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Spartacus [Mass Market Paperback]

Howard Fast
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Jun 2000
The best-selling novel about a slave revolt in ancient Rome and the basis for the popular motion picture.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: ibooks Inc (19 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743412826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743412827
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.7 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 874,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Freedom is a tough habit to suppress, and even by using widespread terror the Romans found it very difficult to suppress the freedom of slaves who rose in revolt under the leadership of Spartacus.
Rome was built on exploitation, slavery and terror, says Fast. Interesting, if true. Roman terror was expressed in the crucifixion of 6,000 slaves after the revolt of the gladiators was crushed in 71 BC. Fast goes into exquisite technical details about crucifixion, which could take four days for a victim to die. But he also says even the wealthiest Roman citizens and politicians of that time could walk the common streets without fear of crime.
But the thrust of this book is the quest for freedom. Fast was a victim of the 1950s McCarthyism, and thus knew personally what it means to be persecuted for being out of step with the ruling authorities. Fast's views are briefly expressed by Spartacus, "Our law is simple. Whatever we take, we hold in common, and no man shall own anything but his weapons and his clothes. It will be the way it was in the old times."
Old times will never return. Rome was becoming a society without values or ideals, with the rich addicted to luxury, depravity and wastrel excess and the poor supported by welfare and mindless but increasingly violent games. He makes the Roman Senate sound a lot like the US Senate of the 1950s; proud, corrupt, ignorant and arrogrant. His portrayal of Rome is enough to make anyone cheer Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon to impose authoritative law and order.
The book is a celebration of freedom, without really defining its meaning. Perhaps unwittingly, he credits Spartacus' followers with the same loyalty that turned Rome into a tyranny; as one says, "I want you to place me by your side.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heroic slaves v decadent masters 13 Nov 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The gladiator slave Spartacus, was loved and respected by his down-trodden comrades and the woman he regarded as his wife. Under his leadership the slaves at the gladiatorial school of Batiatus in Capua rebelled, defeated their Roman guards and escaped. They became a magnet, a hope, a cause for the other miserable, wretched victims of Roman imperialism. A slave army grew and threatened to tear out the rotten, decadent heart of Rome. For a short while it looked as though it was really possible that Rome could become the victim of its victims. Bloody battles were fought and won by the slave army. But in the end, the power of Rome was stronger, bigger, harder, better organised, more ruthless and perhaps more desperate to preserve its parasitic way of life.
It's impossible not to identify with the briefly liberated slaves and to root for them every step of the way. The Romans in the story just seem irredeemably empty of any virtue or grace. They depend on slaves for almost everything in their day to day existence. Slaves produce the food, cook it and serve it; they work in the mines (work which kills the children very quickly and the adults fairly quickly); they provide the entertainment from performing sex to dying in the arena; they carry the Romans round in litters and they seem to be paid mainly in beatings and death. The working class Romans have been replace by slave labour so have to be supported by dole and kept quiescent by entertainments such as gambling and gladiatorial competitions. The system is rotten to the core. The meaning of life is lost, to the extent that Roman men even sell their own children into slavery when their sexual recreation results in the pregnancy of a slave woman.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably Fast's best book. And a great book. 8 May 1999
By A Customer
Howard Fast's novelization of the slave revolt in Italy between 73-71 BC is both a work of left wing advocacy and a tremendously well done novel. I read it first when I was 14. Now, a long time later, once a year or so I re-read the copy I still have - for the enjoyment, for the character development, for the history, and for the political agenda. You could read it for any one or any combination of those features, and still get something out of this book.
For those who don't know, Howard Fast was a member of the Communist Party of the United States from the 1930s on up to the early 1950s, a committed, though thinking member. And one who was willing to go to jail ~1951 rather than testify about others in the CPUSA. (For more about this aspect of his life, buy his biography, Being Red.) So, Spartacus is a novel with an agenda. For "Rome," read western capitalism run wild. For "slaves" read the lower class, peasants, serfs or workers. And for Spartacus himself, read anyone you want to as a modern day revolutionary who is forced by history, and his own humanity, to attempt changing the world. Is this a problem? Absolutely not! When I read this book at 14, I knew that when I read something along the lines of "Rome is the whole world," that that could be taken as the Classical Mediterranean world, or as the whole capitalist world of the 20th century. If, like me, you don't worry too much about the evils of modern capitalism, you can read the book as pure historical fiction. And, like me, if you want to, you can catch Fast's criticism of capitalism without diminishing your enjoyment of the novel.
How good is Spartacus as historical fiction?
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