Spartacus: Behind the Myth

Investigative history reveals the truth about how one man led a band of slaves to the brink of toppling Rome.


In the year 73 BC, Spartacus, a slave, escaped from a Gladiator training school in Capua with some 70 others, armed only with cooks’ knives and spits stolen from the school’s kitchen. Within months he had forged this small fugitive band into an army tens of thousands strong. He launched an 18-month guerrilla war against Rome, travelling the length of Italy twice and claiming nine major victories.

This slave army would become one of the greatest internal threats the Roman empire ever faced. It would take ten crack legions – paid for and commanded by Crassus, Rome’s richest man - to finally defeat Spartacus, and all this military might could still not halt the birth of a legend.

This documentary special penetrates beyond the Spartacus of 2,000 years of myth-making. Culminating in Kirk Douglas’ feature film, the freedom fighter myth bears little relation to the knowable facts. But even the ancient accounts lack detail and contradict each other. This film seeks to piece together a coherent account of what happened and why – revealing a story far more intriguing than the myth.

The film reveals answers to key questions: how did an ill-equipped, un-trained insurgent force manage to keep frustrating the superpower of its day? Why didn’t Spartacus seize the chance to march on Rome? And who was he – who was the real man?


1 x 50 mins


Ancient Worlds, Special


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