We’ve probably all heard of the legend of Spartacus, the courageous slave who stood up to the might of the Roman Empire and paid for his rebellion with his life. Schiavone’s book takes on that legend and instead presents us with the facts as they are known.
The meticulously researched facts are as utterly compelling as the legend. Ingenious escapes, treacherous pirates and a female priestess companion are among the highlights. The book also provides a fascinating insight into the Roman view of those who opposed their Empire. As Schiavone points out, “everything we know about Spartacus comes to us from what was remembered of him by his mortal foes”.
The book is divided into the three phases of Spartacus’s known life: The Fugitive, The Commander and The Loser. This device, reminiscent of a three-act play, works very well. The two (differing) accounts of Spartacus’ death are very moving as is the aftermath of the failed rebellion.
This book is beautifully produced, and Jeremy Carden’s translation should be commended for English that is descriptive and evocative, and yet still manages to evoke the flow and richness of Italian. It is a little gem of non-fiction that will serve academics as well as those with a love of accessible Roman history. Highly recommended.