Unshaven and hard as nails, this multi-ethnic rabble starts out half-naked and dis- organized, but soon morphs into a supreme fighting force.
Born in Thrace (modern Eastern Europe) around 109 B.C., little is known about the early life of Spartacus, who would rise to lead a slave revolt that rocked the Roman Republic to its core.
Sources say that while serving as an auxiliary in the Roman army, he deserted, was captured, then enslaved. Because of his enormous physical strength, he was chosen to become a gladiator, and moved to an elite training camp in Capua, Italy. Conditions for gladiators were never good, but Capua was particularly brutal. Those who survived the arena were harassed and abused by the guards. Spartacus conspired with 70 of his fellow gladiators – including Crixus of Gaul – to escape.
At first, the Republic treated the escape as a smaller police matter. The Roman consul, Gaius Claudius Galber, hastily dispatched a force to deal with them, trapping them on Mount Vesuvius. But the Romans were overconfident, unaware of Spartacus’ tactical genius. By descending Vesuvius on rope vines, the rebels managed to ambush and destroy the Roman camp.