Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How Did Spartacus Really Die?

Here is a video version of the following article on the question of the Death of Spartacus.

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I loved the last season of the Starz series Spartacus. They did an excellent job of staying true to the historical story.  There's a bit of a mystery historically on what finally did happen to this great man.

In the end of the 1960 movie Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas, Spartacus dies crucified on the Appian Way, along with the remnants of his rebellion (albeit seeing his son, who will now live in freedom). 

But I wanted to explore the primary texts for the end of Spartacus.

The account of the demise of Spartacus comes from Appian, The Civil Wars 1.120. We learn some interesting information.

In the final battle with Crassus:

Spartacus was wounded in the thigh with a spear.
( τιτρώσκεται ἐς τὸν μηρὸν ὁ Σπάρτακος δορατίῳ)

The account goes on to say that Spartacus sunk to one knee and continued fighting until he and those with him were killed.

But then the account adds:

The dead body of Spartacus was not found.
(καὶ τὸν Σπαρτάκου νέκυν οὐχ εὑρεθῆναι.)

In the end, we'll never know what happened. All we know is that his dead body was never found. While it seems likely he died in battle, I am happy his body was at least spared the indignity of some public humiliation by the Romans. And absent a dead body, there is always the possibility that the man somehow did survive and escape. No matter what conclusion Starz chooses, I am sure it will be terrific.

Victory was a terrific final episode to both this season and a fitting conclusion to a terrific series. They did write into the series the fact that the dead body of Spartacus was never found. Spartacus did defeat Crassus and Crassus will always
know it. Caesar will always know he couldn't beat Gannicus in open combat. And Spartacus did achieve his victory, to die a free man. Thank you, Starz for a wonderful and thoughtful series.


If you'd like to learn some Latin, I have a website full of free resources for mastering this important language.