartacus

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

Illustration by Hermann Vogel

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.E. 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.E., 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.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Author
National Geographic Society
Producer
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

October 12, 2022

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about licensing content on this page, please contact ngimagecollection@natgeo.com for more information and to obtain a license. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. She or he will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.

Media

If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.

Text

Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.

Interactives

Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources