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The Spartacus War

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,009 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
The Spartacus War
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2009)
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Bill  Kerwin
Dec 22, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

A detailed narrative of the Spartacus slave revolt. As not much is known of the man Spartacus nor the specifics of his campaign, this two hundred page treatment is padded with geographical details and anecdotes of tangential relevance. Strauss writes clearly and unpretentiously, however, and he paints a vivid picture of this important event within the context of the wider world of the late Roman Republic.
Jun 15, 2013 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, in-my-house
I finally got round to reading this because I was watching the TV show Spartacus with my other half and he kept asking how accurate I thought the show was being. My usual reply was that the show is entertaining, but that it's accuracy levels are pretty low, being based on lurid conjecture not on fact. However as I didn't know all that much about the slave rebellion led by 'Spartacus' I figured it was about time that I read the one book sat on my shelf that could add to my knowledge on the subjec ...more
Nov 06, 2012 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written speculation about Spartacus, painting a picture of him that's honestly quite different to what I was expecting. Of course, it makes sense: he couldn't have done what he did if he weren't a good general, skilled at inspiring men and drawing up battle plans. This book makes that clear, though, and traces the things he did to hold his army together and train them.

From the little information available, Barry Strauss really did a good job here, while emphasising that most of it was specu
Nov 24, 2012 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"No one presents the military history of the ancient world with greater insight and panache than Strauss. His latest work tells the story of a gladiator who in 73 B.C. led an uprising of 700 gladiators that eventually attracted over 60,000 followers. Strauss depicts Spartacus as a charismatic politician, able to hold together a widely disparate coalition of Celts, Thracians, Germans and Italians. As a general, he was a master of maneuver and mobility, keeping the ponderous Romans consistently of ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barry Strauss has produced an excellent history of Spartacus, the leader of the most successful slave rebellion against Rome, despite the dual obstacles of trying to obtain facts where scant original material exists, and attempting to accurately portray a subject which has been depicted in writing and on film either in romantic terms or as a shining hero of conflicting political beliefs.

Strauss is a professor of classics at Cornell; he has written two popular histories, about the Battle of Sal
Steven Peterson
Jul 10, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who has read Barry Strauss' book "The Trojan War" knows how he can create interesting history from bits and pieces of hard evidence. There are only a handful of written primary sources (some very short) that mention Spartacus, the warrior gladiator. What Strauss does in this book is an historical tour de force.

He takes the few fragments on Spartacus and weaves a story around those, based on his knowledge of Rome and the larger Roman World of the era. In short, he takes those fragments and
Sep 17, 2012 Tommy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
See the original review here:

Detailing the events preceding, during and after one of the greatest and probably most well known slave rebellions in all of history, The Spartacus War takes readers on a trip all around Italy roughly 100 years BC, where a Thracian slave rose up against his oppressive Roman owners and took back his freedom, stirring many fellow slaves to do the same.

From camping out on Mt Vesuvias to the failed crossings across to Sicily, Stra
Jean Poulos
This is a story of the gladiator, Spartacus. He was brought from Thrace (Bulgaria) to fight in an area in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius. In about 73 to 71 B.C. Spartacus and seventy other gladiators broke out armed with kitchen utensils. For two years he led a growing band of runaway slaves in a revolt. Strauss points out that Spartacus was a Murmillo gladiator who had served as a Thracian auxiliary to the Roman Army where he learned Roman military tactics.

Strauss is a Professor of Classics at Corn
Sep 20, 2014 Jerome rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written, somewhat informal history of Spartacus’ slave revolt. Strauss does a good job bringing together all the information that is known about Spartacus and the revolt. He also writes relatively well, and provides good portraits of Spartacus and his nemesis Crassus.

The book is dry, with little momentum or energy. The book plods along, with the tedium unbearable at times, but as a history it is still reliable. Strauss is also hampered by the quality of the sources: since history is writt
Jul 28, 2009 Erik rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those you who are familiar with the Kubrick film Spartacus – which made Kirk Douglas a household name in cinema – Strauss’s historical look into the real deal is both concise and well-researched. It also blasts out of the water the most famous and quoted part of Kubrick’s film. No, never did said legendary figure and his men after him proclaim “I am Spartacus!” Rather, “One story says that Spartacus’s friends abandoned him, while the other has them fight and die with him.” In either event, “ ...more
Mar 06, 2014 Bettie☯ marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Description: The Spartacus War is the extraordinary story of the most famous slave rebellion in the ancient world, the fascinating true story behind a legend that has been the inspiration for novelists, filmmakers, and revolutionaries for 2,000 years. Starting with only seventy-four men, a gladiator named Spartacus incited a rebellion that threatened Rome itself. With his fellow gladiators, Spartacus built an army of 60,000 soldiers and controlled the southern Italian countryside. A charismatic ...more
Sean O'Hara
Mar 23, 2011 Sean O'Hara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, history-ancient
This is what history should be -- short, concise, and no long digressions on the history of sandals or the archaeological significance of potsherds. When Strauss discusses motivations of various figures, he tells us what ancient sources said, what modern scholars think, his own view, and he makes clear that this is all speculation. Likewise, if the record is unclear about where or when an event took place, he gives the evidence and lays out the most likely answers -- but, again, he lets the read ...more
Naomi P
Jul 02, 2014 Naomi P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spartacus is my all-time favorite historical figure which is why I'm a huge fan of the recently concluded Starz tv series based on his life. We all know that Ancient Rome wouldn't exist if it wasn't for slavery. This book tells you everything you need to know about slave rebellions that occurred in Ancient Rome specifically, his involvement in the 3rd Servile war which I find is a page-turner. I wish in my lifetime, historians would discover Spartacus' real name before I die (how cool would that ...more
Tom Ludwig
Oct 24, 2015 Tom Ludwig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
good introduction for people that want to read about spartacus who are unfamiliar with the era. for those who are well verse in the late republican period, it still is worth looking into
Joseph Adelizzi, Jr.
Revolting is war. “The Spartacus War” by Barry Strauss drives that fact home. The slave revolt headed by the gladiator Spartacus was not a little uprising put down quickly by the military might of Rome. There was much to the “war,” and Strauss captures that scope admirably in this work, fleshing out history, personalities, short-comings, and strategies throughout. When all is read and done, though, this book is memorable for me on two levels. First there is the informative compilation of the his ...more
Sean DeLauder
Aug 27, 2016 Sean DeLauder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rome, eaten-by-dog

My dog greatly enjoyed this book. I came upstairs to discover she'd eaten the cover.

 photo IMG_0548.jpg
Here's a photo of the villain caught unrepentant in the act of her latest villainy: luring two unsuspecting children to certain doom. What a monster.


When your historical references about an event are either biased, tangential, or removed by 100 years or more, the task of assembling a convincing work on the subject will prove challenging. Nevertheless, Strauss paints a compelling picture of the world at th
Nicky Gardiner
Nov 22, 2016 Nicky Gardiner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its a good read, and is surprisingly approachable for those interested in this particular area of history. I was surprised by the true numbers involved in this uprising, as well as that Spartacus had Roman soldiers he captured, fight gladiatorial battles for his slaves in an interesting turn of fate. Worth a read for anyone interested in Roman history.
TJ Godiaco
Nov 30, 2016 TJ Godiaco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If your favourite classics teacher turned into a book, here it is. This book has fantastic storytelling loaded with well-weaved historical context and detail. There is also an unexpected (but very much welcome) romantic string across the story. The reading experience was smooth and thrilling. Recommmended for classics, epics, and warfare geeks looking for a ride.
Dec 30, 2012 Dennis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read "The Spartacus War" by Barry Strauss, about the huge Roman slave revolt in 73 B.C.E., mainly in the hopes of getting some 'real' history in advance of the Starz Channel mini-series "Spartacus: War of the Damned", a guilty pleasure set to start its 10-episode season this next month on January 25 (but who's counting). As fans of this blood-and-sex-soaked series may already know, though the show's creators have taken large dramatic license, it's still surprising how closely the show's plotli ...more
Sep 10, 2014 Alger rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My primary disappointment with this book is the lack of new information or an improved timeline.

I cannot fault Strauss for admitting when some crucial fact is simply unknown, and there are many key pieces of information that are not known including dates, names, motivations, locations, army size or movements in detail, or even the actual fate of Spartacus. But with nothing new to offer the reader, Strauss, like other historians of the Roman Republic, makes a virtue out of these lacunae and spins
Procrastinador Diletante
Confesso que nunca tive grande curiosidade pela figura do escravo virado herói, Spartacus...isto durou até ter começado a ver a série com o mesmo nome.

Foi realmente a produção do canal Starz, que me despertou a vontade de saber mais sobre uma figura histórica que fez tremer essa potência da antiguidade, mas o que verdadeiramente me levou a investir num livro, foi o facto de ele ser quase sempre mencionado, em qualquer obra dedicada ao estudo do exército romano.

Resolvi então arriscar e enviar um
Ray Ziemer
This was a pretty informative book about the Spartacus slave/gladiator rebellion against Rome in 73 BC. A lot of what I thought I knew turns out to be wrong. I suppose I vaguely remembered bits and pieces from the Kirk Douglas epic that came out when I was a kid. That movie was based on a book by the excellent author of historical fiction, Howard Fast. But actually, very few facts are known about the rebel leader who challenged Roman authority for several years. He was destined to fail, I suppos ...more
Greg Boswell
Jan 10, 2013 Greg Boswell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so Spartacus was a pretty important guy. He was a Thracian soldier who served in a Roman auxiliary unit, turned slave, turned gladiator, and escaped the clutches of his Roman captors. Pretty impressive so far!
The very things that make Spartacus so impressive are ironically the very things that make you question his character. The thing to remember in reading about these people and events is that this was a very turbulent time in history and next to impossible to survive in when under the thu
Seth Kaefring
The book the Spartacus War is not necessarily a novel in my opinion. I consider it to be a documentary and like "most" documentaries, in my opinion, tend to be written more for educational purposes rather than for entertainment. Although this isn't a intense, on the edge of your seat, book its not blow out your brains boring either. There were parts that I found interesting, like the battle sequences and the author explaining the life and culture of the Romans and the slaves such as Spartacus an ...more
Jun 11, 2011 Nat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barry Strauss wrote The Spartacus War because he felt the Spartacus people knew was based on Communist ideals. The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo and was based on a book by Howard Fast. Both men served jail time during the Red Scare era. Strauss wanted to create a Spartacus who spoke to today's concerns, "from insurgency to ethnic conflict, from root causes to terrorism, from immigration to multi-cultural societies, and from religious militancy to revived empire." Strauss also wanted cl ...more
Nov 28, 2009 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Few facts remain, but Spartacus' slave uprising (aka the Third Servile War, 73-71 BC) has, through the ages, been mythologized as a tale of bravery and throwing off the chains of oppression. If they lived today, the survivors of Spartacus’ raids on Pompey and Thurii, though, would certainly disagree.

In lieu of evidence, Strauss' book is steeped in speculation, but his theories ring true; they’re certainly more authentic than popular accounts of the rebellion. Strauss says that, like leaders of m
James Jeb
Jun 17, 2013 James Jeb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, being facinated by refferences for Sparticus through out histroy by other famous and intriging people I thought to give the book a legitimate chance ; a chance because often as it is my personal experience with books primarilty pertaining to historical people/events can be a little dry lacking to keep the reader interested. I was pleasantly surprised at the authors ability to mixe historical evidences with plausible guesses in specifics to the final demise of Spartacus in his final battle ...more
Uwe Hook
Mar 25, 2015 Uwe Hook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this presentation of Spartacus and the most famous slave revolt in history. It's true that facts on the man and his rebellion are frustratingly thin: As the author explains in his introduction, what little information we have must be cobbled together from ancient Greek and Roman writers with their own biased perspectives, and few of such writing survive. Spartacus himself left no writings.

That said, I thought Strauss did a first-rate job of combining historical accounts of the Spartacu
Myke Cole
The Spartacus War is a well written chronicle of the Third Servile War, the greatest slave revolt in Roman history. I assume that the publisher forced the awful title on the grounds that everyone has heard of Spartacus, and no casual reader knows what the hell a Servile War is.

Strauss has a gift for cliff-hangar chapter endings, story beats and how to write narrative prose that is engaging in spurts. But only in spurts. Strauss also has a meandering style, going down rabbit holes that distract f
Linnea Tanner
Jul 22, 2016 Linnea Tanner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ancient Historical Readers
After seeing the 1960's version of Spartacus and the recent TV series on Starz, I found the historical book by Barry Strauss even more fascinating than what was presented in these entertainment venues. Although some of the actual historical accounts on which the book were based is somewhat limited, Strauss writes a gripping overview summarizing the events, culture, and potential scenarios and mindsets of the major characters. Of particular interest was the impact of a Thracian woman, a prophetes ...more
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Barry Strauss is the chair of the history department, and a professor of classics, at Cornell University.
More about Barry S. Strauss...

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