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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adds genuine new perspectives to the story of Spartacus
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...
Published on 8 April 2009 by Asmodeous

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Revolting Slaves & Spartacus, a legend from limited sources
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...
Published on 30 Oct 2009 by Benjamin Girth


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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Adds genuine new perspectives to the story of Spartacus, 8 April 2009
By 
Asmodeous (North Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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 
Gareth Simon (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spartacus War (Paperback)
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Revolting Slaves & Spartacus, a legend from limited sources, 30 Oct 2009
By 
Benjamin Girth "NI5 MCR" (Hampstead N6) - See all my reviews
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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. It was a bloody business, half a dozen Roman generals humiliated, skirmishes and battles. Who, when and where aside, the revolt was made far more dangerous given Rome's wars in the West (Spain) and East (Mithridates). Could Rome have imploded? No need to speculate, it did not.

I wonder if Strauss would have been better to take the "Troy formula" and apply it to an area where the written sources are better, perhaps Josephus and the Great Jewish Revolt or Caesar's Gallic War. Here is a substantive body of contemporary writings to review and interpret, apply his deductive expertise. This book is entry level Roman history. A lot of us read on holiday or on a plane, this is not a criticism rather a recommendation for this book if you want to enjoy a low intensity myth and legend history. If you know a little of Rome, this will encourage you to read further but if you know more, and it is not Strauss' fault, this is a frustrating book given the poverty of sources.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Damn good historical context on Spartacus, 20 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Spartacus War (Kindle Edition)
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
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This review is from: The Spartacus War (Kindle Edition)
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
By 
Alan Bowie (Cornwall) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spartacus War (Kindle Edition)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read that sticks to the facts, 21 April 2013
This review is from: The Spartacus War (Paperback)
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. The book not only covers Spartacus but also covers other aspects of Roman history that touches upon the Spartacus revolt.

As an introduction to Spartacus this is excellent. Barry Strauss does not go into conjecture but merely sticks to the facts without making history boring.

Great companion book if you like the movie or the Starz TV show and want to know fact from fiction
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story, average book, 27 Aug 2010
By 
J. Duducu (Ruislip) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spartacus War (Paperback)
I had seen the famous film and a few documentaries about Spartacus so I bought this book wanting to get a bit more detail. That's exactly what I got- "a bit more detail."

It turns out the source material is so thin and contradictory on many points that an actual book on Spartacus is almost impossible to write. I gave up counting how many times "maybe" or "probably" or "could have been" were used. What's worse is it is standard in any popular history book to include some pictures but here there are none save the covers. Indeed the author pads out the meagre page count (printed in a very large font) by describing statues, coins or landscapes where pictures would have been much more evocative.

The Story of Spartacus is riveting and Strauss is rigorous in explaining where the facts are contested or vague and does a good job of filling in the blanks with reasonable conjecture but as a book this is a very patchy affair.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, 8 May 2010
By 
Stuart Devers "BLUE BOY" (YORKSHIRE) - See all my reviews
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I have read several books about the history of the gladiator and Roman history

To most readers of history Spartacus is an enigma with little historical facts or records left to analyse to have analytical view.

Barry Strauss has done a very good job in trying to put facts first and not going down the road of eulogising Spartacus for something he was not. He tells the reader about the probabilities of how some of the battles were fought and what locations and does not patronise the reader in this regard.The book also informs the readers about Rome and the events regarding the uprising and all the main players who helped in trying to crush the rebellion.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth is out there, 13 April 2009
By 
Michael Watson "skirrow22" (Halifax, England) - See all my reviews
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Regrettably, my main source of reference surrounding the life, the death and the legacy of Spartacus has been garnered from films featuring Kirk Douglas and, later, Russell Crowe - so not much, really.

The problem, it seems to me, is that any available information seems to follow the same route. Now Barry Strauss seems to have redeemed the situation. His book is filled with detail about his life, his fighting abilities and tactics, his death which we learn was not on a cross but in battle. But, inevitably, what he was fighting for is still rather nebulous and open to further discussion.

The fact that he had, in earlier years, served in the Roman army gave him an insider's knowledge to create the rebellious breakout from the gladiator training camp and go on to cause mayhem against the mightiest army at that time, although maybe not against its mightiest generals. However, from this point of escape, the book flows like a thriller. I am no historian so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the detail in the author's book but I did get the feeling that he has written an exceptional account for anyone interested in action-packed history - and for adding a great deal more to the legend of Spartacus.
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The Spartacus War
The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss (Paperback - 18 Mar 2010)
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