The book “Spartacus. Gladiator” by Ben Kane is a historical novel about the leader of the slave uprising (73-71 BCE) – Spartacus, who for two years stood up to the power of the Roman Republic and won clashes with the Roman legions.
The very topic of the plot is interesting because we do not know too many details about the life of Spartacus. Mentions about the beginning of his life have been preserved in Plutarch or Florus. We know that he was probably of Thracian origin and was recruited to the auxiliary troops of the Romans. Over time, he was captured and sold to one of the gladiator schools in Capua. This small amount of facts is a great field for fantasizing for the author of the novel.
Ben Kane is known in many countries around the world. His books – taking place in ancient times – are known for their fast-paced plot, interesting characters and attempts to stick to historical realities. Of course, all inaccuracies and “embellishments” are presented at the end of the song. This position is no different. The author sticks to the facts whenever he can. Any lack of information in the sources is supplemented by interesting characters and events. We meet his chosen one – the priestess of Dionysus Ariadne (by the way, Spartacus was supposed to have a real wife); the young rebellious Roman Carbo, who hates Crassus; Crixus, Oenomaus, Castus or Gannicus, who are group leaders in the gladiator school and join Spartacus.
The author, in my opinion, very interestingly showed the past, the arrival of Spartacus to the ludus and the struggle to build a position in the school. The hero gradually builds up his group and is one of the most important characters. It is also on his initiative that the idea of escaping from school comes out. To this end, he conducts talks and incites other groups – Gauls, Thracians, Germans. Certainly, the fight with the guards was hard, because only 70 gladiators survived and escaped. Subsequent clashes between Spartacus and other refugees were described, including the famous surprise of the Roman army at Vesuvius, when 70 gladiators descended on ropes from vines along the cliff at night and attacked the Roman camp. The surprised soldiers fled, despite the huge advantage – 3000 men.
What draws the atmosphere of the book from the beginning is the general rivalry among the insurgents, divisions and brutality towards civilians. As Spartacus himself states – especially the last aspect – this is an inevitable element of war and if he did not allow runaway slaves to plunder, rape and murder, he would not listen and the uprising would collapse. However, Spartacus’ goal is not to stay in Italy, but rather to leave the Apennine Peninsula through the Alps and return the enslaved people to their homes. What’s more, the author creates here the motif of Spartacus’ personal revenge on the leader of the Thracian tribe who enslaved him, his wife and the people.
I must admit that the position is very interesting and addictive – despite the fact that we know what will be the end of the uprising and the hero. The author tries to show the emotions, divisions and motivations of the heroes who challenged the mighty Empire in the most vivid and reasonable way. Slavery is unacceptable to Spartacus and others. Instead, they prefer fighting and knowing that they are dependent on each other.
As I mentioned, the author at the end of the work placed his corrections, which people who are not in the subject can easily circle what was fiction and what was true – confirmed by sources. What’s more, we get a dictionary with the Latin phrases used and the prologue of the next part of the book. In my opinion, it is definitely worth reaching for this position.