|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
THE GLADIATORS' REVOLT
 SIX years after the death of Sulla, while Pompey was in
Spain, putting down an insurrection, the gladiators
The gladiators were first heard of in 264 B.C., when
their shows were given only at funerals. Usually they
were criminals or prisoners of war, who, in any case,
were condemned to death. To give them arms and make
them fight until one or other was killed in the arena
of some great building, for the amusement of a crowd of
spectators, was cruel, but not so cruel as what was
done in later years.
For the shows of the gladiators came to please the
people so well that they forsook for them theatres and
other places of amusement. And then rich citizens who
wished to win the favour of the people began to keep
bands of gladiators and train them as in a school.
Each citizen who kept one of these schools vied with
one another to find the most powerful and muscular
barbarians, for the stronger and better trained the
gladiator the more exciting and pleasing to the people
was the show. So the unfortunate men who were forced
now to slaughter one another for the amusement of the
people were no longer criminals already condemned to
In one of these large schools at Capua there was a
great number of Gauls and Thracians. Two hundred of
these men resolved to escape, but their plot was
discovered, and only about eighty succeeded in getting
away. They first
 rushed into a cookshop and frightened the owner, until
he let them take his knives as weapons, so only that
they would depart. Then, seizing a wagon-load of arms,
they made Spartacus, a Thracian, their leader, and
encamped on a spur of Mount Vesuvius.
Other gladiators and slaves soon joined the camp, and
Rome, in fear of what these trained barbarians might
do, sent out two armies against them.
But Spartacus was a skilful general, and the Romans
were defeated, while the army of the gladiators still
increased each day.
Again the Romans sent troops against these rebels, and
one of their leaders was slain. But Spartacus speedily
avenged his comrade's death, defeating the Roman army,
and forcing three hundred prisoners to fight as
gladiators at the funeral of the barbarian whom they
had slain. This is the one cruel deed of which we are
told Spartacus was guilty.
After this the rebels moved across Italy unmolested.
Spartacus wished to cross the Alps and go back to his
native land, but his followers for the most part wished
to stay in Italy to fight and plunder.
During the winter of 72 B.C. Spartacus led his troops
near to the town of Thurii. Here his followers busied
themselves forging weapons for the great adventures
they meant to achieve in spring.
But before spring came, Crassus, the richest man in
Rome, determined to subdue the rebels. He himself
trained and disciplined the soldiers Spartacus had
beaten, until they were fit to face the foe.
The rebels were now driven to the Bruttian peninsula,
in the extreme south of Italy, and here Spartacus shut
himself up with his followers in the town of Rhegium.
Yet he managed to send messengers to the pirates, who
at that time roamed the seas, and often sailed along
the coast of Italy. With heavy bribes he tried to
persuade them to take his army in their vessels to
 The pirates accepted the money, but proved faithless,
and sailed away from the coast without taking the
gladiators on board.
Crassus thought that Spartacus could not now escape.
He dug trenches and built fortifications across the
narrow neck of land that shut off the Bruttian
peninsula from the rest of Italy. But in spite of all
that Crassus could do, the rebel leader, with a third
part of his army, succeeded in crossing the trenches
and climbing the fortifications, and so escaping from
the trap in which the Roman had hoped to capture him.
Then Crassus, finding that his prey had escaped, had a
moment of panic, lest the gladiators should march on
Rome, and he asked the Senate to recall Pompey from
Spain, that he might be ready to help should his fears
Soon after this, however, Crassus won a great victory
over the rebels, killing, it is said, twelve thousand.
Out of this great number only two had wounds in their
Spartacus was still undaunted. He had withdrawn to the
mountains, but dashed down unexpectedly upon the Roman
forces, and in his turn defeated them.
His followers were so proud of this victory that they
longed to face the foe again, and bade their captain
lead them once more to battle.
Spartacus believed it would be wiser to keep to the
hills and woods, yet he yielded to the wishes of his
followers. But as he advanced towards Crassus at the
head of his troops, he found that another army, under
Lucullus, had cut him off from the sea.
Victory or death was now before the rebels. Spartacus
killed his horse as a sign that he would scorn to fly.
Then, leading a desperate charge, he attempted to cut
his way through the Roman soldiers. But his followers
proved less brave than was their wont, and deserted
him. In this desperate plight he was struck by a
 Even then his courage did not fail. Though the pain of
his wound forced him to his knees, he still went on
fighting, until at length he fell and was covered by
Thousands of his followers fled to the mountains. But
Pompey, who was on his way home from Spain, followed
the fugitives, and killed them in great numbers. He
boasted indeed, that although Crassus had beaten the
gladiators in battle, it was he who had brought the
rebellion to an end.
Six thousand slaves were captured and put to a cruel
death, being crucified along the Appian Way.
Spartacus, the barbarian, had been more merciful than
the Romans showed themselves to be. For in his camp
were thousands of prisoners, none of whom had been
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