One of the largest slave uprisings in the Roman state were those that took place in Sicily.
Background of events
At the end of the 2nd century BCE, the situation began to aggravate in Roman society. Slaves the agricultural, especially the shepherds, were the worst-treated category of the stratum. They did not receive any supplies from the owner, and as a result, their herds supplied them with meat and clothing. Such a situation existed not only in Italy but also in other provinces where the slave trade was clearly developed (Hellenistic East or Sicily). Living in primitive conditions, they began to organize into small armed groups attacking nearby settlements.
First Sicilian uprising (138 – 132 BCE)
During Roman rule, slaves were deprived of all rights. The first occurrences of slaves took place at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE. However, it was only Eunus from Syria who, trying to put an end to it, gathered around him a large group of slaves from Sicily.
The slave revolt in Damiflos’ estate became the pretext for the uprising. The slaves murdered the master and his wife and burned their house. The uprising broke out in 138 BCE. in the town of Enna (Henna) and it quickly spread throughout the island. Under the leadership of Eunus, who was the king of Antiochus, and Cleon, an army of slaves defeated the armies of several praetors in 138-135 BCE, and then in 134 BCE and 133 BCE troops of the next two consuls.
The slaves’ successes caused their army to grow to 200,000 people, mainly Syrians. In 132 BCE the uprising collapsed after the Romans seized the cities of Tauromenium and Enna, led by the consul Publius Repilus. About 20,000 captured slaves were either crucified or thrown from the rocks. The leader of the uprising himself was thrown into prison, where he died.
Second Sicilian uprising (103-100 BCE)
At the end of the 2nd century BCE, there was a second wave of slave uprisings in the Roman state. The slaves were favoured by the weakening of the empire caused by the invasions of the Germanic tribes of the Cimbri and Teutons. In 104 BCE a slave uprising broke out in Campania near Capua, which was quickly put down. However, at the same time, a much more dangerous uprising in Sicily began, known in history as the second Sicilian uprising in 103 BCE.
Its cause is believed to be the kidnapping of many inhabitants of Bithynia allied with Rome and selling them into slavery. Nicomedes – the Bithynian king refused to provide the Romans with military aid during the invasion of the Cimbrians and Teutons, claiming that most of his subjects had become Roman slaves. Roman Senate has issued a decree restoring freedom to the subjects of allied states who have been illegally deprived of their liberty. When the governor of Sicily began to fulfil the senate’s decisions, he met with resistance from the landowners. In this situation, the slaves took up arms.
Under the leadership of Salvius, who took the name of Tryphon and made himself king, and together with Athenion, the uprising spread throughout Sicily.
The insurgents adopted Hellenistic and Roman symbols of power. After the slaves’ initial successes, the Romans, led by consul Manius Aquilius, finally succeeded in 100 BCE to crush the uprising.
Events in the second half of the 2nd century BCE taught the Romans, especially the senatorial aristocracy, nothing. Further, the widening of slave estates continued, and slaves were treated as things. This led to another uprising in 73 BCE, named the Rise of Spartacus.