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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 August 2015
'The Gladiators' is the opening shot in Koestler's trilogy of fictionalized accounts dealing with revolution, ideology and what actually happens in revolutionary regimes - or to what extent they can justify themselves (the other two being Darkness at Noon and Arrival and Departure (Penguin Modern Classics)).

The book follows the rise of Spartacus, his 'reign' and eventual downfall and is pretty much in line - content wise - with what the ancients wrote of the rebellion. Where it excells, is in bringing the story, as well as the moral dilemmas to life, and doing so with a light touch. This allows the reader to decide, to what extent they will dive into the story (worthwhile on its own) and where they will reflect on the lessons on how revolutions fuction and where they may inevitably reproduce that, which they intend to destroy or replace.

The writing is compelling throughout and Spartacus is neither villified, nor glorified - an even handed treatment accorded to most of the book's characters.

While it is part of a loose trilogy, the book can be read completely independently of Darkness at Noon and Arrival and Departure (Penguin Modern Classics), as each of those tackles a different story - the connection is in the idea and guiding principle, rather than the storyline.

Koestler in my opinion remains a giant of the 20th century intellectual and literary scene and the reviewed book simply underlines this. If you are ever in a dilemma when judging current events such as the various military interventions or lack thereoff, the book will provide you with a fertile reflection ground and may well be the instrument to make you assess the situations in a richer, more balanced fashion.
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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
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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!
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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.
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on 23 April 2014
This is one of Koestler's best novels. The story of Spartacus, and told so well. The research is good for such a tale and
It is well worth the buy.
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