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The Rise of Spartacus

Багерман А.Я.

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The Rise of Spartacus (Lat. Bellum Spartacium or Lat. Tertium Bellum Servile," The Third Slave War") — the largest in antiquity and the third in a row (after the first and second Sicilian Revolts) the slave revolt. It is also the last slave revolt in the Roman Republic. It is usually dated to 74 (or 73) -71 BC.

Dates of the revolt: 74 or 73-71 BC.

Reasons for the uprising:

1. The surplus of slaves due to the Roman conquests;

2. Disenfranchisement of slaves;

3. Difficult working and living conditions of slaves.

Objectives of the rebel slaves:

1. A military march to the north of Italy to cross the Alps and get freedom and the opportunity to return home;

2. Some historians believe that Spartacus wanted to capture Rome itself, but this is not proven.

3. Armed struggle against Rome, thus avenging Rome for the suffering and humiliation to which it subjected them, turning them into its slaves;

4. Establishing links with Sicily - in the final phase of the revolt, after a return campaign from north to south Italy, to establish a link with Sicily and continue the revolt there, living freely and independently of the authority of Rome;

5. Division of all looted loot and property.

Leaders of the rebels: Spartacus the Thracian; Crixus the Gaul; Oenomaus the Gaul; Gannicus the Celt; and Castus the Gaul.

Roman generals: Praetor Gaius Claudius Glaber; Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus (Consul); Marcus Licinius Crassus; Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (the Great) Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus.

Location of the uprising: Italy. The uprising began in the center of Italy, then spread to the north and south of Italy.

Reconstruction of a fresco from Pompeii "Wounded Spartacus", 1st century AD.

Main events

The revolt began in the city of Capua, in a gladiator school that belonged to Lentulus Batiatus. Revolt, according to the assumption of Goroncharovsokgo V. A. (Spartacus War: the rebellious slaves against the Roman legions. SPB. St. Petersburg Oriental Studies. 2011, 176 pages), began at the end of February 73 BC.

The gladiators began planning the uprising in advance, but it was revealed to the authorities to the traitor and then the rebels accelerated the event. 78 people. they rebelled at the gladiator school of Lentulus Botiata, managed to kill the guards, get out on the streets of Capua, on the way capturing a caravan with weapons that transported weapons for gladiators from Capua to another city. After making their way through the city gates, the rebels were able to establish a camp on top of the extinct Mount Vesuvius. An attempt by local Roman forces in Capua to nip the rebellion in the bud by sending several urban cohorts to Mount Vesuvius failed, and the rebels got even more weapons.

There, on Mount Vesuvius, the rebels chose three leaders. Chief Spartacus and his two assistants, the Gauls Crixus and Oenomaus. Historians still dispute who Spartacus was by nationality, since the term “Thracian " at that time could mean both a person originally from Thrace and one of the types of gladiators. Today they agree on the version that Spartacus was a warrior, even managed to fight as part of the Roman troops, then for disobeying orders, was sold into slavery, where he became a gladiator.

Bas-relief with gladiators. Marble. Pompeii, the Stabian Gate. National Archaeological Museum, Naples. 20-50 AD

His soldiers plundered the nearby villas and estates of the Romans from Mount Vesuvius, so his army gradually began to grow in size. The army of Spartacus was large, but not homogeneous in its ethnic and national origin. In his army were Gauls, Germans, Thracians and other peoples enslaved by Rome. Also in his army joined the slave shepherds. This left a large but unreliable army, as the majority of the army was made up of agricultural slaves who had not previously held weapons. The backbone of Spartacus ' army was a squad of 78 gladiators who escaped with him from Capua.

At first, the slave army was armed with sickles, pitchforks, rakes, and other agricultural implements, as well as clubs and sharpened stakes. Some slaves knew how to make baskets and could make wicker shields. Later, during the battles, the slaves obtained real weapons. Rome's main military forces were engaged outside of Italy when the Spartacus revolt began. Rome in 74 BC began a war with Mithridates in Asia Minor and tried to suppress the supporter of Gaius Marius in Spain, Quintus Sertorius, who there raised a revolt against the supporters of L. K. Sulla.

At first, the authorities and the Senate considered the Spartacus revolt not as a major armed rebellion, but only a small slave revolt that resulted in a wave of looting and violence in Campania (a region in southern Italy). But later assessing the scale, the Senate sent a large military detachment of 3 thousand people to suppress it, under the leadership of the praetor Claudius Glaber in 73 BC. e. But as Appian tells us, this detachment consisted not as a legion, but as a militia of non-citizens... " where they recruited all sorts of random people, recruited hastily and casually”" Appian. Civil wars. 1.116. Glaber laid siege to the rebels on Mount Vesuvius, blocking the only way down the mountain, hoping to keep the rebels under siege until hunger forced them to surrender. But the rebels were able to make ropes and ropes from the vines and trees growing on the top of Mount Vesuvius, and they were able to descend on them from the other side of the mountain. After that, the rebels went around Mount Vesuvius and attacked the unexpected attacks from this side, the Roman detachment and completely destroyed it. In this battle, Spartacus demonstrated one of his military tactics: to attack the enemy where you are not expected and when you are not expected, but during this battle Oenomaus was killed. After that, the rebels descended from the mountain and settled in a former Roman camp, where slaves and discontented Roman authorities began to flock to them.

Progress of the military campaign

In response, the Senate sent a new detachment led by the Praetor Publius Varinius. Varinius decided to divide his forces and thus squeeze the rebels and "crush" them. But in the end, both groups of Varinius, under the command of his officers Furius and Cossinius, were defeated by the rebels, one by one. Varinius with the remaining troops, despite the flight of some of his soldiers, 4 thousand people remained under his command, built a fortified military camp not far from the camp of the rebels and blocked them. But Spartak broke out of the blockade and retreated to the city. Kuma, where Varinius followed him, hoping to defeat Spartacus and replenish his army with volunteers from Kuma. As a result, Spartacus in the battle of Cumae destroyed the troops of Varinius, almost capturing him. After that, almost all of southern Italy was in the hands of the rebels. Spartacus and his followers spent the winter of 73-72 BC near the city of Metapontos (an ancient Greek city-colony in southern Italy, now a ruin near the city of Metapontos, Italy), where he trained his troops. The number of Spartacus ' army by the winter of 73-72 BC reached up to 70 thousand people.

In the spring of 72 BC, the rebels headed north, towards Cisalpine Gaul (a Roman province located between the Alps, Apennines and Rubicon. It was also called Near Gaul or Gallia Togata). This time, the Senate, having assessed the scale of the disaster and defeats of the praetors Glaber and Varinius, sent two armies, a total of 30 thousand people, led by the consuls Lucius Gellius Publicon and Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus. The consuls wanted to surround and defeat Spartacus near the Gargan Peninsula. The army of the Consul Lentulus went along the Tiburtine road to the Adriatic coast, and the army of Gellius along the Appian Road to Apulia (a region in south-eastern Italy).

Spartacus, wishing to avoid encirclement, sent his main forces to the northwest, and a large detachment led by Crixus sent to the slopes of Mount Gargan (an isolated mountain range in Italy, in the province of Foggia, Apulia region. It is located on the Gargano Peninsula (”the spur of the Italian boot"), jutting out into the Adriatic Sea). Crixus 'position was located to the east of the road that Gellius' army was supposed to take, thus posing a threat to his rear and right flank. If Crixus 'force was successful, Spartacus would then be able to attack from both sides and defeat Lentulus' army. While Crixus was thus delaying the army of Gellius, Spartacus himself surprised Lentulus by attacking his army, which had not yet finished crossing the Apennines, near the Aterno River (a river in Italy) and completely defeated it in two battles. At that time, the army of Gellius met the army of Crixus at Mount Gargan and destroyed the army of Crixus. Crixus himself was killed by the Roman praetor Quintus Arrius in this battle. Ancient authors (Appian and Titus Livy) call the number of Crixus ' troops from 30 to 20 thousand people. Further, ancient authors (primarily Appian and Plutarch) give some discrepancies in the information they report. But with the arrival of Marcus Crassus, their information is once again consistent. Appian and Plutarch differ in details, but the general outline of further events and actions of Spartacus, based on the information they provided, looks like this:: Spartacus, learning of the defeat of Crixus, attacked the army of Gellius and defeated him, after which both consuls were recalled to Rome.

While Spartacus and his army retreated to the North, but then, for unknown reasons, changed his mind about crossing the Alps and headed south again, apparently hoping to reach Sicily, cross over to it and ignite the slave revolt there, suppressed shortly before his revolt. At this time, the forces of Spartacus were estimated from 120 thousand people (which was an extremely exaggerated figure) to 60 thousand people. On his way back to the south from northern Italy, Spartacus passed by Rome, causing an unprecedented panic. Thus, Spartacus again reached the south of Italy by the beginning of 71 BC. At this time, the Senate frantically began to search for the person and commander who could take up the task and finally put down the Spartacus uprising. Gnaeus Pompeius and Lucius Lucullus were considered, but they were both engaged in wars outside of Italy – Pompey was fighting Serotrius in Spain, and Lucullus was fighting Mithridates in Asia Minor. Then Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of the richest and most influential men in Rome, took the stage. His military experience consisted of participating on the side of Sulla, during the Civil War between Sulla and Marius in 82 BC.

Marcus Licinius Crassus (Consul 70, 55 BC).Looney marbles. Height 85 cm. The era of the Early Empire (replica), 2nd quarter of the first century BC (prototype). Inv. No. 142. Rome, Torlonia Museum
Pompey the Great. Marble. A copy of the Claudian era (mid-1st century AD) of the original, which preserved the artistic pathos that became widespread after 60 BC. Height 37 cm. Inv. No. 62. Venice, National Archaeological Museum. Private collection, Grimani.

Crassus was given the command and position of praetor. His forces amounted to 6 newly recruited legions, at his expense, and the remnants of the armies of the consuls Gellius and Lentulus. In total, under the command of Crassus was about 40-50 thousand people. At the end of 72 BC, two battles took place between the troops of Crassus and the army of Spartacus. In the first, Crassus won, and in the second, the troops of his legate Mummius were defeated. After the defeat of Mummius, Crassus, in order to restore military discipline, carried out a punishment that had not been used for a long time, but in this situation was extremely necessary, namely decimation (execution of every 10 soldiers by lot), which was able to restore discipline in his army. After that, Crassus tried to avoid major battles with the rebel army, starving them out. This led to a series of victories by Crassus in the summer of 71 BC near the Furies (a region of southern Italy).

In the autumn of 71 BC, Spartacus retreated to Messina (a city in Sicily) via Lucania (a region in southern Italy), located near the strait separating Italy from Sicily. Here Spartacus made an agreement with the Cilician pirates, who promised to transport him and his army to Sicily for a large sum, so that he could ignite a new uprising and replenish his forces. It is not known exactly why, but the Cilicians did not fulfill their promise. There are several versions explaining this circumstance, but how it really happened, so no one knows.

There are several versions in this regard:

While Spartacus was waiting for help from the pirates, Crassus decided to “lock him up” on the small Rhegian Peninsula, in southern Italy, by building a deep ditch along the entire length of the isthmus (about 55 km), on top of which the Romans built a defensive wall or rampart. Crassus ' plan succeeded. Deceived by pirates, cut off from the rest of Italy by a moat, a large number of people crowded into a small space. All this led to a famine among the rebels. But Spartak, having lost many of its supporters, was able to break through the defensive wall one winter night and escape from the trap. At this time, Pompey returns to Italy after successfully suppressing Sertorius with his troops and receives orders from the Senate to go south to help Crassus. Historians are divided as to whether Crassus asked the Senate for help, or whether they simply took advantage of Pompey's return to Italy. Lucius Lucullus 'brother, Proconsul of Macedon, Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, also receives orders from the Senate to go to Crassus' aid. Appian mistakenly believes that these forces were commanded by Lucius Lucullus himself, but he was in Asia Minor at the time, where he was fighting with Mithridates. Crassus, fearing that his victory would go to other generals, rushed in pursuit of Spartacus, who, after breaking through the defensive wall, headed for Brundisium, apparently wanting to cross from there to the Balkan Peninsula. But on the outskirts of Brundisium, Spartacus was met by the troops of Varro Lucullus. Without giving them a fight, Spartacus began to retreat. During his retreat, a large detachment of 12 thousand people, led by Gannicus and Castus, separated from him and became a camp near Lake Lucan. Crassus also went up there and defeated this group in a stubborn battle. The remnants of this detachment retreated to Spartacus and together with him retreated to the Petellian Mountains (modern Strongoli) in Bruttium. They were followed closely by the Roman troops. During the retreat, Spartacus was able to defeat Legate Lucius Quinctius and Quaestor Tremellius Scrofa, wounding the latter in the battle of the Causent River. After that, he continued to retreat, knowing that in a decisive battle with Crassus, he and his men would lose. But Spartacus ' men insisted on giving Crassus a decisive battle.

The decisive battle between the forces of Crassus and the army of Spartacus took place near the source of the Silarus River (now the Sele River, in Southern Italy). In this decisive battle, Crassus was victorious, and Spartacus himself, although his fate is unknown, apparently died in this battle. But his body wasn't found. Ancient authors, paying tribute to the bravery and courage of Spartacus, describe his death in battle.

Appian reports: "Spartacus was wounded in the thigh by a javelin: kneeling down and holding out his shield, he fought off the attackers until he fell along with a large number of those around him.” Appian. Civil Wars. I. 120.

Plutarch reports“".... before the battle began, a horse was brought to him, but he drew his sword and killed it, saying that if he won, he would get many good horses from the enemies, and if he lost, he would not need his own. So saying, he rushed at Crassus himself; neither the enemy's weapons nor wounds could stop him, and yet he did not fight his way to Crassus, but only killed two centurions who confronted him. Finally, abandoned by his fellow soldiers fleeing from the battlefield, surrounded by enemies, he fell under their blows, not retreating a single step and fighting to the end”" Plutarch. Crassus. 11.

Flor writes: "Spartacus, who fought bravely in the first row, fell as a general."

Bronnikov F. A. Painting "The Cursed Field". 1878 State Tretyakov Gallery.

Outcomes and consequences

The revolt of Spartacus and his supporters was suppressed. As Appian tells us “ " More than 6,000 prisoners were crucified along the road from Capua to Rome." Book 1., par. 120. Pompey attributed the end of Spartacus ' revolt to his own account, as his soldier was defeated by a 6,000-strong slave force retreating north after the Battle of Silarus.

Pompey reported this to the Senate as follows: ”Crassus defeated the runaway slaves in open battle, but I destroyed the very root of the war." Plutarch. Crassus. 11.

Pompey's report to the Senate escalated the already tense relations between Crassus and Pompey. As a result, the Senate recognized that Crassus had defeated Spartacus, but denied him a triumph for defeating Spartacus, referring to the fact that an unworthy opponent, slaves, was defeated, so Crassus was granted a small triumph – an ovation. But after the death of Spartacus, scattered detachments of Spartacus ' supporters continued to operate in Southern Italy for a long time. They were finally suppressed only by 62 BC. But because of the revolt, the Romans did moderate their exploitation of slaves a little.

Causes of the lesion:

Monument to Spartacus in Sardaniski. Bulgaria.
Sculpture of Spartacus by Denis Foyatier, Louvre. Paris. France. 1830
Monument to Spartak, Moscow. Russia

Related topics

Roman Republic, Slave Revolt in Sicily, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Gnaeus Pompey the Great, Gladiators


Ancient authors:

1. Appian. Roman history. Civil wars.

2. Lucius Annaeus Flor. Epitomes of Roman history.

3. Sextus Julius Frontinus. About military tricks.

4. Plutarch. Comparative biographies. Crassus, Pompey.

5. Sallust. History

6. Suetonius. The Lives of the 12 Caesars: Divine August.

7. Titus Livy. The history of Rome from the foundation of the city.

Contemporary authors:

1. S. L. Utchenko. Ancient Rome. Events. People. Ideas. Moscow. Nauka Publishing House. 1969

2. Basovskaya N. I. Spartak. Eternal symbol / / Man in the mirror of history. - Moscow, 20

Barry J. Smith Wars of Antiquity from the Greco-Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, Moscow: Eksmo, 2009.

4. Valentinov A. Spartak — Moscow: Eksmo Publ., 2002.

5. Goroncharovsky V. A. Arena i krovo [Arena and blood]. Roman gladiators between life and death. - St. Petersburg: Peterburgskoe Vostokovedenie, 2009. - ("Militaria Antiqua, XIV").

6. Goroncharovsky V. A. Spartak's War: the risen slaves against the Roman legions. St. Petersburg: Peterburgskoe Vostokovedenie Publ., 2011, 176 p. (in Russian)

7. G. Delbrueck. History of military art. St. Petersburg, 1994, vol. 1.

8. Karyshkovsky P. O. The Rise of Spartak, Moscow, 2005.

9. Kovalev S. I. Istoriya Rima [History of Rome]. A course of lectures. - LSU, 1986.

10. Kovan R. Roman legionnaires 58 BC-69 AD-Moscow, 2005.

11. Leskov V. A. Spartak, Moscow: Molodaya gvardiya Publ., 1983, 383 p. (Zhizn prekraschnykh dyudey).

12. Makhlayuk A., Negin A. Roman Legions in battle, Moscow, 2009.

13. Mannix D. Going to death, Moscow, 1994.

14. Mishulin A.V. Spartak's Uprising — Moscow, 1936.

15. Fields N. The Rise of Spartacus. The Great War against Rome. 73-71 BC = Spartacus and the slave war 73-71 BC. A gladiator rebels against Rome. - Moscow: Eksmo, 2011. - 94 p. - (Great battles that changed the course of history).

16. Tarnovsky V. Gladiators — Moscow, 1998.

17. Utchenko S. L. Krizis i poblenie Rimskoy respubliki [Crisis and Fall of the Roman Republic], Moscow, 1965.

18. Utchenko S. L. The Rise of Spartak // Ancient Rome. Events. People. Ideas — Moscow, 1969.