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Episode
193

Spartacus & The Gladiator War

Sep 14, 2021
History
-
25
minutes
Romans
Slavery
Revolution
War
Politics

In 73BC, a group of 70 gladiators escaped from a training school outside Naples.

It turned into the biggest slave rebellion in ancient history and has inspired people all over the world.

In this episode, we'll learn about what actually happened, why the rebellion was so successful, and the fascinating legacy it has left.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Spartacus, the man who led a gladiator uprising in Ancient Rome.

[00:00:31] Now, you probably know something of the story of Spartacus. 

[00:00:36] Perhaps you learned about him at school, perhaps you’ve seen the cult 1960 film with Kirk Douglas, or perhaps you have seen a more recent TV series loosely based on his life.

[00:00:50] His story has inspired philosophers, politicians, athletes, and people just like me and you for thousands of years.

[00:00:59] So, in this episode we are going to tell the story of Spartcaus.

[00:01:05] OK then, let’s get started.

[00:01:08] Ancient Rome had many great qualities that much of the world still looks on with admiration

[00:01:16] Republicanism, the idea that citizenship shouldn’t be tied to ethnicity, great literature and philosophy, beautiful buildings, aqueducts, and roads that are still partly standing today.

[00:01:30] But two things that are not universally admired from ancient Rome are slavery and gladiators - the idea that a human being can be the property of another human being, and the idea that it is not just acceptable, but enjoyable to watch two humans fight to the death.

[00:01:52] Now, of course ancient Rome wasn't the first, and wasn’t the only society to keep slaves or force people to kill each other. But it is one of the most famous.

[00:02:04] I should clarify that to say that gladiators and slavery are two completely different concepts is not exactly true.

[00:02:13] Most gladiators were slaves, they were people who had been captured by the Romans, often from far off lands, and had been sold as slaves.

[00:02:24] These male slaves would often be sent to camps, where they would be trained as gladiators

[00:02:32] The topic of gladiators deserves its own episode, but as a brief summary, promising slaves, men who were considered to be strong and able fighters, would be sent to these gladiator schools where they would be trained as a gladiator.

[00:02:49] When they were considered sufficiently trained, they would be sent out to fight. 

[00:02:54] If they won, and by won, we of course normally mean if they killed their opponents or were not killed themselves, they would live to fight another day.

[00:03:06] And if they lost, well this almost always meant death.

[00:03:12] So the status of a gladiator in ancient Rome was a strange one. 

[00:03:17] On the one hand they were slaves or criminals, people who were right at the bottom of society and forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of others. 

[00:03:29] They couldn’t leave, they weren’t free, they were still owned by their master. 

[00:03:34] But on the other hand they were often treated very well inside these schools. 

[00:03:39] Their masters wanted them to win, partly because they would win fame and glory if their gladiator won, and partly because if their gladiator lost, well the slave owner would lose valuable property, the gladiator would be worthless because he would be dead.

[00:03:59] Despite the gladiator’s status as a man in captivity, the most successful gladiators had a fame that one could compare to a modern sports star. 

[00:04:10] They were cheered on, they had fans, and lived a pretty good life inside these schools.

[00:04:17] One of the most famous of these schools was located in a place called Capua, about 25km to the north of Naples, in southern Italy.

[00:04:28] In 73 BC, in the gladiatorial school in Capua, a gladiator named Spartacus had been planning his escape.

[00:04:39] Not much is known about Spartacus’ early life, other than he probably came from Thrace, an area of Eastern Europe split between modern day Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. 

[00:04:53] He had probably been captured by the Romans, and sold into slavery.

[00:04:58] What we do know is that in 73 BC, when Spartacus was probably in his late 30s, he and a group of around 70 other gladiators managed to overpower their captors and break out of the gladiator school in Capua.

[00:05:17] The story goes that they managed to overpower their guards using some knives that they found in the kitchen.

[00:05:25] As soon as they got out of the school they found a caravan of trucks that was full of weapons for these trainee gladiators

[00:05:35] Weapons that were deadly, but of course only intended to be used within the school for training purposes.

[00:05:43] Spartacus and his group of 70 or so escapees were now armed and dangerous. 

[00:05:51] They were all professional gladiators, they were men whose job was literally to fight and kill other people, and they now knew that if they were captured, certain death awaited them.

[00:06:06] The group headed south towards Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that overlooks the bay of Naples. 

[00:06:13] This was about 150 years before the famous eruption that destroyed Pompeii, and at the time Mount Vesuvius was a lush region full of olive trees.

[00:06:27] As the group moved south, they were joined by other slaves who had run away from their masters to join the group. 

[00:06:35] There is this romantic idea that was popularised by the 1960 film that Spartacus had the goal of abolishing slavery throughout the Roman empire, that he was filled with this dream to get rid of this horrible practice. 

[00:06:52] Although this might have been a noble aim, there is no evidence that it was true.

[00:06:58] The slaves who ran away to join the gladiators, in all probability, weren’t doing it because of their anti-slavery views.

[00:07:07] More likely is that slaves saw that Spartacus’s group was growing, that they were living a better life than the slaves were, so they risked it all to join Spartacus.

[00:07:19] When news got back to Rome of this escape from the school, something had to be done. 

[00:07:25] A signal needed to be sent to this rebellious group, and to potential future rebels, that one could not escape from gladiator school and get away with it.

[00:07:38] A man called Gaius Claudius Glaber was sent to deal with the escaped gladiators, but he wasn’t even given an army - he had to find 3,000 men on his way south, he had to form his own army to fight the gladiators

[00:07:53] This gives you an idea of how little threat Rome thought Spartacus posed.

[00:08:00] On the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, Glaber and his men surrounded Spartacus and blocked his path. 

 [00:08:07] On one side Spartacus saw the Roman soldiers. On the other was a steep cliff.

[00:08:14] In a display of the excellent military strategy that Spartacus would later prove to have, he ordered his men to make ropes out of vines, so they could lower themselves down the cliffs

[00:08:29] They then went round the back of the Roman camp without Glaber noticing, and were able to use the element of surprise to massacre the Roman soldiers.

[00:08:40] This was the first of the real victories for Spartacus, and as word got out, more and more slaves flocked to join the army.

[00:08:51] Spartacus was now the de facto leader of the group, although power was shared with two other gladiators, gauls from modern day France called Crixus and Oenomaus.

[00:09:03] You might be thinking, “why didn’t the Romans just send their real army to deal with the gladiators?”

[00:09:10] Well, at least when Spartacus escaped from Capua most of the Roman army was far away in the empire fighting, in Spain, Gaul and Germany. 

[00:09:21] The most serious threats were on the edges of the empire, so that was where the best trained, and majority of the soldiers were.

[00:09:31] Spartacus’s army, and by this time we can probably call it an army, marched north from Vesuvius, moving up Italy towards The Alps.

[00:09:41] As it went, it attracted more and more men to it.

[00:09:45] It must have been an attractive proposition for a slave

[00:09:49] The army was no longer a group of a couple of hundred escaped gladiators, it had swelled to around 40,000 men.

[00:09:58] It was, by all reports, a relatively democratic army, and when treasures were taken from Roman towns or villas, they were shared between the soldiers.

[00:10:10] If you were someone living as a slave, in pretty terrible conditions, then it’s not hard to imagine the attraction of running away from your masters and joining the rebels

[00:10:23] Indeed, there are historians who have suggested that it wasn’t just slaves that joined Spartacus - there were many freed slaves and common people who decided that they too wanted to join.

[00:10:36] By the spring of 72 BC the army was around 70,000 men in total. 

[00:10:43] But, factions, different groups, were arising.

[00:10:48] Specifically, one group led by the gaul Crixus, a group of around 30,000 men, decided to stay behind in central Italy while Spartacus moved north. 

[00:11:01] The Roman forces managed to catch up with Crixus, and by this time they were better prepared. 

[00:11:08] Crixus and his men were slaughtered. The rebels had lost nearly half of their men.

[00:11:14] But the group led by Spartacus continued to march north. 

[00:11:19] Historians suggest that Spartacus was trying to lead his men out of modern day Italy, back towards Thrace, where Spartacus came from, while the ones from Gaul would go there, in modern day France.

[00:11:34] Put simply, Spartacus was trying to go home.

[00:11:39] Strangely enough when Spartacus’s army got to the Alps, they turned around and went south, back towards Rome.

[00:11:48] Why? 

[00:11:50] Well, that is a great question, and nobody actually knows why.

[00:11:55] There are several theories that historians have put forward.

[00:11:59] The Italian peninsula was the richest place in Europe at the time. 

[00:12:04] The gladiators had enjoyed a lot of success by taking gold and other treasure from villages they had attacked. 

[00:12:12] Why leave, when it seemed so easy to get rich?

[00:12:16] Perhaps they were so drunk on their own success that they really thought that they could march on Rome, capture the city, and seize power for themselves. It might seem crazy to us now, but they hadn’t been defeated so far, why couldn’t they keep on going and take the capital?

[00:12:36] And not all of the rebels came from Thrace or Gaul. Spartacus might have been going “home”, but not everyone was. 

[00:12:45] By this point, for many, home would have been with the other rebels, they were having a lot of fun, and they didn’t want to go to a place that was completely foreign to them.

[00:12:57] And finally, perhaps they saw the Alps and thought, wow, that looks dangerous. 

[00:13:03] If you haven’t been to northern Italy before and seen the start of the Alps, they do almost come out of nowhere. To someone who had never seen mountains like that before, one couldn’t blame them if they wanted to take their chance against the Roman army instead of trying to go across dangerous snowy mountains.

[00:13:26] So, they turned back, and marched south.

[00:13:29] Their target was Sicily, at the other end of the Italian peninsula

[00:13:35] Sicily had a history of slave rebellions, it was also an island, so partly separated from the rest of the Roman empire. 

[00:13:45] Spartacus’s plan was to get to Sicily, where he hoped he would find sympathy with his cause.

[00:13:52] But Rome was not going to allow this to happen.

[00:13:56] One of the richest people in Rome, a man named Marcus Crassus, was chosen to make sure Spartacus never got there. He raised an army, and set off to defeat the rebels, once and for all.

[00:14:12] Crassus knew that Spartacus’s forces were in a place called Picenum, or Picenum, as I am told it should be pronounced in the authentic Roman way, on the Adriatic coast. 

[00:14:24] He sent one of his lieutenants, complete with two legions, so around 10,000 men, to push Spartacus north. 

[00:14:33] They were given specific instructions not to attack Spartacus’s army, just to push him north, where they would face another, larger, army.

[00:14:44] This lieutenant, a man named Mummius, got ahead of himself, he was too confident

[00:14:52] Instead of pushing Spartacus’s forces north, he attacked.

[00:14:57] Miscalculating the strength of Spartacus’s army, Mummius’s two legions were badly defeated.

[00:15:05] The survivors returned to the main army, to tell their commander what had happened.

[00:15:12] Crassus was furious. 

[00:15:14] His direct orders had been disobeyed, and he wanted to make sure that this would never happen again.

[00:15:23] Of the 500 soldiers who returned alive, they were divided into groups of 10, and one person in each group was chosen to be publicly executed.

[00:15:36] The idea was that the soldiers would fear their own commander more than they would fear Spartacus, and they would never disobey orders again.

[00:15:47] The word for this punishment is, you might know, decimate, meaning to take one out of every ten. 

[00:15:56] The word in English today has gone on to mean “completely destroy”, but this type of punishment is where it comes from.

[00:16:05] While Crassus was busy disciplining his army, Spartacus’s army had managed to progress further south.

[00:16:13] They had almost reached Sicily, but needed to find a way across the straits of Messina, the 3km body of water between Sicily and the Italian peninsula.

[00:16:25] The only option available to Spartacus was to get Sicilian pirates to help them cross

[00:16:32] The pirates had fast boats and knowledge of good places to land. Spartacus’s army had plenty of money, taken during their attacks on Roman towns and villages.

[00:16:44] Spartacus paid the pirates to help him cross, but he was betrayed at the last minute, the pirates sailed off with the money, leaving Spartacus and his army stuck on the mainland.

[00:16:59] This part of the Italian peninsula, the foot, is long and thin. Spartacus’s forces were trapped, and Crassus’s army was fast approaching.

[00:17:10] What’s more, a legendary Roman general called Pompey The Great was on his way to support.

[00:17:17] While Spartacus and his group of gladiators had had success against smaller Roman forces, and against people who were essentially civilians, coming up against the full force of the Roman army would be a different thing altogether.

[00:17:35] Spartacus tried to make a deal, he tried to make peace with Crassus, but was rejected

[00:17:42] Crassus wanted the glory of defeating Spartacus for himself, and he knew that if Spartacus was only defeated when Pompey arrived there would be no glory for him.

[00:17:54] As the Roman forces tightened around the gladiators, Spartacus reportedly resorted to some particularly violent acts to strike fear into the hearts of his soldiers.

[00:18:07] One report has him asking for his horse to be brought to him. 

[00:18:12] Spartacus, wanting to show to his men that there will be no escape from this battle, plunges his sword into the horse, killing the animal.

[00:18:23] Another report has him crucifying a Roman prisoner in front of the gladiators as a way of showing his men what will happen to them if they do not defeat the Romans.

[00:18:35] Now, the final stages of the story of Spartacus are a little bit unclear, and the two main historical sources, Appian and Plutarch, have slightly different accounts, but they both end in a similar way.

[00:18:50] Crassus had been building walls and tunnels to stop Spartacus’s army from getting around them and escaping north. 

[00:18:58] Spartacus and his forces were being pushed into a tighter and tighter situation, and eventually they were pressured to fight. 

[00:19:08] It was against Crassus’s soldiers that they fought. The battle was bloody, and it was a resounding victory for the Romans.

[00:19:18] And as for Spartacus, what happened to him? 

[00:19:22] If you’ve seen the iconic 1960 film, you’ll remember exactly how it ended. 

[00:19:28] Here’s a short clip of it.

[00:19:30] Slaves. You were and slaves you remain, but the terrible penalty of crucifixion has been set aside on the single condition that you identify the body or the living person of the slave called Spartacus

[00:19:50] I am Spartacus. I am Spartacus. [everyone saying "I am Spartacus"]. 

[00:20:29] Yes, all of the soldiers bravely say that they are Spartacus, they would rather die than give up the identity of their heroic leader. As a result, the Romans crucify them all, including Spartacus.

[00:20:45] Unfortunately this is just Hollywood, there is no evidence that this actually happened.

[00:20:51] Most historians agree that Spartacus was killed on the battlefield, and would have been thrown into a mass grave like any other soldier. 

[00:21:01] The Roman soldier who killed him might not have even known it was Spartacus when they killed him, and certainly now we would have no chance of identifying who was Spartacus even if the mass grave was found.

[00:21:17] And as for the gladiators who were not killed in the battle, they were taken up north to be an example to the world, or at least to other slaves and gladiators, of what happens when you rise up against your masters. 

[00:21:33] From Capua, just north of Naples where the gladiators first escaped, right through to Rome, 6,000 of Spartacus’s men were lined up on the side of the road and crucified, with their bodies left there for months as an example to others.

[00:21:53] But while Spartacus’s final resting place may never be known, we may never know what he actually looked like, or why he did what he did, his story, his legend even, is as strong as ever.

[00:22:08] Of course the film and later on the TV series have helped popularise his story, but even before that he was held up as a role model of good vs evil, of someone who stood up against the tyranny of Roman slavery.

[00:22:26] Voltaire considered the war Spartacus fought to be the only just war in history.

[00:22:33] Later on, in Soviet Russia he became a cult-like symbol. 

[00:22:39] Karl Marx had called him "the most splendid fellow in the whole of ancient history" and a "great general, noble character, real representative of the ancient proletariat", and a Moscow football club changed its name to become “Spartak” Moscow. 

[00:22:57] There was also the Spartacus League, a Marxist movement in Germany during World War I.

[00:23:04] To many, he is an icon, a revolutionary leader who was just trying to do the right thing. 

[00:23:12] To some historians, I should add, he is considered to be a selfish rebel, someone who was in essence a thief, going up and down the Italian peninsula with his rebels and taking anything he could find.

[00:23:26] While we may never know the true story of Spartacus, what’s most definitely true is that he led the biggest slave rebellion in ancient history, and one whose story has survived and inspired millions of oppressed people for over 2,000 years.

[00:23:45] And as far as that’s concerned, the legend of Spartacus certainly does live on.

[00:23:53] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Spartacus.

[00:23:58] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and even if you knew a little bit about this story before, it has helped fill in some of the gaps, and it has been fun to remind yourself of it.

[00:24:12] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:24:15] The place to go for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com.

[00:24:22] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:27] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Spartacus, the man who led a gladiator uprising in Ancient Rome.

[00:00:31] Now, you probably know something of the story of Spartacus. 

[00:00:36] Perhaps you learned about him at school, perhaps you’ve seen the cult 1960 film with Kirk Douglas, or perhaps you have seen a more recent TV series loosely based on his life.

[00:00:50] His story has inspired philosophers, politicians, athletes, and people just like me and you for thousands of years.

[00:00:59] So, in this episode we are going to tell the story of Spartcaus.

[00:01:05] OK then, let’s get started.

[00:01:08] Ancient Rome had many great qualities that much of the world still looks on with admiration

[00:01:16] Republicanism, the idea that citizenship shouldn’t be tied to ethnicity, great literature and philosophy, beautiful buildings, aqueducts, and roads that are still partly standing today.

[00:01:30] But two things that are not universally admired from ancient Rome are slavery and gladiators - the idea that a human being can be the property of another human being, and the idea that it is not just acceptable, but enjoyable to watch two humans fight to the death.

[00:01:52] Now, of course ancient Rome wasn't the first, and wasn’t the only society to keep slaves or force people to kill each other. But it is one of the most famous.

[00:02:04] I should clarify that to say that gladiators and slavery are two completely different concepts is not exactly true.

[00:02:13] Most gladiators were slaves, they were people who had been captured by the Romans, often from far off lands, and had been sold as slaves.

[00:02:24] These male slaves would often be sent to camps, where they would be trained as gladiators

[00:02:32] The topic of gladiators deserves its own episode, but as a brief summary, promising slaves, men who were considered to be strong and able fighters, would be sent to these gladiator schools where they would be trained as a gladiator.

[00:02:49] When they were considered sufficiently trained, they would be sent out to fight. 

[00:02:54] If they won, and by won, we of course normally mean if they killed their opponents or were not killed themselves, they would live to fight another day.

[00:03:06] And if they lost, well this almost always meant death.

[00:03:12] So the status of a gladiator in ancient Rome was a strange one. 

[00:03:17] On the one hand they were slaves or criminals, people who were right at the bottom of society and forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of others. 

[00:03:29] They couldn’t leave, they weren’t free, they were still owned by their master. 

[00:03:34] But on the other hand they were often treated very well inside these schools. 

[00:03:39] Their masters wanted them to win, partly because they would win fame and glory if their gladiator won, and partly because if their gladiator lost, well the slave owner would lose valuable property, the gladiator would be worthless because he would be dead.

[00:03:59] Despite the gladiator’s status as a man in captivity, the most successful gladiators had a fame that one could compare to a modern sports star. 

[00:04:10] They were cheered on, they had fans, and lived a pretty good life inside these schools.

[00:04:17] One of the most famous of these schools was located in a place called Capua, about 25km to the north of Naples, in southern Italy.

[00:04:28] In 73 BC, in the gladiatorial school in Capua, a gladiator named Spartacus had been planning his escape.

[00:04:39] Not much is known about Spartacus’ early life, other than he probably came from Thrace, an area of Eastern Europe split between modern day Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. 

[00:04:53] He had probably been captured by the Romans, and sold into slavery.

[00:04:58] What we do know is that in 73 BC, when Spartacus was probably in his late 30s, he and a group of around 70 other gladiators managed to overpower their captors and break out of the gladiator school in Capua.

[00:05:17] The story goes that they managed to overpower their guards using some knives that they found in the kitchen.

[00:05:25] As soon as they got out of the school they found a caravan of trucks that was full of weapons for these trainee gladiators

[00:05:35] Weapons that were deadly, but of course only intended to be used within the school for training purposes.

[00:05:43] Spartacus and his group of 70 or so escapees were now armed and dangerous. 

[00:05:51] They were all professional gladiators, they were men whose job was literally to fight and kill other people, and they now knew that if they were captured, certain death awaited them.

[00:06:06] The group headed south towards Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that overlooks the bay of Naples. 

[00:06:13] This was about 150 years before the famous eruption that destroyed Pompeii, and at the time Mount Vesuvius was a lush region full of olive trees.

[00:06:27] As the group moved south, they were joined by other slaves who had run away from their masters to join the group. 

[00:06:35] There is this romantic idea that was popularised by the 1960 film that Spartacus had the goal of abolishing slavery throughout the Roman empire, that he was filled with this dream to get rid of this horrible practice. 

[00:06:52] Although this might have been a noble aim, there is no evidence that it was true.

[00:06:58] The slaves who ran away to join the gladiators, in all probability, weren’t doing it because of their anti-slavery views.

[00:07:07] More likely is that slaves saw that Spartacus’s group was growing, that they were living a better life than the slaves were, so they risked it all to join Spartacus.

[00:07:19] When news got back to Rome of this escape from the school, something had to be done. 

[00:07:25] A signal needed to be sent to this rebellious group, and to potential future rebels, that one could not escape from gladiator school and get away with it.

[00:07:38] A man called Gaius Claudius Glaber was sent to deal with the escaped gladiators, but he wasn’t even given an army - he had to find 3,000 men on his way south, he had to form his own army to fight the gladiators

[00:07:53] This gives you an idea of how little threat Rome thought Spartacus posed.

[00:08:00] On the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, Glaber and his men surrounded Spartacus and blocked his path. 

 [00:08:07] On one side Spartacus saw the Roman soldiers. On the other was a steep cliff.

[00:08:14] In a display of the excellent military strategy that Spartacus would later prove to have, he ordered his men to make ropes out of vines, so they could lower themselves down the cliffs

[00:08:29] They then went round the back of the Roman camp without Glaber noticing, and were able to use the element of surprise to massacre the Roman soldiers.

[00:08:40] This was the first of the real victories for Spartacus, and as word got out, more and more slaves flocked to join the army.

[00:08:51] Spartacus was now the de facto leader of the group, although power was shared with two other gladiators, gauls from modern day France called Crixus and Oenomaus.

[00:09:03] You might be thinking, “why didn’t the Romans just send their real army to deal with the gladiators?”

[00:09:10] Well, at least when Spartacus escaped from Capua most of the Roman army was far away in the empire fighting, in Spain, Gaul and Germany. 

[00:09:21] The most serious threats were on the edges of the empire, so that was where the best trained, and majority of the soldiers were.

[00:09:31] Spartacus’s army, and by this time we can probably call it an army, marched north from Vesuvius, moving up Italy towards The Alps.

[00:09:41] As it went, it attracted more and more men to it.

[00:09:45] It must have been an attractive proposition for a slave

[00:09:49] The army was no longer a group of a couple of hundred escaped gladiators, it had swelled to around 40,000 men.

[00:09:58] It was, by all reports, a relatively democratic army, and when treasures were taken from Roman towns or villas, they were shared between the soldiers.

[00:10:10] If you were someone living as a slave, in pretty terrible conditions, then it’s not hard to imagine the attraction of running away from your masters and joining the rebels

[00:10:23] Indeed, there are historians who have suggested that it wasn’t just slaves that joined Spartacus - there were many freed slaves and common people who decided that they too wanted to join.

[00:10:36] By the spring of 72 BC the army was around 70,000 men in total. 

[00:10:43] But, factions, different groups, were arising.

[00:10:48] Specifically, one group led by the gaul Crixus, a group of around 30,000 men, decided to stay behind in central Italy while Spartacus moved north. 

[00:11:01] The Roman forces managed to catch up with Crixus, and by this time they were better prepared. 

[00:11:08] Crixus and his men were slaughtered. The rebels had lost nearly half of their men.

[00:11:14] But the group led by Spartacus continued to march north. 

[00:11:19] Historians suggest that Spartacus was trying to lead his men out of modern day Italy, back towards Thrace, where Spartacus came from, while the ones from Gaul would go there, in modern day France.

[00:11:34] Put simply, Spartacus was trying to go home.

[00:11:39] Strangely enough when Spartacus’s army got to the Alps, they turned around and went south, back towards Rome.

[00:11:48] Why? 

[00:11:50] Well, that is a great question, and nobody actually knows why.

[00:11:55] There are several theories that historians have put forward.

[00:11:59] The Italian peninsula was the richest place in Europe at the time. 

[00:12:04] The gladiators had enjoyed a lot of success by taking gold and other treasure from villages they had attacked. 

[00:12:12] Why leave, when it seemed so easy to get rich?

[00:12:16] Perhaps they were so drunk on their own success that they really thought that they could march on Rome, capture the city, and seize power for themselves. It might seem crazy to us now, but they hadn’t been defeated so far, why couldn’t they keep on going and take the capital?

[00:12:36] And not all of the rebels came from Thrace or Gaul. Spartacus might have been going “home”, but not everyone was. 

[00:12:45] By this point, for many, home would have been with the other rebels, they were having a lot of fun, and they didn’t want to go to a place that was completely foreign to them.

[00:12:57] And finally, perhaps they saw the Alps and thought, wow, that looks dangerous. 

[00:13:03] If you haven’t been to northern Italy before and seen the start of the Alps, they do almost come out of nowhere. To someone who had never seen mountains like that before, one couldn’t blame them if they wanted to take their chance against the Roman army instead of trying to go across dangerous snowy mountains.

[00:13:26] So, they turned back, and marched south.

[00:13:29] Their target was Sicily, at the other end of the Italian peninsula

[00:13:35] Sicily had a history of slave rebellions, it was also an island, so partly separated from the rest of the Roman empire. 

[00:13:45] Spartacus’s plan was to get to Sicily, where he hoped he would find sympathy with his cause.

[00:13:52] But Rome was not going to allow this to happen.

[00:13:56] One of the richest people in Rome, a man named Marcus Crassus, was chosen to make sure Spartacus never got there. He raised an army, and set off to defeat the rebels, once and for all.

[00:14:12] Crassus knew that Spartacus’s forces were in a place called Picenum, or Picenum, as I am told it should be pronounced in the authentic Roman way, on the Adriatic coast. 

[00:14:24] He sent one of his lieutenants, complete with two legions, so around 10,000 men, to push Spartacus north. 

[00:14:33] They were given specific instructions not to attack Spartacus’s army, just to push him north, where they would face another, larger, army.

[00:14:44] This lieutenant, a man named Mummius, got ahead of himself, he was too confident

[00:14:52] Instead of pushing Spartacus’s forces north, he attacked.

[00:14:57] Miscalculating the strength of Spartacus’s army, Mummius’s two legions were badly defeated.

[00:15:05] The survivors returned to the main army, to tell their commander what had happened.

[00:15:12] Crassus was furious. 

[00:15:14] His direct orders had been disobeyed, and he wanted to make sure that this would never happen again.

[00:15:23] Of the 500 soldiers who returned alive, they were divided into groups of 10, and one person in each group was chosen to be publicly executed.

[00:15:36] The idea was that the soldiers would fear their own commander more than they would fear Spartacus, and they would never disobey orders again.

[00:15:47] The word for this punishment is, you might know, decimate, meaning to take one out of every ten. 

[00:15:56] The word in English today has gone on to mean “completely destroy”, but this type of punishment is where it comes from.

[00:16:05] While Crassus was busy disciplining his army, Spartacus’s army had managed to progress further south.

[00:16:13] They had almost reached Sicily, but needed to find a way across the straits of Messina, the 3km body of water between Sicily and the Italian peninsula.

[00:16:25] The only option available to Spartacus was to get Sicilian pirates to help them cross

[00:16:32] The pirates had fast boats and knowledge of good places to land. Spartacus’s army had plenty of money, taken during their attacks on Roman towns and villages.

[00:16:44] Spartacus paid the pirates to help him cross, but he was betrayed at the last minute, the pirates sailed off with the money, leaving Spartacus and his army stuck on the mainland.

[00:16:59] This part of the Italian peninsula, the foot, is long and thin. Spartacus’s forces were trapped, and Crassus’s army was fast approaching.

[00:17:10] What’s more, a legendary Roman general called Pompey The Great was on his way to support.

[00:17:17] While Spartacus and his group of gladiators had had success against smaller Roman forces, and against people who were essentially civilians, coming up against the full force of the Roman army would be a different thing altogether.

[00:17:35] Spartacus tried to make a deal, he tried to make peace with Crassus, but was rejected

[00:17:42] Crassus wanted the glory of defeating Spartacus for himself, and he knew that if Spartacus was only defeated when Pompey arrived there would be no glory for him.

[00:17:54] As the Roman forces tightened around the gladiators, Spartacus reportedly resorted to some particularly violent acts to strike fear into the hearts of his soldiers.

[00:18:07] One report has him asking for his horse to be brought to him. 

[00:18:12] Spartacus, wanting to show to his men that there will be no escape from this battle, plunges his sword into the horse, killing the animal.

[00:18:23] Another report has him crucifying a Roman prisoner in front of the gladiators as a way of showing his men what will happen to them if they do not defeat the Romans.

[00:18:35] Now, the final stages of the story of Spartacus are a little bit unclear, and the two main historical sources, Appian and Plutarch, have slightly different accounts, but they both end in a similar way.

[00:18:50] Crassus had been building walls and tunnels to stop Spartacus’s army from getting around them and escaping north. 

[00:18:58] Spartacus and his forces were being pushed into a tighter and tighter situation, and eventually they were pressured to fight. 

[00:19:08] It was against Crassus’s soldiers that they fought. The battle was bloody, and it was a resounding victory for the Romans.

[00:19:18] And as for Spartacus, what happened to him? 

[00:19:22] If you’ve seen the iconic 1960 film, you’ll remember exactly how it ended. 

[00:19:28] Here’s a short clip of it.

[00:19:30] Slaves. You were and slaves you remain, but the terrible penalty of crucifixion has been set aside on the single condition that you identify the body or the living person of the slave called Spartacus

[00:19:50] I am Spartacus. I am Spartacus. [everyone saying "I am Spartacus"]. 

[00:20:29] Yes, all of the soldiers bravely say that they are Spartacus, they would rather die than give up the identity of their heroic leader. As a result, the Romans crucify them all, including Spartacus.

[00:20:45] Unfortunately this is just Hollywood, there is no evidence that this actually happened.

[00:20:51] Most historians agree that Spartacus was killed on the battlefield, and would have been thrown into a mass grave like any other soldier. 

[00:21:01] The Roman soldier who killed him might not have even known it was Spartacus when they killed him, and certainly now we would have no chance of identifying who was Spartacus even if the mass grave was found.

[00:21:17] And as for the gladiators who were not killed in the battle, they were taken up north to be an example to the world, or at least to other slaves and gladiators, of what happens when you rise up against your masters. 

[00:21:33] From Capua, just north of Naples where the gladiators first escaped, right through to Rome, 6,000 of Spartacus’s men were lined up on the side of the road and crucified, with their bodies left there for months as an example to others.

[00:21:53] But while Spartacus’s final resting place may never be known, we may never know what he actually looked like, or why he did what he did, his story, his legend even, is as strong as ever.

[00:22:08] Of course the film and later on the TV series have helped popularise his story, but even before that he was held up as a role model of good vs evil, of someone who stood up against the tyranny of Roman slavery.

[00:22:26] Voltaire considered the war Spartacus fought to be the only just war in history.

[00:22:33] Later on, in Soviet Russia he became a cult-like symbol. 

[00:22:39] Karl Marx had called him "the most splendid fellow in the whole of ancient history" and a "great general, noble character, real representative of the ancient proletariat", and a Moscow football club changed its name to become “Spartak” Moscow. 

[00:22:57] There was also the Spartacus League, a Marxist movement in Germany during World War I.

[00:23:04] To many, he is an icon, a revolutionary leader who was just trying to do the right thing. 

[00:23:12] To some historians, I should add, he is considered to be a selfish rebel, someone who was in essence a thief, going up and down the Italian peninsula with his rebels and taking anything he could find.

[00:23:26] While we may never know the true story of Spartacus, what’s most definitely true is that he led the biggest slave rebellion in ancient history, and one whose story has survived and inspired millions of oppressed people for over 2,000 years.

[00:23:45] And as far as that’s concerned, the legend of Spartacus certainly does live on.

[00:23:53] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Spartacus.

[00:23:58] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and even if you knew a little bit about this story before, it has helped fill in some of the gaps, and it has been fun to remind yourself of it.

[00:24:12] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:24:15] The place to go for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com.

[00:24:22] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:27] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Spartacus, the man who led a gladiator uprising in Ancient Rome.

[00:00:31] Now, you probably know something of the story of Spartacus. 

[00:00:36] Perhaps you learned about him at school, perhaps you’ve seen the cult 1960 film with Kirk Douglas, or perhaps you have seen a more recent TV series loosely based on his life.

[00:00:50] His story has inspired philosophers, politicians, athletes, and people just like me and you for thousands of years.

[00:00:59] So, in this episode we are going to tell the story of Spartcaus.

[00:01:05] OK then, let’s get started.

[00:01:08] Ancient Rome had many great qualities that much of the world still looks on with admiration

[00:01:16] Republicanism, the idea that citizenship shouldn’t be tied to ethnicity, great literature and philosophy, beautiful buildings, aqueducts, and roads that are still partly standing today.

[00:01:30] But two things that are not universally admired from ancient Rome are slavery and gladiators - the idea that a human being can be the property of another human being, and the idea that it is not just acceptable, but enjoyable to watch two humans fight to the death.

[00:01:52] Now, of course ancient Rome wasn't the first, and wasn’t the only society to keep slaves or force people to kill each other. But it is one of the most famous.

[00:02:04] I should clarify that to say that gladiators and slavery are two completely different concepts is not exactly true.

[00:02:13] Most gladiators were slaves, they were people who had been captured by the Romans, often from far off lands, and had been sold as slaves.

[00:02:24] These male slaves would often be sent to camps, where they would be trained as gladiators

[00:02:32] The topic of gladiators deserves its own episode, but as a brief summary, promising slaves, men who were considered to be strong and able fighters, would be sent to these gladiator schools where they would be trained as a gladiator.

[00:02:49] When they were considered sufficiently trained, they would be sent out to fight. 

[00:02:54] If they won, and by won, we of course normally mean if they killed their opponents or were not killed themselves, they would live to fight another day.

[00:03:06] And if they lost, well this almost always meant death.

[00:03:12] So the status of a gladiator in ancient Rome was a strange one. 

[00:03:17] On the one hand they were slaves or criminals, people who were right at the bottom of society and forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of others. 

[00:03:29] They couldn’t leave, they weren’t free, they were still owned by their master. 

[00:03:34] But on the other hand they were often treated very well inside these schools. 

[00:03:39] Their masters wanted them to win, partly because they would win fame and glory if their gladiator won, and partly because if their gladiator lost, well the slave owner would lose valuable property, the gladiator would be worthless because he would be dead.

[00:03:59] Despite the gladiator’s status as a man in captivity, the most successful gladiators had a fame that one could compare to a modern sports star. 

[00:04:10] They were cheered on, they had fans, and lived a pretty good life inside these schools.

[00:04:17] One of the most famous of these schools was located in a place called Capua, about 25km to the north of Naples, in southern Italy.

[00:04:28] In 73 BC, in the gladiatorial school in Capua, a gladiator named Spartacus had been planning his escape.

[00:04:39] Not much is known about Spartacus’ early life, other than he probably came from Thrace, an area of Eastern Europe split between modern day Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. 

[00:04:53] He had probably been captured by the Romans, and sold into slavery.

[00:04:58] What we do know is that in 73 BC, when Spartacus was probably in his late 30s, he and a group of around 70 other gladiators managed to overpower their captors and break out of the gladiator school in Capua.

[00:05:17] The story goes that they managed to overpower their guards using some knives that they found in the kitchen.

[00:05:25] As soon as they got out of the school they found a caravan of trucks that was full of weapons for these trainee gladiators

[00:05:35] Weapons that were deadly, but of course only intended to be used within the school for training purposes.

[00:05:43] Spartacus and his group of 70 or so escapees were now armed and dangerous. 

[00:05:51] They were all professional gladiators, they were men whose job was literally to fight and kill other people, and they now knew that if they were captured, certain death awaited them.

[00:06:06] The group headed south towards Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that overlooks the bay of Naples. 

[00:06:13] This was about 150 years before the famous eruption that destroyed Pompeii, and at the time Mount Vesuvius was a lush region full of olive trees.

[00:06:27] As the group moved south, they were joined by other slaves who had run away from their masters to join the group. 

[00:06:35] There is this romantic idea that was popularised by the 1960 film that Spartacus had the goal of abolishing slavery throughout the Roman empire, that he was filled with this dream to get rid of this horrible practice. 

[00:06:52] Although this might have been a noble aim, there is no evidence that it was true.

[00:06:58] The slaves who ran away to join the gladiators, in all probability, weren’t doing it because of their anti-slavery views.

[00:07:07] More likely is that slaves saw that Spartacus’s group was growing, that they were living a better life than the slaves were, so they risked it all to join Spartacus.

[00:07:19] When news got back to Rome of this escape from the school, something had to be done. 

[00:07:25] A signal needed to be sent to this rebellious group, and to potential future rebels, that one could not escape from gladiator school and get away with it.

[00:07:38] A man called Gaius Claudius Glaber was sent to deal with the escaped gladiators, but he wasn’t even given an army - he had to find 3,000 men on his way south, he had to form his own army to fight the gladiators

[00:07:53] This gives you an idea of how little threat Rome thought Spartacus posed.

[00:08:00] On the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, Glaber and his men surrounded Spartacus and blocked his path. 

 [00:08:07] On one side Spartacus saw the Roman soldiers. On the other was a steep cliff.

[00:08:14] In a display of the excellent military strategy that Spartacus would later prove to have, he ordered his men to make ropes out of vines, so they could lower themselves down the cliffs

[00:08:29] They then went round the back of the Roman camp without Glaber noticing, and were able to use the element of surprise to massacre the Roman soldiers.

[00:08:40] This was the first of the real victories for Spartacus, and as word got out, more and more slaves flocked to join the army.

[00:08:51] Spartacus was now the de facto leader of the group, although power was shared with two other gladiators, gauls from modern day France called Crixus and Oenomaus.

[00:09:03] You might be thinking, “why didn’t the Romans just send their real army to deal with the gladiators?”

[00:09:10] Well, at least when Spartacus escaped from Capua most of the Roman army was far away in the empire fighting, in Spain, Gaul and Germany. 

[00:09:21] The most serious threats were on the edges of the empire, so that was where the best trained, and majority of the soldiers were.

[00:09:31] Spartacus’s army, and by this time we can probably call it an army, marched north from Vesuvius, moving up Italy towards The Alps.

[00:09:41] As it went, it attracted more and more men to it.

[00:09:45] It must have been an attractive proposition for a slave

[00:09:49] The army was no longer a group of a couple of hundred escaped gladiators, it had swelled to around 40,000 men.

[00:09:58] It was, by all reports, a relatively democratic army, and when treasures were taken from Roman towns or villas, they were shared between the soldiers.

[00:10:10] If you were someone living as a slave, in pretty terrible conditions, then it’s not hard to imagine the attraction of running away from your masters and joining the rebels

[00:10:23] Indeed, there are historians who have suggested that it wasn’t just slaves that joined Spartacus - there were many freed slaves and common people who decided that they too wanted to join.

[00:10:36] By the spring of 72 BC the army was around 70,000 men in total. 

[00:10:43] But, factions, different groups, were arising.

[00:10:48] Specifically, one group led by the gaul Crixus, a group of around 30,000 men, decided to stay behind in central Italy while Spartacus moved north. 

[00:11:01] The Roman forces managed to catch up with Crixus, and by this time they were better prepared. 

[00:11:08] Crixus and his men were slaughtered. The rebels had lost nearly half of their men.

[00:11:14] But the group led by Spartacus continued to march north. 

[00:11:19] Historians suggest that Spartacus was trying to lead his men out of modern day Italy, back towards Thrace, where Spartacus came from, while the ones from Gaul would go there, in modern day France.

[00:11:34] Put simply, Spartacus was trying to go home.

[00:11:39] Strangely enough when Spartacus’s army got to the Alps, they turned around and went south, back towards Rome.

[00:11:48] Why? 

[00:11:50] Well, that is a great question, and nobody actually knows why.

[00:11:55] There are several theories that historians have put forward.

[00:11:59] The Italian peninsula was the richest place in Europe at the time. 

[00:12:04] The gladiators had enjoyed a lot of success by taking gold and other treasure from villages they had attacked. 

[00:12:12] Why leave, when it seemed so easy to get rich?

[00:12:16] Perhaps they were so drunk on their own success that they really thought that they could march on Rome, capture the city, and seize power for themselves. It might seem crazy to us now, but they hadn’t been defeated so far, why couldn’t they keep on going and take the capital?

[00:12:36] And not all of the rebels came from Thrace or Gaul. Spartacus might have been going “home”, but not everyone was. 

[00:12:45] By this point, for many, home would have been with the other rebels, they were having a lot of fun, and they didn’t want to go to a place that was completely foreign to them.

[00:12:57] And finally, perhaps they saw the Alps and thought, wow, that looks dangerous. 

[00:13:03] If you haven’t been to northern Italy before and seen the start of the Alps, they do almost come out of nowhere. To someone who had never seen mountains like that before, one couldn’t blame them if they wanted to take their chance against the Roman army instead of trying to go across dangerous snowy mountains.

[00:13:26] So, they turned back, and marched south.

[00:13:29] Their target was Sicily, at the other end of the Italian peninsula

[00:13:35] Sicily had a history of slave rebellions, it was also an island, so partly separated from the rest of the Roman empire. 

[00:13:45] Spartacus’s plan was to get to Sicily, where he hoped he would find sympathy with his cause.

[00:13:52] But Rome was not going to allow this to happen.

[00:13:56] One of the richest people in Rome, a man named Marcus Crassus, was chosen to make sure Spartacus never got there. He raised an army, and set off to defeat the rebels, once and for all.

[00:14:12] Crassus knew that Spartacus’s forces were in a place called Picenum, or Picenum, as I am told it should be pronounced in the authentic Roman way, on the Adriatic coast. 

[00:14:24] He sent one of his lieutenants, complete with two legions, so around 10,000 men, to push Spartacus north. 

[00:14:33] They were given specific instructions not to attack Spartacus’s army, just to push him north, where they would face another, larger, army.

[00:14:44] This lieutenant, a man named Mummius, got ahead of himself, he was too confident

[00:14:52] Instead of pushing Spartacus’s forces north, he attacked.

[00:14:57] Miscalculating the strength of Spartacus’s army, Mummius’s two legions were badly defeated.

[00:15:05] The survivors returned to the main army, to tell their commander what had happened.

[00:15:12] Crassus was furious. 

[00:15:14] His direct orders had been disobeyed, and he wanted to make sure that this would never happen again.

[00:15:23] Of the 500 soldiers who returned alive, they were divided into groups of 10, and one person in each group was chosen to be publicly executed.

[00:15:36] The idea was that the soldiers would fear their own commander more than they would fear Spartacus, and they would never disobey orders again.

[00:15:47] The word for this punishment is, you might know, decimate, meaning to take one out of every ten. 

[00:15:56] The word in English today has gone on to mean “completely destroy”, but this type of punishment is where it comes from.

[00:16:05] While Crassus was busy disciplining his army, Spartacus’s army had managed to progress further south.

[00:16:13] They had almost reached Sicily, but needed to find a way across the straits of Messina, the 3km body of water between Sicily and the Italian peninsula.

[00:16:25] The only option available to Spartacus was to get Sicilian pirates to help them cross

[00:16:32] The pirates had fast boats and knowledge of good places to land. Spartacus’s army had plenty of money, taken during their attacks on Roman towns and villages.

[00:16:44] Spartacus paid the pirates to help him cross, but he was betrayed at the last minute, the pirates sailed off with the money, leaving Spartacus and his army stuck on the mainland.

[00:16:59] This part of the Italian peninsula, the foot, is long and thin. Spartacus’s forces were trapped, and Crassus’s army was fast approaching.

[00:17:10] What’s more, a legendary Roman general called Pompey The Great was on his way to support.

[00:17:17] While Spartacus and his group of gladiators had had success against smaller Roman forces, and against people who were essentially civilians, coming up against the full force of the Roman army would be a different thing altogether.

[00:17:35] Spartacus tried to make a deal, he tried to make peace with Crassus, but was rejected

[00:17:42] Crassus wanted the glory of defeating Spartacus for himself, and he knew that if Spartacus was only defeated when Pompey arrived there would be no glory for him.

[00:17:54] As the Roman forces tightened around the gladiators, Spartacus reportedly resorted to some particularly violent acts to strike fear into the hearts of his soldiers.

[00:18:07] One report has him asking for his horse to be brought to him. 

[00:18:12] Spartacus, wanting to show to his men that there will be no escape from this battle, plunges his sword into the horse, killing the animal.

[00:18:23] Another report has him crucifying a Roman prisoner in front of the gladiators as a way of showing his men what will happen to them if they do not defeat the Romans.

[00:18:35] Now, the final stages of the story of Spartacus are a little bit unclear, and the two main historical sources, Appian and Plutarch, have slightly different accounts, but they both end in a similar way.

[00:18:50] Crassus had been building walls and tunnels to stop Spartacus’s army from getting around them and escaping north. 

[00:18:58] Spartacus and his forces were being pushed into a tighter and tighter situation, and eventually they were pressured to fight. 

[00:19:08] It was against Crassus’s soldiers that they fought. The battle was bloody, and it was a resounding victory for the Romans.

[00:19:18] And as for Spartacus, what happened to him? 

[00:19:22] If you’ve seen the iconic 1960 film, you’ll remember exactly how it ended. 

[00:19:28] Here’s a short clip of it.

[00:19:30] Slaves. You were and slaves you remain, but the terrible penalty of crucifixion has been set aside on the single condition that you identify the body or the living person of the slave called Spartacus

[00:19:50] I am Spartacus. I am Spartacus. [everyone saying "I am Spartacus"]. 

[00:20:29] Yes, all of the soldiers bravely say that they are Spartacus, they would rather die than give up the identity of their heroic leader. As a result, the Romans crucify them all, including Spartacus.

[00:20:45] Unfortunately this is just Hollywood, there is no evidence that this actually happened.

[00:20:51] Most historians agree that Spartacus was killed on the battlefield, and would have been thrown into a mass grave like any other soldier. 

[00:21:01] The Roman soldier who killed him might not have even known it was Spartacus when they killed him, and certainly now we would have no chance of identifying who was Spartacus even if the mass grave was found.

[00:21:17] And as for the gladiators who were not killed in the battle, they were taken up north to be an example to the world, or at least to other slaves and gladiators, of what happens when you rise up against your masters. 

[00:21:33] From Capua, just north of Naples where the gladiators first escaped, right through to Rome, 6,000 of Spartacus’s men were lined up on the side of the road and crucified, with their bodies left there for months as an example to others.

[00:21:53] But while Spartacus’s final resting place may never be known, we may never know what he actually looked like, or why he did what he did, his story, his legend even, is as strong as ever.

[00:22:08] Of course the film and later on the TV series have helped popularise his story, but even before that he was held up as a role model of good vs evil, of someone who stood up against the tyranny of Roman slavery.

[00:22:26] Voltaire considered the war Spartacus fought to be the only just war in history.

[00:22:33] Later on, in Soviet Russia he became a cult-like symbol. 

[00:22:39] Karl Marx had called him "the most splendid fellow in the whole of ancient history" and a "great general, noble character, real representative of the ancient proletariat", and a Moscow football club changed its name to become “Spartak” Moscow. 

[00:22:57] There was also the Spartacus League, a Marxist movement in Germany during World War I.

[00:23:04] To many, he is an icon, a revolutionary leader who was just trying to do the right thing. 

[00:23:12] To some historians, I should add, he is considered to be a selfish rebel, someone who was in essence a thief, going up and down the Italian peninsula with his rebels and taking anything he could find.

[00:23:26] While we may never know the true story of Spartacus, what’s most definitely true is that he led the biggest slave rebellion in ancient history, and one whose story has survived and inspired millions of oppressed people for over 2,000 years.

[00:23:45] And as far as that’s concerned, the legend of Spartacus certainly does live on.

[00:23:53] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Spartacus.

[00:23:58] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and even if you knew a little bit about this story before, it has helped fill in some of the gaps, and it has been fun to remind yourself of it.

[00:24:12] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:24:15] The place to go for that is our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com.

[00:24:22] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:27] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]