on 23 September 2010
Students of Ancient History should not look here for a what really happened story, though there is not much that actually contradicts the account given by ancient authors. AK tells his story of rebellion and how the detours of that rebellion take unforeseen ways that inevitably lead back to the oppression that they were initiated to avoid. This is a political point designed to show the shortcomings of the communist revolutions and AK's own personal disenchantment with left-wing politics in which he was a personal activist. This forms a conceptual trilogy with, 'Darkness at Noon' and 'Arrival and Departure'. These books do not concern Spartacus but continue with the theme of the limits of ideological thinking. Darkness is a barely concealed critique of Stalinist Russia's show trials, whilst Arrival is set in a parallel Portugal and concerns itself with political refugees
on 19 November 2013
This is the first of Koestler's trilogy about failed revolutions, and despite the almost total absence of facts about the gladiators' revolt in the 1st century BC, he created a compelling myth about Spartacus and his desire to set up a utopian state for his ragged army of gladiators, slaves, dispossessed farmers and hangers on. At first the slave army defeats a number of complacent Roman generals and poorly trained Legions -- but of course the revolution is doomed to fail, and ironically at the hands of Crassus, the immensely wealthy Roman, perhaps the world's first monetary oligarch, whose God is capitalism. An extraordinary novel which has inspired people for 60 years, and almost as good as the superlative Darkness at Noon, the second novel of the trilogy. Both are required reading!
on 23 July 2016
This historical novel set in ancient Rome is in fact Koestlers imaginative, allegorical reflection on his own engagement with a 20th century revolutionary movement that failed.
Like Orwells later Animal Farm, Koestler uses an entirely different setting, in this case the well-known slave rebellion of the late Roman Republic, to construct a powerful image of the Communist experiment that became Stalins purges and the Soviet dystopia. And like Koestlers contemporary Stalinism, Spartacus' rebellion becomes the tragic story of what in Koestlers perception appears to be inevitable and often horrific detours in the purcuit of an emancipated utopia.