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The Spartacus War: The Revolt of the Gladiators [Hardcover]

Barry Strauss
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Mar 2009
Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who started a prison breakout with 74 men, armed with kitchen knives. It grew into a full scale rebellion against Rome, the most famous slave revolt in history. With an army of gladiators, ex-slaves and other desperadoes, he managed to defeat a succession of Roman armies and bring the Republic to its knees. Today, he is best known from Stanley Kubrick's 1960 feature film, SPARTACUS, starring Kirk Douglas. The real Spartacus certainly had the charisma of the chisel-chinned actor, and he was a star gladiator (he appears on a fresco found at Pompeii). However, Spartacus was a good deal more ruthless than a Hollywood hero. He had one of his Roman prisoners crucified before a battle, to remind his followers what they could expect if they lost! Barry Strauss has explored the areas of Italy where Spartacus fought and died. Professor of History at Cornell University, he is an authority on Ancient Rome, whose popular histories of TROY and THE BATTLE OF SALAMIS have won him worldwide recognition. SALAMIS has been translated into six languages.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First UK edition edition (12 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297852671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297852674
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 786,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'With his trademarks of extensive knowledge, insights and great story-telling ability, Barry Strauss brings us as close as we can get to the enigmatic Spartacus, the slave who defied the Roman Republic.' (Adrian Goldsworthy - pre-publication quote )

"This is a colourful and thrilling account that deserves the widest possible readership" (Christopher Silvester DAILY EXPRESS - 03.04.09 )

"Barry Strauss adds an ironic twist to this story of political competition...offers a racy narrative of the rebellion." (Mary Beard THE SUNDAY TIMES - 12.04.09 )

"Strauss makes every last scrap of information count....fine biography." (Tom Hollland THE WASHINGTON POST 05.04.09 )

Book Description

The story of the most famous revolt of the ancient world, and its legendary leader, Spartacus the Gladiator. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have read just about all the english speaking, biographies on Saprtacus and feel that this book offers perhaps the most in-depth analysis and is the most thorough in terms of research - though is perhaps not the most exciting version on the market. A worth while read and fascinating due to the subject matter alone but could have been even better - greater insight into battle strategies of rebel 'thracian' warfare tactics/ or similar tactics by hill side warriors of the time, photos of some of the sites perhaps, greater insight into the lives of gladiators generally, less emphais on 'the wife of Spartacus' - a chapter which I felt was over-played considering the historical source material available. What does modern day Bulgaria have to say about Spartacus or Thracian life in roman times? I feel Saprtacus' decison to not cross the alps was lacking in coverage and incomplete - is it possible to get weather reports for this age? Was the weather the factor for not crossing or was heading for the north a ruse to collect an army and then head for Sicilly - the breadbasket for Ancient Rome and site of major slave rebellions prior to that of Spartacus. I felt big issues warranted more debate and proposals. I had so many questions and items I was longing and hoping to see covered but were not. A good read yes but unfulfilling in many ways - which to be fair may be as much down to the lack of historical sources as to the writer himself. Probably the most comprehensive account for those who have not read a biography on Spartacus but doesn't add a great deal to what others have already said in other biographies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making bricks without much straw 2 Sep 2011
By No More Mr. Mice Guy TOP 100 REVIEWER
This is a very well-written and informative book about the slave revolt led by Spartacus, bearing in mind the small amount of contemporary evidence available. Because of this, Spartacus himself is just a name. The author is able to give us a reasonable picture of what went on at the time, and quite a few of the main actors can be fleshed out, but there is a lot of interpretation and probability flying about. However, the use of snippets of contemporary evidence allows the author to build a readable and plausible narrative of events. The only thing missing is the motivation of Spartacus. The author tries to show us the mind-set of the various ‘barbarian’ tribesmen involved in the revolt, but those of us who have read Terry Jones' Barbarians know that the term is ‘prejudicial’ at best. That’s not to say the author is wrong, of course, but his is just an interpretation of what happened, albeit a readable and plausible view.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Benjamin Girth VINE VOICE
On page 166 the author asserts, "Spartacus was a failure against Rome but a success as a myth maker... Who, today, remembers Crassus? Pompey. Even Cicero is not that well remembered. Everyone has heard of Spartacus." Well yes they have but that's probably because of the Kurbick film (the one where Michael Douglas's dad played the eponymous hero). And we do remember a great deal of Roman history - Cicero has a following both factual and fictional.

Barry Strauss has written an account of the rebel slave rebellion but the problem is he has next to nothing to tell us that is not speculation. What happened between 73-71 BC is fragmented and often contradictory. Perhaps padding, Strauss presents much basic information on Ancient Rome. Often his comments are reductive to the point of being unhelpful. For example in describing the life of a gladiator, it was more complicated. As for Crassus, who dispatched Spartacus after a six-month campaign, he went on to suffer one of Romes' greatest military defeats. He was presented as a one-dimensional character.

Strauss wrote an excellent book - The Trojan War A New History - where he interpreted Homer (the Iliad and Odyssey) with the archaeological evidence and made clever deductions. He told a great story, good scholarship written with clarity. There is no significant written source or material evidence about Spartacus, the coalition of Thracians, Celts, Germans and the politics of holding a large revolt together. Drawing on bits of information, he speculates about the possible objectives of the rebels, details their flight North, then South, the near escape to Scilly. Their defeat by trained legionnaires, brutally disciplined and well equipped was inevitable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Damn good historical context on Spartacus 20 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book was a good read, I have not read previous texts on Spartacus so hard to measure its depth. The book is very well written however gets compelling when one has read past 40% of the book.

Overall recommended for readers wishing to learn about the origins of Spartacus and the impact of the insurgents on the Roman Empire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars very informative book. 7 Oct 2013
By joe
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this book an interesting read and enjoyed it would recomend it to people still suffering withdrawal symptoms of the tv show even if this is quite different.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good use of limited source information 20 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author admits frequently that he has only limited source information to refer to. While applauding his honesty, this can make for a book whose pacing is patchy. Lengthy paragraphs are given to describing the appearance and practice of Thracian priestesses of Dionysus, while major batles get a passing mention.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read that sticks to the facts
This is an entertaining read. Given the few details we know about Spartacus the author has managed to give us a compelling story on the facts that we do know. Read more
Published 16 months ago by obiwan_9000
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spartacus war.......
Still on reading it. Started off good, then dropped off a bit with some in fill to eke things out, but then back to exciting....... Read more
Published 17 months ago by seamus Newty
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine book
Barry Strauss's THE SPARTICUS WAR is the first factual book I've found on this completely fascinating gladiator. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Boyd Hone
5.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus!
I bought this book a few months ago and, as yet, have not gotten round to reading it. I have had a quick look through and it seems appealing. Read more
Published on 3 Aug 2012 by The Hollister Butler
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent and enjoyable
Never read a book from this author but was pleasantly surprised.

Barry Strauss has quite a talent to tell stories. Read more
Published on 14 July 2012 by Eric le rouge
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps
If Barry Strauss uses the words "perhaps", "possibly" and "might have" a little more than other historians of the Third Servile War, that is only because he is brutally honest... Read more
Published on 31 Jan 2012 by Jonathan Clements
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good read
I found this a real page turner. I find it odd that one or two have spoken ill of the amount of specualtion on events. If the source material doesn't exist it doesn't exist. Read more
Published on 29 Aug 2011 by Pagiccus
4.0 out of 5 stars The Roman machine
Whenever we are moved to admire the achievements of the Ancient Greeks and Romans - and they were prodigious - we should always keep in the back of the mind the fact that their... Read more
Published on 21 Aug 2011 by Xenophon
1.0 out of 5 stars Spatacus Who ?
In all honesty I believe the author did a lot of research for his book, but the trouble is, there is very very little known about Spartacus. Read more
Published on 23 Feb 2011 by Darren L
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