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The Spartacus War

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  683 ratings  ·  80 reviews
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 gladia ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Simon & Schuster (first published March 12th 2009)
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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
Bill  Kerwin

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.
"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
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
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
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
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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
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
Sean O'Hara
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
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
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
Naomi P
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
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
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
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
Greg Boswell
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
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
Joe Adelizzi
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
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
An entertaining history of the greatest slave rebellion in human history, as we follow Spartacus as he escapes from his gladiator camp and then builds an army of 60,000 to annoy Rome. Strauss is very honest about the lack of information about the rebellion, but it can be frustrating for a reader as there are so many question left unanswered.

Details: Strauss explored Italy and visited the places where Spartacus went. Rome was busy fighting wars in the East (vs. Mithradites) and in the West (vs. S
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
James Jeb
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
Overall, this book provided detailed insight to a topic I have always wanted to study. It started out a bit slow when it introduced us to the main gladiators that led the rebellion and background on the origins of the gladiator, but once all of the background information was given the story became a lot more exciting. I really enjoyed reading about how Rome treated the revolt, as it helped me understand how the Roman government changed over time and became a lot more arrogant in it's battles aga ...more
Who is Spartacus? How much do we really know and what is mere speculation? [return][return]Barry Strauss does a great job weaving personal accounts, questionable historical documentation, hearsay and theories into a riveting read. He introduces the reader to the life of Spartacus, as it may have been- how he ended up a gladiator and how the revolt played out. Unfortunately, when researching an event that happened over 2,000 years ago, historians do not always have a lot to go on and what documen ...more
Dustin Gaughran
I did like this book. I read it after a recommendation from a friend, and I honestly don't regret it. I got really into the 'Spartacus' story after watching 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand'. This just went along with the wave of interest. I only gave it three stars because, after having read it, I realize there was only so much one could do with the narrative. Much of his (Spartacus) existence is speculative at best. So few records exist of what actually happened that you're left with a well written, ...more
Troy Rodgers
For those who want the in-depth story, this is probably as good as it gets as details on Spartacus aren't exactly forthcoming from the jaws of history. On the whole, this telling is rather insightful, all things considered, and the narrative is extremely engaging for even those not familiar with the topic.

On the audio version, I would say the narrator is really good for this, except there are certain pronounciation issues I have. Most notably, the word "Celtic" is a frequent offender. Rather tha
Clayton Tune
Excellent account of events with such little evidence. I dont mean the author didnt cite evidence, I mean that with Spartacus... there's just not much evidence. He did very well with what he had. Great narrative. Highly recommended for someone who's watched the show and wanted to know more about the guy.
Rufus Publius

The Spartacus War is a biography about Spartacus, everyone in his life such as his parents and friends, and the war that he had created. In the start of his story Spartacus is a slave that gets sent off to fight as a gladiator in the arena. He eventually became free and, being the great fighter he is, starts a slave revolution. In the revolution he is determined to free the slaves of Rome. Spartacus also had a companion though her name is unknown she happens to be very courageous and brave she w
Mike Klein
Take a history professor who really both has a ton of integrity and really knows his stuff and you end up with a somewhat frustrating book. Here's the problem: There is so little actual verified knowledge about Spartacus that anybody attempting to write his story is forced into one of two paths: "Make it up" or be "honest about all the conjecture and options".

Ultimately if the author had written a fictional story based upon the most likely scenarios, this would have been quite enjoyable. Instead
If you are looking to find out the history of markets and surroundings of a possible roman existence, great read it. Not entertaining
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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...
The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization The Trojan War: A New History Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership Rowing Against the Current: On Learning to Scull at Forty The Anatomy of Error: Ancient Military Disasters and Their Lessons for Modern Strategists

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