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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 21 August 2017
This book is excellent, I cannot put it down
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on 7 October 2013
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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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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on 8 April 2009
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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on 12 May 2016
A somewhat pointless but nonetheless entertaining book about the Spartacus led slave rebellion in ancient Rome.
If you are looking for an in-depth biography of Spartacus the man you won't find it here as, unfortunately, there is very little tangible evidence that exists that give any real insight into this. Thus, a lot of this book is speculation and educated guess work.
What is does provide is all the available evidence into the battles that occurred during the revolt and this information is provided well and is full of intricate detail. The author does, in my opinion, spend too much time on full descriptions of the Geography of the regions involved and these sections can be a little dull.
It is, however, a fairly entertaining read.
One point on my printing that was rather confusing was that the copious source notes at the rear of the book were not marked within the text itself making it difficult to cross reference passages within.
Recently I've noticed the book in some of the discount book shops at a significant lower price. If you see it in one of those i would recommend giving it a read.
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on 21 April 2013
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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VINE VOICEon 30 October 2009
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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on 20 November 2013
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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on 20 June 2013
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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on 27 August 2010
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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