Tải bản đầy đủ (.pdf) (100 trang)

Osprey campaign 206 spartacus and the slave war 73 71 BC a gladiator rebels against rome

Bạn đang xem bản rút gọn của tài liệu. Xem và tải ngay bản đầy đủ của tài liệu tại đây (38.65 MB, 100 trang )

SPARTACUS AND THE

SLAVE WAR 73-71 BC

A gladiator rebels against Rome


ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR
started his career as a biochemist before joining the Royal
Marines. Having left the military, he went back to university and completed a
BA and PhD in Ancient History at the University of Newcastle. He was Assistant
Director at the British School at Athens, Greece, and then a lecturer in Ancient
History at the University of Edinburgh. Nic is now a freelance author and
researcher based in south-west France.

D R N I C FIELDS

was born in Kent, UK, and attended art college in Cornwall.
He has had a life-long passion for illustration, and since 1985 has worked
as a professional artist. Steve has provided award-winning illustrations for
renowned publishers Dorling Kindersley, where his interest in historical
illustration began.
STEVE N O O N


CAMPAIGN • 206

SPARTACUS AND THE
SLAVE WAR 73-71 BC
A gladiator rebels against Rome



First published in 2009 by Osprey Publishing
Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxford 0X2 OPH, UK
443 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016, USA
E-mail: info@ospreypublishing.com
© 2009 Osprey Publishing Limited
All rights reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private
study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act, 1988, no part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic, electrical, chemical, mechanical, optical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission
of the copyright owner. Enquiries should be addressed to the Publishers.

ARTIST'S N O T E
Readers may care to note that the original paintings from which the
colour plates in this book were prepared are available for private sale.
The Publishers retain all reproduction copyright whatsoever.
All enquiries should be addressed to:
Steve Noon, 50 Colchester Avenue, Penylan, Cardiff CF23 9BP, UK
The Publishers regret that they can enter into no correspondence upon
this matter.

THE WOODLAND TRUST
Osprey Publishing are supporting the Woodland Trust, the UK's leading
woodland conservation charity, by funding the dedication of trees.

ISBN: 978 1 84603 353 7
e-book ISBN: 978 1 84908 081 1
Editorial by Ilios Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK (www.iliospublishing.com)

Design: The Black Spot
Index by Fineline Editorial Services
Originated by PPS Grasmere Ltd
Cartography: Bounford.com
Bird's-eye view artworks: The Black Spot
09 10 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

FOR A CATALOGUE OF ALL BOOKS PUBLISHED BY OSPREY MILITARY
AND AVIATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Osprey Direct, c/o Random House Distribution Center,
400 Hahn Road, Westminster, MD 21157
Email: uscustomerservice@ospreypublishing.com
Osprey Direct, The Book Service Ltd, Distribution Centre,
Colchester Road, Frating Green, Colchester, Essex, C07 7DW
E-mail: customerservice@ospreypublishing.com
www.ospreypublishing.com


CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION

The origins of the revolt . The First Slave War (135-132 BC) . The Second Slave War (104-100 BC)

5

CHRONOLOGY OF MAJOR EVENTS 146-60 B C

11


ROMAN SOCIAL ORDER

14

The slave system . Piracy and the slave trade - Gladiators - men of the sword . Oscan speakers

OPPOSING COMMANDERS

27

OPPOSING ARMIES

34

OPPOSING PLANS

47

THE CAMPAIGN

52

Spartacus the Thracian . Marcus Licinius Crassus

The slave army . The Roman army

The Spartacan plan . The Roman plan

Defeat of the praetorian armies, 73 BC - Defeat of the consular armies, 72 BC
The war with Crassus, 71 BC - The trap closes: River Silarus, 71 BC


AFTERMATH

79

THE LEGACY OF SPARTACUS

83

A GUIDE TO PRIMARY SOURCES

88

Crucifixion . The return to order

Appian (b. AD 95) . Plutarch (c. AD 46-120) . Sallust (86-c. 35 BC)
BIBLIOGRAPHY

93

GLOSSARY A N D ABBREVIATIONS

94

INDEX

95




INTRODUCTION
T h e year 7 3 BC, the 6 7 9 t h f r o m the f o u n d i n g o f R o m e , w i t n e s s e d the o u t b r e a k
of a serious u p h e a v a l in Italy itself, a slave-society's w o r s t n i g h t m a r e c o m e true.

Rocca di Cerere (left) and
Castello di Lombardia (right),
looking south-east outside the
Eurospin supermarket, Enna.
Cicero describes Enna as a
town 'built on a lofty eminence,
the top of which is a table-land,
watered by perennial springs,
and bound in every direction
by precipitous cliffs' {Verrines
2.4.107). Besieged by Roman
forces, Enna remained
impregnable and only fell
through betrayal from within.
(Fields-Carre Collection)

T h i s w a s the g r e a t s l a v e u p r i s i n g led b y a c h a r i s m a t i c g l a d i a t o r n a m e d
S p a r t a c u s . F o r the m o d e r n r e a d e r his n a m e is s y n o n y m o u s w i t h justified
rebellion, the u n d e r d o g d a r i n g t o fight b a c k . N o t o n l y w a s he the p o s s e s s o r in
T o m Wolfe's p h r a s e of 'the right s t u f f for a H o l l y w o o d e p i c , S p a r t a c u s a l s o
b e c a m e a n i m p o r t a n t l e i t m o t i f t o typify the m o d e r n w a g e - s l a v e w h o r e b e l s
a g a i n s t e c o n o m i c e x p l o i t a t i o n a n d s o c i a l inequality. M o s t n o t e w o r t h y in this
respect is the r a d i c a l g r o u p o f G e r m a n Socialists f o u n d e d in M a r c h 1 9 1 6 by
R o s a L u x e m b u r g a n d K a r l L i e b k n e c h t , the Spartakusbund
(Spartacus League),
w h o l i n k e d the S p a r t a c u s l e g e n d t o p r o t e s t s a g a i n s t the G r e a t W a r a n d the

c u r r e n t e c o n o m i c order. Similarly, in m o r e r e c e n t t i m e s , the b a l a c l a v a - c l a d
Subcomandante
M a r c o s , w h o d e s c r i b e d h i m s e l f a s the i n t e r n a t i o n a l
s p o k e s p e r s o n for the i n d i g e n o u s rebel m o v e m e n t in C h i a p a s , s o u t h e r n M e x i c o ,
has used Spartacus, alongside Ernesto ' C h e ' G u e v a r a , as a revolutionary icon
for the p o p u l a r s t r u g g l e a g a i n s t p o l i t i c a l , j u d i c i a l , s o c i a l a n d e c o n o m i c
i n e q u a l i t i e s , the f o u r h o r s e m e n o f a n e n t r e n c h e d s t a t u s q u o , w h a t e v e r t h a t
status q u o m a y be.


Enna, a general view westsouth-west from Rocca di
Cerere. At the time of the First
Slave War, the town was the
agricultural centre of one of the
richest grain-producing plains
of Sicily and also an important
cult centre of Demeter (Ceres),
the goddess of the earth,
agriculture and grain. Like the
Syrian Atargatis, Demeter was
a manifestation of the Great
Mother. (Fields-Carre
Collection)

6

E x a m p l e s c o u l d b e m u l t i p l i e d o f S p a r t a c u s a s s u m i n g a different s h a p e
a c c o r d i n g t o the v i e w p o i n t o f the o b s e r v e r : a s i n d i v i d u a l h e r o , a s leader of a
s i g n i f i c a n t s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l r e b e l l i o n , a s p o t e n t i a l d e s t r o y e r o f R o m e a n d , of
c o u r s e , a s i n s p i r a t i o n for future c l a s s s t r u g g l e . A s it h a p p e n s , w e all h a v e o u r

o w n p a r t i c u l a r v i s i o n o f S p a r t a c u s , b e it f r o m the p e r s p e c t i v e o f p o l i t i c a l
c o m m i t m e n t o r a n t i q u a r i a n interest. A c c o r d i n g t o P l u t a r c h , himself a G r e e k
a n d one of our three m a i n sources, S p a r t a c u s w a s 'much m o r e than one
w o u l d e x p e c t f r o m his c o n d i t i o n , m o s t intelligent a n d c u l t u r e d , b e i n g m o r e
like a G r e e k t h a n a T h r a c i a n ' (Crassus
8.2). T h e c o m m e n t implies that to a
G r e e k intellect l i v i n g u n d e r t h e s u p e r p o w e r o f R o m e , S p a r t a c u s c o u l d be
c o n s i d e r e d t o h a v e o v e r c o m e the n a t u r a l inferiority p r o d u c e d by the t w i n
h a n d i c a p s o f f o r e i g n n e s s a n d servile s t a t u s b y sheer f o r c e o f p e r s o n a l i t y .
T h e historical S p a r t a c u s w a s r o u g h a n d heroic, a big, brave and greath e a r t e d m a n , a n d his r e p o r t e d a c t i o n s b e a r o u t his ability t o l e a d others a n d
his ingenuity in battle. B u t like s u c h a h e r o , v i e w s o n his s h o r t career a s a slave
g e n e r a l o s c i l l a t e b e t w e e n the i m p r o b a b i l i t i e s o f fiction t o the p r o b a b i l i t i e s
o f f a c t . ' S p a r t a c u s ' , a s M a r x f a m o u s l y w r o t e in a letter t o E n g e l s d a t e d
2 7 F e b r u a r y 1 8 6 1 , ' a p p e a r s t o b e the m o s t c a p i t a l fellow t h a t all of ancient
h i s t o r y c a n s h o w for i t s e l f ( Correspondence 1846-95,
1 9 3 4 , p. 126). For
m a n y , this will p e r h a p s s e e m like a n e x t r e m e view. T h e r e v o l u t i o n a r y rebel
Guerrillero'
C h e G u e v a r a w a s a l s o a s t r o n g a d m i r e r of S p a r t a c u s . T h e ' H e r o i c
r e m a i n s a w e l l - k n o w n f i g u r e , w h e t h e r a d o r e d or reviled, t o millions a r o u n d
the m o d e r n w o r l d . A s a real m a n , n o t a u n i v e r s a l i c o n , he killed for a c a u s e ,
o r d e r e d p e o p l e t o kill for t h a t c a u s e , a d v o c a t e d w a r t o the d e a t h a g a i n s t
i m p e r i a l i s m , a n d m a d e the u l t i m a t e sacrifice for his beliefs. D e a d m e n m a y
tell n o t a l e s , b u t they c a n m a k e a l e g e n d . In the ancient w o r l d S p a r t a c u s w a s
a real s l a v e w h o r e b e l l e d , b u t w h o u l t i m a t e l y did n o t w i n . Yet for all this, his
c o n t i n u e d a p p e a r a n c e o n the battlefield s o a l a r m e d R o m e t h a t it m o b i l i z e d a


punitive force e q u a l t o t h a t w i t h w h i c h C a e s a r w a s later t o c o n q u e r G a u l t o
hunt h i m d o w n a n d kill h i m .


THE ORIGINS OF THE REVOLT
T h e r e b e l l i o n o f s l a v e s in I t a l y u n d e r S p a r t a c u s m a y h a v e b e e n the b e s t
o r g a n i z e d , b u t it w a s n o t the first o f its k i n d . T h e r e h a d b e e n o t h e r r e b e l l i o n s
of s l a v e s t h a t afflicted R o m e , a n d w e m a y a s s u m e t h a t S p a r t a c u s w a s w i s e
e n o u g h t o p r o f i t by their m i s t a k e s . All the s a m e , t h o u g h his r e b e l l i o n is easily
the m o s t f a m o u s , it is i m p o r t a n t for u s t o u n d e r s t a n d t h a t s t e a l i n g , p e t t y
s a b o t a g e , or s i m p l y r u n n i n g a w a y , w e r e the m o r e u s u a l m o d e s o f r e s i s t a n c e
e m p l o y e d by s l a v e s . F u l l - b l o w n w a r s w e r e highly u n u s u a l .

Temple of Demeter (Tempio
di Cerere), looking north-east
from Torre Pisana, Castello
di Lombardia. It was here that
Eunus and his followers from
the eastern Mediterranean
worshipped the Great Mother
in her local form as Demeter.
Also it was from here, according
to Cicero (Verrines 2.4.112), that
Verres, the infamous Roman
governor of Sicily, dared to
take away her cult statue.
(Fields-Carre Collection)

N e i g h b o u r i n g Sicily, a l a n d o f v a r i o u s p e o p l e s , b u t chiefly G r e e k s , h a d
b e c o m e R o m e ' s first o v e r s e a s p r o v i n c e in the w a k e o f the first l o n g s t r u g g l e
a g a i n s t C a r t h a g e (First P u n i c War, 2 6 4 - 2 4 1 BC). B u t the s u b s e q u e n t r e v i v a l
of C a r t h a g e t h a t led t o the s e c o n d s t r u g g l e a g a i n s t R o m e ( S e c o n d P u n i c War,
2 1 8 - 2 0 1 BC) b r o u g h t a l o g i c a l C a r t h a g i n i a n a m b i t i o n t o r e c o v e r its f o r m e r

interests in Sicily a n d R o m e in effect w a s f o r c e d t o c o n q u e r the i s l a n d a n e w .
It w a s Sicily's e n o r m o u s a g r i c u l t u r a l p r o s p e r i t y , e a r n i n g it by C i c e r o ' s d a y the
n i c k n a m e ' R o m e ' s g r a n a r y ' (Verrines 2 . 2 . 5 ) , t h a t w a s t o p r o v e the p r o v i n c e ' s
greatest material asset to plundering R o m e .
Slavery of c o u r s e w a s n o t n e w to Sicily, b u t after the R o m a n r e c o n q u e s t the
scale of slave o w n i n g o n the i s l a n d h a d i n c r e a s e d d r a m a t i c a l l y , a p h e n o m e n o n
D i o d o r o s , a Sicilian himself, m a k e s clear in his r e m a r k s ( 3 5 . 2 . 1 - 2 , 2 7 , 3 4 ) o n
the c o n d i t i o n of the p r o v i n c e just p r i o r t o the first g r e a t s l a v e rebellion - the
First Slave War.

7


LEFT
Bronze statue of Eunus,
Castello di Lombardia Scuola Regionale d'Arte
Enna (1960). Eunus, the
principal figure of the First
Slave War, was a domestic
slave who belonged to a
certain Antigenes of Enna.
The rebel slaves of Enna
declared Eunus their king,
who then took a diadem
and regal dress, called his
female companion queen,
and conferred on himself
the Seleucid dynastic name
of Antiochos.
(Fields-Carre Collection)

RIGHT
Via Roma 528, the site of
Cicero's residence in Enna.
This commemorative
plaque makes mention
of his prosecution of Verres,
the former governor of Sicily.
It is significant that early in
his life Cicero had discovered
the profound difference
between justice and morality.
Justice was the tool of the
strong, morality the illusion
of the weak. Thus, for him,
slavery was just.
(Fields-Carre Collection)

MARCO TULLIO CICERONE
D I F E N S O R E DI ENNA E D E L I . A SICILIA
C 0 N T R 0 IL DEPREDATORE DI T E M P I !
CA10 I J C I N I O V E R R E
C 0 V E R N A T O R E ROMANO D E L L ' I S O L A

OUESTO R1C0RD0

THE FIRST SLAVE WAR (135-132 B C )
D i o d o r o s w r i t e s ( 3 5 . 2 . 4 , 1 0 ) t h a t t h e s l a v e s , w h o h a d their o r i g i n s in the
e a s t e r n M e d i t e r r a n e a n , m o t i v a t e d b y their m i s e r a b l e living c o n d i t i o n s a n d
the b r u t a l i t y w i t h w h i c h there w e r e t r e a t e d , h a d d i s c u s s e d rebellion before the
v i o l e n c e a c t u a l l y e r u p t e d . C o n v e n i e n t l y w e c a n d i v i d e it i n t o t w o t h e a t r e s of

o p e r a t i o n , w e s t e r n a n d e a s t e r n , w h i c h reflect the b a s i c g e o g r a p h i c a l d i v i s i o n
o f the i s l a n d . O n e R o m a n q u a e s t o r w a s in c h a r g e of the w e s t e r n p a r t of the
island, stationed at L i l y b a e u m , a n d another w a s stationed at Syracuse, on
the e a s t c o a s t . S l a v e h e r d s m e n d o m i n a t e d the w e s t e r n r e g i o n a n d a g r i c u l t u r a l
s l a v e s d o m i n a t e d the g r a i n - p r o d u c i n g p l a i n s o f the e a s t .
T h e s l a v e s in the t w o h a l v e s of the i s l a n d a p p e a r t o h a v e risen u p separately
- t h o s e in the e a s t u n d e r a s l a v e n a m e d E u n u s , by birth a S y r i a n f r o m A p a m e a ,
a n d t h o s e in the w e s t u n d e r a h e r d e r of h o r s e s n a m e d K l e o n , a Cilician f r o m
the T a u r u s M o u n t a i n s . E u n u s ' w a s a m a g i c i a n a n d w o n d e r w o r k e r ' with a deep
d e v o t i o n t o the S y r i a n m o t h e r g o d d e s s A t a r g a t i s ( A s t a r t e ) , while K l e o n ' h a d
b e e n a c c u s t o m e d t o a life o f b a n d i t r y f r o m the t i m e he w a s a s m a l l c h i l d '
( D i o d o r o s 3 5 . 2 . 5 , 3 . 2 ) . It w a s h o p e d by the a u t h o r i t i e s t h a t the t w o g r o u p s of
rebels w o u l d c o m e into conflict a n d tear e a c h other t o p i e c e s .
C o n t r a r y t o e x p e c t a t i o n s , however, the rebellion g a t h e r e d m o m e n t u m w h e n
K l e o n a c k n o w l e d g e d the s u p e r i o r a u t h o r i t y o f E u n u s , a c t i n g a s g e n e r a l t o
his k i n g , a n d their f o l l o w e r s c o m b i n e d t o f o r m a single c o h e r e n t f o r c e . T h e
r a p i d e s c a l a t i o n o f their s t r e n g t h s e e m s t o h a v e b e e n a b e t t e d by the s l a v e
o w n e r s t h e m s e l v e s , w h o h a d e n c o u r a g e d violent b e h a v i o u r by a l l o w i n g their
s l a v e h e r d s m e n t o feed a n d c l o t h e t h e m s e l v e s by s t e a l i n g w h a t they n e e d e d
f r o m o t h e r p e o p l e o n the i s l a n d . In a d d i t i o n , the r e s p o n s e of the l o c a l
a u t h o r i t i e s w a s l e t h a r g i c , a p p a r e n t l y b e c a u s e they g r e a t l y u n d e r e s t i m a t e d the
s l a v e s ' ability t o o r g a n i z e a large-scale military c a m p a i g n . M o r e o v e r , with m o r e

8


d e m a n d i n g o v e r s e a s c o m m i t m e n t s elsewhere, a
garrison army w a s not permanently stationed
o n the island.
In t e r m s o f m i l i t a r y o p e r a t i o n s t h e m o s t

i m p o r t a n t officials w e r e t w o c o n s u l s of R o m e ,
a n d , b e n e a t h t h e m , the s i x p r a e t o r s . T h e s e
chief m a g i s t r a t e s w e r e u s u a l l y p u t in c h a r g e o f
R o m a n armies that battled formidable foreign
enemies. Repressing rebellious slaves w a s
certainly c o n s i d e r e d b e n e a t h the d i g n i t y o f
these m e n a n d n o t w o r t h y o f the talents o f the
l e g i o n a r i e s they c o m m a n d e d . S u c h a s o r d i d
t a s k w a s n o r m a l l y left to the slave o w n e r s or t o
local m i l i t i a s , w h i c h w e r e often v e n a l , w e a k ,
a n d p r o v i s i o n a l . A s the p e r m a n e n t g o v e r n i n g
b o d y of R o m e , the S e n a t e did h a v e a l o n g - t e r m
perspective o n events, b u t it h a d t o be m o v e d
by the r e c o g n i t i o n o f a m a n i f e s t t h r e a t o f
m a j o r p r o p o r t i o n s for it t o direct the c o n s u l s or
the p r a e t o r s t o u s e R o m a n l e g i o n s t o d e a l w i t h
a slave rebellion.
R o m a n provincial governors, such as those
w h o a d m i n i s t e r e d Sicily, w e r e n o r m a l l y f o r m e r
p r a e t o r s w h o u s u a l l y h e l d their p r o v i n c i a l
c o m m a n d s for o n e - y e a r t e r m s . B e c a u s e they w e r e t e m p o r a r y a n d they w e r e
severely u n d e r s t a f f e d by m o d e r n s t a n d a r d s , these g o v e r n o r s w e r e d e p e n d e n t
o n the g r e a t a n d the g o o d t h a t r a n l o c a l t o w n s a n d cities t o help a d m i n i s t e r
their p r o v i n c e s . T h e s e local l a n d o w n i n g elites often g a v e their o w n interests
p r i o r i t y o v e r the rule o f l a w a n d o r d e r t h a t w a s s u p p o s e d t o b e e n f o r c e d
by the g o v e r n o r s . ' T h e R o m a n g o v e r n o r s o f Sicily', a s D i o d o r o s e x p l a i n s ,
'tried t o p r e v e n t the g r o w t h of these g a n g s , b u t they d i d n o t d a r e t o p u n i s h
t h e m b e c a u s e o f the p o w e r a n d influence o f the l a n d o w n e r s w h o w e r e the
b r i g a n d s ' slave m a s t e r s ' ( 3 5 . 2 . 2 ) .
G i v e n the f a i l u r e o f the l o c a l f o r c e s t o d e a l w i t h t h e s l a v e r e b e l l i o n in

Sicily, the S e n a t e finally d e c i d e d t o d i s p a t c h R o m a n a r m y u n i t s t o the i s l a n d ,
first u n d e r the p r a e t o r L u c i u s H y p s a e u s a n d t h e n u n d e r t w o s u c c e s s i v e
c o n s u l s , L u c i u s C a l p u r n i u s P i s o ( cos. 1 3 3 BC) a n d P u b l i u s R u p i l i u s P e r p e r n a
( c o s . 1 3 2 B C ) . A s a result, the w a r w a s finally b r o u g h t t o a n e n d .

During the First Slave War,
Kleon, having risen in rebellion
on the western, more pastoral,
side of Sicily, immediately
overran Agrigentum
(Agrigento), whose walls had
probably fallen into disrepair,
and the neighbouring region
with a force said by Diodoros
(35.2.17) to have numbered
5,000. Most of his followers
were slave herdsmen, pastores.
View of the south circuit of
the city, looking west from
the temple of Hera.
(Fields-Carre Collection)

THE SECOND SLAVE WAR (104-100 B C )
T o a c o n s i d e r a b l e extent, the s e c o n d g r e a t s l a v e rebellion, w h i c h a g a i n e r u p t e d
o n Sicily, w a s a l m o s t a c a r b o n c o p y of the first. O u t l a w r y o u t s i d e the cities a n d
t o w n s c o n t i n u e d l a r g e l y u n a l t e r e d , n o t l e a s t b e c a u s e o f the t r a d i t i o n a l
a s s o c i a t i o n of b r i g a n d a g e w i t h p a s t o r a l i s m . R e s i s t a n c e in the e a s t e r n p a r t o f
the i s l a n d w a s led by S a l v i u s , w h o h a d the gift o f p r o p h e c y , a n d in the w e s t
w a s o r g a n i z e d by A t h e n i o n , a C i l i c i a n f a m o u s for his bravery. A t h e n i o n w a s
n o t only the overseer of a l a r g e f a r m i n g o p e r a t i o n b u t , like S a l v i u s , he w a s

a l s o r e p u t e d t o p o s s e s s s u p e r n a t u r a l p o w e r s , i n c l u d i n g the a b i l i t y t o utter
p r o p h e c i e s b a s e d o n his a s t r o l o g i c a l skills ( D i o d o r o s 3 6 . 5 . 1 ) . H e w a s certainly
n o t the ideal bailiff, c a l l e d the vilicus, e n v i s i o n e d b y C a t o the Elder, w h o

9


Lilybaeum (Marsala) started
life as a Punic city, but at its
zenith it was a Roman naval
base and the seat of the
quaestor in charge of the
western part of Sicily.
Cicero would call it civitas
splendidissima. During the
Second Slave War, the rebels
under Athenion felt strong
enough to lay siege to
Lilybaeum. This is a view
of Marsala looking southwest from Isola di Mozia.
(Fields-Carre Collection)

r e c o m m e n d e d a m o n g his d u t i e s t h a t 'he s h o u l d h a v e n o d e s i r e t o c o n s u l t
d i v i n e r s , a u g u r s , fortune-tellers or a s t r o l o g e r s ' (On Agriculture
5 . 4 ) , a ruling
C o l u m e l l a later r e p e a t s in his a g r i c u l t u r a l t r e a t i s e , a d d i n g t h a t 'these types of
silly s u p e r s t i t i o n c a u s e u n s o p h i s t i c a t e d p e o p l e t o s p e n d m o n e y a n d result in
w r o n g d o i n g ' (On Agriculture
1 . 8 . 6 ) . O f c o u r s e b o t h he a n d Salvius h a d the
capacity, in v i e w of their ability t o c a s t spells over their f o l l o w e r s , t o e n c o u r a g e

the k i n d o f r e s i s t a n c e t o a u t h o r i t y all s l a v e o w n e r s f e a r e d .
B u t there w a s m o r e t o l e a d i n g a r e b e l l i o n t h a n the a l l u r e of m y s t i c i s m .
S a l v i u s , like E u n u s b e f o r e h i m , w a s d e c l a r e d k i n g by his f o l l o w e r s , a n d he
a s s u m e d the r o y a l n a m e o f T r y p h o n . Intriguingly, the o r i g i n a l T r y p h o n h a d
b e e n a b a r b a r o u s , f r e e - b o o t i n g e n t r e p r e n e u r of violence f r o m Cilicia, a p l a c e
w h i c h b e c a m e f a m o u s for its p i r a t e s , w h o u s u r p e d the S e l e u c i d t h r o n e
(r. 1 4 2 - 1 3 9 / 8 BC). M e a n w h i l e in the w e s t a n o t h e r slave k i n g w a s p r o c l a i m e d ,
A t h e n i o n a d o p t i n g all the e x t e r n a l t r a p p i n g s of m o n a r c h y , a p u r p l e r o b e , silver
s c e p t r e , a n d a r o y a l d i a d e m , a n d p r o c l a i m i n g t o his f o l l o w e r s t h a t the g o d s
i n t e n d e d h i m t o rule all Sicily ( D i o d o r o s 3 6 . 4 . 4 , 7 . 1 , F l o r u s Epitome 3 . 1 9 . 1 0 ) .
S o the slave k i n g s c o n s c i o u s l y i m i t a t e d the c o n v e n t i o n s of Hellenistic k i n g s h i p ,
the i n s t i t u t i o n t h a t h a d d o m i n a t e d the p o l i t i c a l m e n t a l i t y o f the e a s t e r n
M e d i t e r r a n e a n w o r l d since the e s t a b l i s h m e n t o f the A n t i g o n i d , Seleucid, a n d
P t o l e m a i c d y n a s t i e s . N o n e of this s h o u l d be c o n s i d e r e d u n u s u a l w h e n w e recall
the fact t h a t m a n y o f the rebels w e r e first-generation s l a v e s w h o s e p l a c e s of
birth w e r e in the e a s t e r n M e d i t e r r a n e a n .
D e s p i t e t h e l e s s o n s o f t h e first w a r , the r e s p o n s e by the S e n a t e w a s
s i m i l a r l y s l o w . Its i n a d e q u a t e r e a c t i o n , d u e in p a r t t o the n e e d for R o m a n
f o r c e s t o f a c e G e r m a n i c t r i b e s t h r e a t e n i n g n o r t h e r n Italy, a l l o w e d the slaves
t o a c q u i r e c o n s i d e r a b l e m o m e n t u m in the c r u c i a l early s t a g e s o f the rebellion
a n d then t o c o a l e s c e in n u m b e r s t h a t o v e r w h e l m e d the l o c a l f o r c e s trying to
s u b d u e t h e m . O n c e a g a i n , the t w o rebel l e a d e r s c a m e t o a n a g r e e m e n t a n d
j o i n e d f o r c e s , w i t h A t h e n i o n d e f e r r i n g t o S a l v i u s , a n d o n c e a g a i n , only the
i n t e r v e n t i o n o f the larger, b e t t e r - t r a i n e d a n d d i s c i p l i n e d c o n s u l a r f o r c e s of
the R o m a n a r m y finally b r o u g h t the w a r t o a n e n d .

10


CHRONOLOGY OF MAJOR

EVENTS 146-60 BC
146 BC

Romans destroy Carthage and Corinth.

138 B C

Birth of Lucius Cornelius Sulla.

135 BC

First Slave War begins - Lucius (?)
Cornelius Lentulus, governor in
Sicily, defeated.

121 B C

Caius Gracchus attempts to secure
further term - outlawed and suicide.

119 B C

Marius tribune of the people.

116 B C

Marius praetor.

C.


134 BC

133 B C

Caius Fulvius Flaccus, as consul,
sent against slaves. Uprising of
4,000 slaves crushed at Sinuessa,
Campania. Slave uprisings repressed
in Attic silver mines and on the island
of Delos.
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus
tribune of the people - land reform
and assassination. Lucius Calpurnius
Piso Frugi, as consul, sent against
slaves. Caius Marius serves under
Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus
at Numantia.

132 BC

Publius Rupilius Perperna, as consul,
winds up First Slave War.

129 B C

Marius military tribune.

125 BC

Abortive bill to enfranchise Latins

and Italians of Fulvius Flaccus.

123 B C

Caius Sempronius Gracchus tribune
of the people - socio-political reforms.
Marius quaestor.

115 B C

114 B C

Marius, as propraetor, governor
in Hispania Ulterior - suppresses
local bandits.

113 B C

Cnaeus Papirius Carbo, consul,
routed by Cimbri at Noreia.

111 B C

Lucius Calpurnius Bestia, as consul,
sent against Iugurtha of Numidia.

109 B C

Marius legate under his patron, consul
Quintus Caecilius Metellus, in Numidia.


107 B C

Marius consul - enlists capite censi
and returns to Numidia.

106 B C

122 BC

Caius Gracchus re-elected as tribune bill to enfranchise Latins and Italians.

Birth of Marcus Licinius Crassus.

Sulla serves Marius as quaestor in
Numidia - battle of the Muluccha.
Births of Cnaeus Pompeius (Pompey)
and Marcus Tullius Cicero.

105 B C

Iugurtha captured. Consular armies
routed and destroyed at Arausio.

104 B C

Marius' second consulship - army
'reforms'. Insurrection of Titus Vettius
Minucius, a Roman eques - leads an
army of 3,500 slaves. Second Slave

War begins.

11


103 B C

Marius' third consulship. Lucius

85 B C

Cinna's third consulship. Sulla completes
settlement of Asia. Sertorius praetor.

Licinius Lucullus, as propraetor, sent
against slaves.

84 B C
102 B C

101 B C

Marius' fourth consulship - Teutones
and Ambrones defeated at Aquae
Sextiae. Salvius (Tryphon) killed Athenion assumes leadership of
slave army.

Cinna's fourth consulship - lynched
during mutiny. Peace of Dardanus.


83 B C

Sulla lands in Italy. Pompey and
Crassus join Sulla.

82 B C

Battle of Porta Collina. Sulla dictator
- proscription lists.

81 BC

Sulla's second dictatorship.
Pompey sent against Marians
in Sicily and Africa. Sertorius
expelled as (pro-Marian) governor
f Hispania Ulterior.

80 B C

Sulla's second consulship. Pompey's
first triumph. Sertorius re-enters
Iberia - establishes a Marian
'government in exile'.

79 B C

Sulla retires.

78 B C


Marcus Aemilius Lepidus consul.
Publius Servilius Vatia, as proconsul,
begins war against Mediterranean
pirates. Death of Sulla.

77 BC

Insurrection and death of Lepidus.
Pompey, with propraetorian
command, sent against Sertorius.

Enfranchisement of Italy south of
the Po.

76 BC

Successes for Sertorius in Iberia.

Destruction of Asculum Picenum.

75 BC

Marius' fifth consulship - Cimbri
defeated at Vercellae. Manius
Aquilius, as consul, sent against slaves.

100 B C

Marius' sixth consulship. Birth of

Caius Iulius Caesar. Aquilius, as
proconsul, ends Second Slave War
- kills Athenion in duel.

99 B C

Marius in Asia.

98 B C

Mithridates VI Eupator of Pontus
invades Cappadocia.

97 BC

Quintus Sertorius military tribune
in Iberia.

96 B C

Sulla propraetor of Cilicia - installs
Ariobarzanes as king of Cappadocia.

91 BC

Social War begins. Mithridates invades
Cappadocia for second time.

90 B C


89 B C

Rome provokes Mithridates to war.

Sertorius-Mithridates pact. Caesar
captured by pirates.

88 B C

Sulla consul. Mithridates overruns
province of Asia. Social War ends.
Sulla marches on Rome - Marius
flees to Africa.

74 B C

Lucius Licinius Lucullus, as consul,
sent against Mithridates. Marcus
Antonius, a praetor, given wideranging powers to fight pirates.

87 B C

Lucius Cornelius Cinna consul.
Marius returns - Marians take Rome.

73 B C

Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus and
Caius Cassius Longinus consuls.


86 B C

Cinna's second consulship. Marius'
seventh consulship - dies soon after.
Sulla's victories at Chaironeia and
Orchomenos. Birth of Caius Sallustius
Crispus (Sallust).

12

Spring: gladiators escape from Capua.
Occupation of Mount Vesuvius.
Summer: Caius Claudius Glaber,
as praetor, sent against slaves.


Other events: Antonius' humiliating
peace - Senate later rejects.

Autumn: defeat of Glaber. Publius
Varinius, as praetor, sent against
slave army. Defeats of Varinius
and his subordinates.

70 BC

Crassus and Pompey consuls. Cicero
prosecutes Verres.

Winter: slave army moves to Lucania.


72 BC

Crixus splits from Spartacus.

69 BC

Other events: Sertorius assassinated;
Caius Verres governor in Sicily;
Crassus praetor.

Lucullus invades Armenia - battle and
sack of Tigranocerta. Caesar quaestor
in Hispania Ulterior.

68 BC

Lucullus' soldiers mutiny.

Lucius Gellius Publicola and Cnaeus

6 7 BC

Pompey, as proconsul, sent against
pirates. Mithridates defeats Romans
at Zela.

66 BC

Pompey, as proconsul, replaces


Cornelius Lentulus Clodianus consuls.
Spring: Spartacus treks northward.
Defeat and death of Crixus in Apulia.

Lucullus in east.
Summer: Spartacus defeats consular
armies. Spartacus defeats army of
Cassius. Spartacus treks southward.

65 B C

Crassus censor. Caesar curule aedile.

64 B C

Pompey establishes Syria as province.

63 BC

Cicero consul. Conspiracy of Lucius
Sergius Catilina (Catiline). Caesar
elected pontifex maximus - speaks
against execution of Catilinarian
conspirators. Death of Mithridates.
Birth of Octavianus (Augustus).

62 BC

Defeat and death of Catiline at Pistoia.

Pompey returns to Rome from east.
Caesar praetor.

61 BC

Pompey's third triumph. Caesar,
as propraetor, governor in Hispania
Ulterior - victory against Lusitani.
Caius Octavius' mopping-up
operation in southern Italy.

60 BC

The 'first triumvirate'.

Autumn: Crassus, as propraetor,
sent against Spartacus. Spartacus
withdraws to Bruttium.
Winter: Crassus traps Spartacus in
toe of Italy. Spartacus escapes trap.
Other events: Pompey ends Sertorian
War; Antonius defeated by pirates
on Crete; Caesar military tribune.
71 BC

Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura and
Cnaeus Aufidius Orestes consuls.
Spring: Pompey returns to Italy from
Iberia. Defeat and death of Spartacus
in Lucania.

Summer: Crassus' 'triumph' along
Via Appia.
Winter: Pompey's second triumph.
Crassus' ovation.

13


ROMAN SOCIAL ORDER
Order and status, as o p p o s e d to w h a t today we understand as class, were
the vital p i g e o n h o l e s for the w o r l d of R o m e . C i c e r o , w h e n he claims that the
Senate w a s o p e n to all citizens, t a l k s of 'the highest o r d e r ' (Pro Sestio 6 5 . 1 3 7 ) .
T h u s the R o m a n s t h e m s e l v e s t a l k e d in the l a n g u a g e of s t a t u s g r o u p s , which
entitled t h e m t o certain privileges, a n d if a n outsider a s k e d o n e of them to w h a t
class (classis) he or she b e l o n g e d , he or she w o u l d p r o b a b l y refer to one of the
five p r o p e r t y c l a s s e s in the o l d e s t of the three citizen a s s e m b l i e s , the comitia
centuriata. T h e R o m a n s defined themselves in terms of a n order (ordo) legally
defined by the state t h r o u g h s t a t u t o r y or c u s t o m a r y rules a n d in s t a n d i n g in a
hierarchical relation t o other o r d e r s (Finley 1 9 9 9 : 4 5 - 5 1 ) . F o r instance Tacitus,
albeit w r i t i n g u n d e r the e m p e r o r s , s a y s : ' S e n a t o r s a n d equites h a v e special
p r o p e r t y qualifications, n o t b e c a u s e they differ in nature f r o m other m e n , but
just a s they enjoy p r e c e d e n c e in p l a c e , r a n k a n d dignity, s o they s h o u l d enjoy it
a l s o in these things that m a k e for mental p e a c e a n d well-being' (Annates 2 . 3 3 . 2 ) .
E v e n under the e m p e r o r s , w h e n R o m e w a s n o longer a n oligarchic republic,
the s e n a t o r i a l a n d e q u e s t r i a n o r d e r s r e m a i n e d p r e s t i g i o u s , a tight-knit g r o u p of
families perceived t o be w o r t h y by the traditional s t a n d a r d s of birth, wealth a n d
m o r a l excellence. W h e n C i c e r o c l a i m s t h a t the highest order, t o w h i c h s e n a t o r s
b e l o n g , is a n o p e n o n e , the last thing he h a d in m i n d w a s o p e n i n g the d o o r s of
the Senate t o t h o s e at the other e n d of the social scale. In Cicero's R o m e ' m o n e y
t a l k s ' a n d all m e n h a v e a price. Indeed O v i d , o n e of the A u g u s t a n p o e t s , laments

the fact t h a t the ' S e n a t e is b a r r e d t o the p o o r ' (Amores 3 . 8 . 5 5 ) . In a similar
vein H o r a c e (Epistulae
1 . 1 . 5 8 ) , a c o n t e m p o r a r y of O v i d , w r o t e u n h a p p i l y that
4 0 0 , 0 0 0 sestertii, the a p p r o p r i a t e a m o u n t o f p r o p e r t y to be registered a s a n
eques at the c e n s u s , o p e n s the w a y t o the h o n o u r s of R o m e .
In the m e a n t i m e the l o w e r o r d e r s in R o m e w e r e a v a s t a m o e b i c body, v a g u e
a n d m u r m u r i n g . T o m o s t o f u s w h a t is m o r e i n v i d i o u s a r e the v i e w s held by
t h a t d a r l i n g o f classicists t h r o u g h the a g e s , C i c e r o . H e w r o t e in a p u n g e n t style
a n d never failed t o flay the city-dwelling c o m m o n e r s , the R o m a n
proletarii
w h o h u d d l e d together in tottering tenements built n o t for p e o p l e but for m o l e s ,
often referring t o t h e m , a m o n g s t other t h i n g s , a s 'the city s c u m ' (e.g. Epistulae
ad Atticum 1 . 1 9 . 4 ) . H e a c k n o w l e d g e s the g r i n d i n g p o v e r t y a n d s o c i a l misery
they h a v e t o e n d u r e , b u t , t o a d d insult t o injury, a s it w e r e , he sees it a s their
o w n fault, blithely u s i n g the w o r d egens, d e s t i t u t e , for the p o o r a n d even g o e s
s o far a s t o m e n t i o n 'the destitute a n d f e l o n i o u s ' (egens et improbus,
De domo
sua 8 9 ) in the s a m e b r e a t h . Little d i d C i c e r o a p p r e c i a t e t h a t for the p r o l e t a r i a t
o f R o m e , b u r i e d in a m o n o c h r o m e life w i t h o u t p r o s p e c t s , the furthest h o r i z o n
h a d a l w a y s b e e n t o m o r r o w . B u t w h a t o f t h o s e b e n e a t h the s o c i a l pile, that is,
t h o s e of servile s t a t u s ?
14


THE SLAVE SYSTEM
Slavery is a n a s p e c t o f a n t i q u i t y t h a t is highly c o n t r o v e r s i a l . It r e m a i n s a n
emotive subject even in the 2 1 s t century, especially a s slavery w a s a facet of
western civilization that h a s raised a m a s s i v e a m o u n t of d e b a t e b u t nevertheless
h a s p l a y e d a n i m p o r t a n t , albeit g r i e v o u s , p a r t in o u r o w n e c o n o m i c a l a n d
social history.

In the literature o f R o m e s l a v e s a r e ever p r e s e n t , a n d , for i n s t a n c e , the
agricultural writers M a r c u s Porcius C a t o ( 2 3 7 - 1 4 9 BC), k n o w n also as
the Elder t o d i s t i n g u i s h h i m f r o m his g r e a t - g r a n d s o n , a n d M a r c u s T e r e n t i u s
V a r r o ( 1 1 6 - 2 7 BC) b o t h p r e s u m e t h a t the m a i n l a b o u r e l e m e n t w a s the alien
s l a v e . We a l s o find s l a v e s in w o r k s h o p s a n d c o m m e r c i a l o p e r a t i o n s , b u t it
w o u l d be w r o n g o f u s t o a s s u m e t h a t the l a r g e s t c o n c e n t r a t i o n o f s e r v i l e
l a b o u r w a s i n v o l v e d in p r o d u c t i v e w o r k , e s p e c i a l l y o n l a n d e d e s t a t e s . A s a
m a t t e r of fact, the b i g g e s t c o n c e n t r a t i o n o f s l a v e s w a s in h o u s e h o l d s , w h e r e
they p e r f o r m e d n o n - p r o d u c t i v e duties a s d o m e s t i c s . R o m a n l a w m a d e a clear
distinction b e t w e e n mancipia
rustica a n d mancipia
urbana ( i n c l u d i n g t h o s e
in the villa rustica or f a r m h o u s e ) , the latter s l a v e s b e i n g t h o s e w i t h w h i c h the
h e a d of the h o u s e h o l d s u r r o u n d s h i m s e l f for the s o l e p u r p o s e o f his lifestyle,
sua cultus
causa.
A l m o s t i m m e d i a t e l y the q u e s t i o n a r i s e s : w a s R o m a n s o c i e t y a s l a v e
society? Statistically, s l a v e r y w a s n o t t h a t p r e v a l e n t in the R o m a n w o r l d a n d
l a r g e t r a c t s of the e m p i r e w e r e left u n t o u c h e d by servile l a b o u r . H o w e v e r , w e
c a n n o t a n s w e r this q u e s t i o n by statistics a l o n e . R o m a n s o c i e t y w a s a s l a v e
s o c i e t y s i m p l y b e c a u s e s l a v e r y a s a n i n s t i t u t i o n d o m i n a t e d the R o m a n
mentality. After all, libertas, f r e e d o m , w a s d e f i n e d a s n o t b e i n g e n s l a v e d .
T h o s e w h o w o r k e d in the f i e l d s , m i l l s a n d m i n e s w e r e s u b j e c t t o a n
e x i s t e n c e of h a r d , b a c k b r e a k i n g l a b o u r . In his n o v e l , The Golden A s s , the
African A p u l e i u s offers a n u n c o m p r o m i s i n g g l i m p s e o f the c r u s h i n g c o n d i t i o n
of slaves w o r k i n g in a flour mill:
Their skins were seamed all over with the marks of old floggings, as you could
see through the holes in their ragged shirts that shaded rather than covered
their scarred backs; but some wore only loin-cloths. They had letters marked
on their foreheads, and half-shaved heads and irons on their leg. (The Golden

Ass, 9.12)
T h e s e h a p l e s s s o u l s h a d t o t r u d g e r o u n d a n d r o u n d the m i l l s t o n e in u n e n d i n g
circles, their feet w e i g h e d d o w n in i r o n s . T o m a k e t h e m w a l k their circles
quicker, their b a c k s w o u l d be s t u n g w i t h a l a s h . G r a d u a l l y their eyes w o u l d
g r o w sightless w i t h all the d u s t a n d d a r k .
T h e o w n e r o f s l a v e s e n j o y e d c o m p l e t e p o w e r o v e r t h e m , even t h a t o f life
a n d d e a t h . A horrifying i n s c r i p t i o n (AE 1 9 7 1 . 8 8 ) f r o m the s e a p o r t o f P u t e o l i
a p p e a r s a t first t o be n o t h i n g m o r e i n i q u i t o u s t h a n a l a b o u r c o n t r a c t
(manceps) for the p u b l i c u n d e r t a k e r o f t h a t s a i d t o w n , l a y i n g d o w n his h o u r s
of w o r k a n d r a t e s o f p a y . H o w e v e r , o n c l o s e r i n s p e c t i o n the r e a d e r will see
that o n e of the u n d e r t a k e r ' s d u t i e s is t h a t o f 'friendly n e i g h b o u r h o o d s l a v e
t o r t u r e r ' ; a list o f p r i c e s is g i v e n for v a r i o u s n a s t y d e e d s r a n g i n g f r o m
s c o u r g i n g t o c r u c i f i x i o n ( c o l u m n II, lines 8 - 1 4 ) .
T h e r e w e r e g o o d a n d b a d s l a v e o w n e r s , b u t this w a s a m a t t e r o f p u r e
c h a n c e . R o m a n society h a d a n i n g r a i n e d m e n t a l a t t i t u d e t o s l a v e s , a society
w h e r e m a n c o m m a n d e d , w o m a n b o r e , a n d the s l a v e l a b o u r e d , for s u c h w a s


Agora of the Italians, Delos.
It is possible that this was a
slave market, built as a result
of the First Slave War. A
generation before the Romans
had made Apollo's sacred
island into a free port exempt
from taxes and soon Delos
acquired the grim reputation
of being the slave market
par excellence, boasting that
it could handle 10,000 slaves

a day. (Ancient Art
& Architecture)

the R o m a n o r d e r o f t h i n g s . I n d e e d , in the eyes o f R o m a n l a w a s l a v e w a s n o t
a p e r s o n b u t res, a thing s u b j e c t t o the d o m i n i o n of his or her master. We m u s t
b e c a r e f u l h e r e , h o w e v e r , a s t h e r e w a s n o s u g g e s t i o n t h a t the R o m a n s
t h e m s e l v e s c o n s i d e r e d a s l a v e m o r e a s a thing t h a n a p e r s o n , a n d the condition
t h a t p u t s o n e i n d i v i d u a l a t the m e r c y o f a n o t h e r h a d t o b e r e g u l a t e d , the
c e n s o r s , for i n s t a n c e , b e i n g e m p o w e r e d t o c h e c k u n w a r r a n t e d acts of violence
u p o n s l a v e s . T h e t e r m res i m p l i e s t h a t a s l a v e h a d n o r i g h t s , pronullo,
but
d u t i e s , a n d this l e g a l d e f i n i t i o n s e p a r a t e d h i m o r her f r o m o t h e r f o r m s of
s u b o r d i n a t i o n . In his h a n d b o o k o n a g r i c u l t u r a l p r a c t i c e s V a r r o , S p a r t a c u s '
R o m a n c o n t e m p o r a r y , e m p h a s i z e s t h a t the bailiff, the vilicus, s h o u l d n o t
e m p l o y w h i p s w h e n w o r d s will suffice (On Agriculture
1.17.5). Athenaios
p e r h a p s e x p r e s s e s it b e s t w h e n he e x p l a i n s the principle of servile divide a n d
r u l e , e x p l o r i n g the t e n s i o n b e t w e e n a n o w n e r ' s r i g h t s o v e r a s l a v e a n d the
u n e a s i n e s s o v e r a n o w n e r w h o w a s e x c e s s i v e l y cruel:
There are two safeguards that one may take: first, those who are going to be
slaves must not come from the same country of origin, and in so far as it can
be arranged they must not speak the same language; and secondly, they must
be properly looked after - and not just for their sakes; anyone who wishes to
pay proper regard to his own interests should never behave arrogantly towards
his slaves. (Athenaios 6.265a)

16


Slaves w e r e certainly h u m a n b e i n g s , yet t o c o w t h e m into the

n e c e s s a r y docility of a b r u t e b e a s t n e c e s s i t a t e d a r e g i m e o f
calculated brutality and terrorism, especially so on f a r m s ,
w h e r e vilici e x p l o i t e d the s t r e n g t h o f s l a v e s . M o r e t h a n a
h u n d r e d years after the S p a r t a c a n rebellion h a d been c r u s h e d ,
the s e n a t o r a n d p h i l o s o p h e r S e n e c a f o r m u l a t e d the m o s t
liberal set of d o c t r i n e s o n slavery t h a t h a d been a r t i c u l a t e d a t
R o m e . A d v o c a t i n g t h a t m a s t e r s s h o u l d treat their s l a v e s w i t h
lenience, Seneca b r o k e d o w n the artificial distinction b e t w e e n
s l a v e a n d free a n d i n s i s t e d t h a t all m e n s h a r e d a c o m m o n
origin a n d a c o m m o n m o r a l i t y , a s p i r i t u a l b r o t h e r h o o d o f
m a n k i n d if y o u will.
In De beneficiis ( 3 . 1 8 - 2 8 ) he p o s e s the q u e s t i o n whether or
not it w a s p o s s i b l e for a slave t o benefit his master. B e f o r e
a n s w e r i n g , Seneca m a k e s a n interesting distinction a b o u t
terms: a) beneficum, a g o o d deed or favour p e r f o r m e d a s a free
a n d v o l u n t a r y g e s t u r e by a n individual u n d e r n o o b l i g a t i o n
t o the recipient; b) officium,
a d u t y p e r f o r m e d by a s o n ,
daughter, wife, etcetera, t o w a r d s a father, h u s b a n d , h e a d o f
household, p a t r o n , etcetera, n a m e l y a n o b l i g a t i o n of duty; a n d c)
ministerium, a n action expected f r o m a slave a s he or she h a s n o other
choice but to p e r f o r m this action. Seneca then cuts to the c h a s e by saying that it
is not the social standing, which w a s simply a n accident of birth, but the intention
of that individual b e s t o w i n g the favour, d u t y or whatever. N e v e r t h e l e s s , a
c o u n t e r a r g u m e n t runs a s follows: a slave c a n n o t be a c c o u n t a b l e to the m a s t e r if
he or she gives m o n e y or tends h i m w h e n ill, but Seneca immediately ripostes by
saying he w a s thinking of the slave w h o fights for the m a s t e r or refuses t o reveal
his secrets even under torture. It is a m i s t a k e , e x p l a i n s Seneca, t o believe that a
slave's m i n d is not free even if his or her b o d y is o w n e d .
A n o t h e r fascinating p a s s a g e is t o be f o u n d in o n e of Seneca's Moral

Letters
(Epistulae Morales 4 7 ) , written after his r e t i r e m e n t f r o m p u b l i c life. H e r e the
p h i l o s o p h e r a s k s a friend if he is o n g o o d t e r m s w i t h his s l a v e s , a n d n a t u r a l l y
the friend replies in the a f f i r m a t i v e . S e n e c a then p o i n t s o u t t h a t they a r e still
s l a v e s , to w h i c h the friend replies y e s , b u t h u m a n b e i n g s all the s a m e . A g a i n
Seneca p o i n t s o u t they are still s l a v e s , a n d s o o n a n d s o forth. A n d then S e n e c a
m a k e s a lunge w i t h the R o m a n p r o v e r b ' s o m a n y s l a v e s , s o m a n y e n e m i e s '
(quot servi, tot hostes, 4 7 . 5 ) , t h a t is t o say, y o u r e n e m i e s a r e the p e o p l e
w o r k i n g for y o u . T h e rule of fear m a y h a v e b e e n the b a s i s o f the m a s t e r - s l a v e
r e l a t i o n s h i p , b u t o n e m i g h t r i p o s t e , a s S e n e c a d o e s h e r e , t h a t s u c h fear b r e d a
s a v a g e cruelty in the m a s t e r s a n d t h u s ' w e t u r n t h e m into e n e m i e s ' .
O f c o u r s e all this m o r a l p o s t u r i n g c a m e o u t o f a S t o i c , a n d n o w h e r e in his
v a s t c o r p u s o f w r i t i n g s d o e s S e n e c a a c t u a l l y call for a n a b o l i t i o n o f slavery.
O n the c o n t r a r y , S t o i c i s m , the d o m i n a n t s c h o o l o f p h i l o s o p h y since the late
R e p u b l i c , p r o m o t e d the belief t h a t w h a t d i d n o t affect the inner m a n w a s a n
irrelevance. S o w a r , w h i c h w a s a d i s t u r b a n c e o f c o s m i c h a r m o n y , c a u s e d b y
m a n ' s w i c k e d n e s s or w r o n g j u d g e m e n t , a n d its h o r r o r s , s u c h a s d e a t h a n d
e n s l a v e m e n t , w e r e irrelevant t o a g o o d m a n . T h u s w a s the S t o i c a free m a n ,
h a v i n g c h o s e n t o be free. It w a s a r g u e d t h a t it w a s i m p o s s i b l e t o e n s l a v e a
m a n a g a i n s t his will - he h a d t o c o n s e n t t o be a s l a v e , o t h e r w i s e he m i g h t
c h o o s e t o die a free m a n . T h e g o a l w a s p r o g r e s s , n o t p e r f e c t i o n .
In C a i u s ' Institutiones,
an introduction to R o m a n jurisprudence written
a r o u n d AD 1 6 1 , w e find a l e g a l d e f i n i t i o n o f s l a v e r y : ' t h e s t a t e t h a t is

Relief (Mainz, Mittelrheinisches
Landesmuseum) decorating
a column base from the
principia of Mainz-Mogontiacum
showing two naked captives

chained together at the neck.
It is conceivable that they
are Gauls, since their horse's
mane hairstyle indicates the
Celtic practice of washing it in
chalky water and then combing
it back from the forehead to the
nape. This was probably done
to enhance fearsomeness on
the battlefield. (Ancient Art
& Architecture)

17


r e c o g n i z e d b y ius gentium in w h i c h s o m e o n e is s u b j e c t t o the d o m i n i o n of
a n o t h e r p e r s o n c o n t r a r y t o n a t u r e ' ( 1 . 3 . 2 ) . T h e ius gentium w a s a l a w o n the
c u s t o m s a n d p r a c t i c e s f o u n d in all k n o w n p e o p l e s a n d n o t a n i n t e r n a t i o n a l
legal c o d e a s s u c h . B u t w h y c o n t r a r y t o n a t u r e ? B e c a u s e , a s C a i u s r e a s o n s , the
s t a t e o f f r e e d o m is w h a t is n a t u r a l even if p e o p l e a r e b o r n s l a v e s . In other
w o r d s , s l a v e r y is a h u m a n i n v e n t i o n a n d n o t f o u n d in n a t u r e . I n d e e d , it w a s
t h a t o t h e r h u m a n i n v e n t i o n , w a r , w h i c h p r o v i d e d the b u l k o f s l a v e s , b u t they
w e r e a l s o the b o u n t y o f p i r a c y (e.g. S t r a b o 1 4 . 5 ) or the p r o d u c t of b r e e d i n g
(e.g. C o l u m e l l a On Agriculture
1.8.19).
It h a s a l w a y s b e e n a s s u m e d t h a t the s t u r d y p e a s a n t - f a r m e r w o r k e d the
l a n d for h i m s e l f a n d his family. T h e G r e e k p o e t H e s i o d , a s m a l l - s c a l e f a r m e r
himself, tells u s t h a t the three vital t h i n g s n e e d e d by a f a r m e r ' a r e a h o u s e ,
a w i f e a n d a p l o u g h i n g - o x ' (Works and Days 4 0 5 ) . N a t u r a l l y , in the h o m e l y
p a r s i m o n y o f H e s i o d , the w i f e s e r v e s a s a n o t h e r s o u r c e of l a b o u r p o w e r , b u t

at w h a t point d o w e witness landowners resorting to slave labour?
U n d e n i a b l y , there w a s a h u g e i n f l u x o f s l a v e s into the Italian p e n i n s u l a
f o l l o w i n g R o m e ' s s u c c e s s f u l e x p a n s i o n i s t w a r s . E q u a l l y , s o m e o f the figures
in the t a b l e b e l o w o f t h o s e c a r r i e d off t o the R o m a n s l a v e m a r k e t , given by
the a n c i e n t a u t h o r s for the s e c o n d c e n t u r y BC, a r e i m p r e s s i v e a n d d a u n t i n g :
Date

Ethnicity

Source

177

BC

5,632 Istrians

Livy 41.11.8

167

BC

150,000 Epeirotes

Livy 45.34.5

146

BC


55,000 Carthaginians

Orosius 4.23.3

142

BC

9,500 Iberians

Appian Iberica 68

101

BC

60,000 Cimbri

Plutarch Marius 27.5

O f c o u r s e , c l i o m e t r i c s h a v e l i m i t e d a p p l i c a t i o n for antiquity, a s ancient
a u t h o r s cited n u m b e r s s y m b o l i c a l l y n o t statistically. N e v e r t h e l e s s , it h a s been
e s t i m a t e d t h a t a t the e n d o f first c e n t u r y BC the b o d y o f s l a v e s in Italy
a m o u n t e d t o b e t w e e n t w o a n d three m i l l i o n p e o p l e o u t o f a t o t a l of six to
s e v e n - a n d - a - h a l f m i l l i o n (including G a l l i a C i s a l p i n a ) , or r o u g h l y one-third of
the p o p u l a t i o n (Brunt 1 9 7 1 : 1 2 4 , H o p k i n s 1 9 7 8 : 1 0 2 ) . B u t did this m a s s i v e
i m p o r t of s l a v e s h a v e s e r i o u s r e p e r c u s s i o n s o n the o r g a n i z a t i o n of agricultural
l a b o u r in the p e n i n s u l a ?
S t r a n g e a s it m a y a p p e a r , it c a n be a r g u e d t h a t slavery is n o t the o b v i o u s

m e t h o d w i t h w h i c h t o e x p l o i t the l a n d . A g r i c u l t u r a l w o r k is s e a s o n a l w o r k ,
b u t s l a v e l a b o u r h a s t o b e k e p t a n d fed all y e a r r o u n d . It h a s n o w been
r e c o g n i z e d t h a t a lot m o r e free l a b o u r w a s w o r k i n g the l a n d in Italy ( G a r n s e y Saller 1 9 8 7 : 75-77). A r i s t o c r a t i c l a n d o w n e r s c o u l d , a n d d i d , divide their l a n d
into p l o t s a n d rent t h e m o u t t o t e n a n t p e a s a n t - f a r m e r s , w h o in turn m a n a g e d
the t e n a n c y w i t h the h e l p o f their o w n f a m i l i e s or even t h a t of s e a s o n a l
hired l a b o u r . In fact, the t e n a n t p e a s a n t - f a r m e r h a d a l w a y s been p a r t of the
a g r i c u l t u r a l s c e n e a n d he w a s a v i a b l e alternative t o s l a v e l a b o u r even in the
s e c o n d a n d first centuries BC. A s a l r e a d y n o t e d , b o t h C a t o a n d V a r r o a s s u m e
in their a g r i c u l t u r a l treatises t h a t s l a v e s will f o r m the c o r e o f the p e r m a n e n t ,
b r u t e l a b o u r f o r c e o n the f a r m (e.g. C a t o On Agriculture
2.2-7, 5.1-5).
H o w e v e r , they w e r e w r i t i n g for a p a r t i c u l a r m i l i e u , the s e n a t o r i a l l a n d o w n e r
w i t h a l a n d e d e s t a t e t h a t w a s p l u g g e d i n t o a n i n t e r n a t i o n a l m a r k e t of
s u r p l u s e s , a m a n like C i c e r o (De officiis 1 . 1 5 1 ) , w h o p r a i s e s a g r i c u l t u r e b o t h
a s a s o u r c e o f w e a l t h a n d o n m o r a l g r o u n d s . F o r these big m e n of v a s t m e a n s
w a s there ' a n y l a n d ' , in the r h e t o r i c a l w o r d s o f V a r r o , ' m o r e fully cultivated
t h a n I t a l y ? ' (On Agriculture
1.2.3).


S o investment f a r m i n g , a s o p p o s e d t o the p r e v a i l i n g p r a c t i c e of s u b s i s t e n c e
a g r i c u l t u r e , w a s only really a p p l i c a b l e t o the n a r r o w c o a s t a l l a n d s o f central
a n d s o u t h e r n Italy a n d the i s l a n d o f Sicily. H e r e a f e w w e a l t h y l a n d o w n e r s
held l a n d in the f o r m of h u g e t r a c t s o f a r a b l e - c u m - p a s t u r e - l a n d , the
latifundia
or ' w i d e fields' of R o m a n literature, w h e r e l a r g e s l a v e p o p u l a t i o n s w e r e f o u n d
in three a r e a s : a) viticulture a n d olive g r o w i n g ; b) l i v e s t o c k r a i s i n g ; a n d c)
cereal p r o d u c t i o n .
This leads us on to a discussion of R o m e as a 'slave e c o n o m y ' . There are
a n u m b e r o f w a y s o f l o o k i n g a t this i s s u e . W e c o u l d a r g u e t h a t a s l a v e

e c o n o m y o n l y e x i s t e d w h e n the m a j o r i t y o f t h o s e i n v o l v e d in t h a t society's
e c o n o m y w e r e s l a v e s , b u t in t h a t c a s e there h a s never b e e n s u c h a n e c o n o m y .
E v e n the D e e p S o u t h o f the p r e - C i v i l W a r U n i t e d S t a t e s d i d n o t m e e t this
criterion. M u c h m o r e p r o d u c t i v e is the n o t i o n t h a t a s l a v e e c o n o m y is o n e in
w h i c h the d o m i n a n t m o d e o f p r o d u c t i o n sets the p a c e for the r e s t , t h a t is,
slave p r o d u c t i o n or n o t . T h u s s l a v e s w e r e a m a j o r e n g i n e o f the e c o n o m y o f
the D e e p S o u t h , a s they w e r e o f t h o s e o f c l a s s i c a l G r e e c e , the H e l l e n i s t i c e a s t
a n d R o m e . In other w o r d s , n o t e v e r y b o d y o w n e d s l a v e s b u t if the m o n e y w a s
a v a i l a b l e e v e r y b o d y w o u l d b u y s l a v e s , w i t h the s l a v e - r u n e s t a t e b e i n g seen a s
the ideal. O f c o u r s e a n e c o n o m y c o u l d e x i s t w i t h o u t the institution o f slavery.
If w e l o o k f o r w a r d into the late R o m a n w o r l d w e w i t n e s s a n o t h e r f o r m o f
s u b o r d i n a t e l a b o u r a r i s i n g in w h i c h free m e n w e r e tied t o the l a n d , t h a t is t o
say, the institution of f e u d a l i s m , w h i c h s e r v e d t o p r o d u c e a s u r p l u s s o a s t o
a l l o w a n elite g r o u p t o e x i s t .
We s h o u l d a l s o c o n s i d e r the a c t u a l c o s t o f a s l a v e . A c c o r d i n g t o P l u t a r c h ,
drachmae,
the elder C a t o 'never o n c e b o u g h t a s l a v e for m o r e t h a n 1 , 5 0 0
since he d i d n o t w a n t l u x u r i o u s o r b e a u t i f u l o n e s , b u t h a r d w o r k e r s , like
h e r d s m e n ' (Cato major 4 . 4 , cf. 2 1 . 1 ) . T h e drachma w a s the G r e e k e q u i v a l e n t
of the R o m a n denarius, w h i c h m u s t h a v e b e e n the t e r m C a t o h i m s e l f u s e d .
Since at this t i m e (it w a s t o be retariffed at 1 6 t o the denarius a t the t i m e o f
G r a c c h i ) there w e r e 1 0 asses t o the denarius, the s u m o f 1 , 5 0 0 drachmae
was
e q u i v a l e n t t o 1 5 , 0 0 0 asses. C o m p a r e this w i t h t h e l e g i o n a r y
stipendium,
a l l o w a n c e , w h i c h in C a t o ' s d a y w a s five asses p e r d a y (to c o v e r r a t i o n s ,
c l o t h i n g , a n d r e p a i r s t o a r m s a n d e q u i p m e n t ) . S o the c o s t o f a n a g r i c u l t u r a l
slave m i g h t e q u a l 3 , 0 0 0 d a y s ' w o r t h o f stipendium.
So slaves were not cheap,
even at the height o f the w a r s o f c o n q u e s t .

1 0 . 1 , 11.1)
A c c o r d i n g t o his o w n t e s t i m o n y C a t o (On Agriculture
reckoned a n olive g r o v e of 2 4 0 iugera (c. 6 0 h a ) s h o u l d be w o r k e d by 13 s l a v e s ,
a n d a v i n e y a r d o f 1 0 0 iugera (c. 2 5 h a ) w o r k e d by 1 6 s l a v e s , a n d V a r r o (On
Agriculture
1 . 1 8 ) , after d i s c u s s i n g the l i m i t a t i o n s o f C a t o ' s m a t h e m a t i c s ,
basically agrees with h i m . O n e slave a l o n e m u s t h a v e been a c o n s i d e r a b l e prize
for a l e g i o n a r y in war. T h u s the fact t h a t s l a v e n u m b e r s w e r e h u g e d o e s n o t
a l l o w valid d e d u c t i o n s t o be m a d e a b o u t the g r e a t e r o r lesser a v a i l a b i l i t y o f
slaves in the p o p u l a t i o n a s a result o f w a r f a r e , a b o u t the p r o p o r t i o n o f s l a v e s
in the p o p u l a t i o n a s a w h o l e , or a b o u t the p r o p o r t i o n o f citizens w h o o w n e d
slaves - they are rather a sign of the i n c r e a s i n g c o n c e n t r a t i o n o f w e a l t h in a
small n u m b e r o f p a r t i c u l a r h o u s e h o l d s .
In The Banqueting
Sophists (Deipnosophistae),
an enormous compendium
of the conversations of p h i l o s o p h e r s at a b a n q u e t s u p p o s e d l y held in A l e x a n d r i a
a r o u n d the year AD 2 0 0 , A t h e n a i o s u p h o l d s the m y t h t h a t the v i r t u o u s R o m a n s
of o l d , n o b l e s s u c h a s S c i p i o a n d C a e s a r , o w n e d a m e r e h a n d f u l o f s l a v e s
( 6 . 2 7 3 a - b ) . H o w e v e r , he d o e s a c k n o w l e d g e t h a t s o m e R o m a n s l a v e - h o l d i n g s
w e r e e x t r a v a g a n t l y l a r g e . Yet clearly A t h e n a i o s t h o u g h t t h a t the p u r p o s e


Relief (Rome, MNR Palazzo
Massimo Alle Terme, inv.
126119) depicting 'Samnites'
in the arena, dated c. 30-10 BC
Each is armed with a gladius
and carries a scutum, and
appears to wear one greave

on the left or leading leg.
A triangular loincloth is tied
about the waist, pulled up
between the legs and tucked
under the knot at the front
and secured by a broad belt.
(Fields-Carre Collection)

o f o w n i n g s u c h v a s t n u m b e r s of s l a v e s w a s p r i m a r i l y t o d e m o n s t r a t e one's
w e a l t h , a n d since w e a l t h w a s linked to s t a t u s , it c o u l d be advertised t h r o u g h
c o n s p i c u o u s c o n s u m p t i o n ( 6 . 2 7 2 e , 2 7 3 c ) . T h i s w a s not only true of R o m a n s .
A n t i o c h o s IV, for i n s t a n c e , s o u g h t t o i m p r e s s his s u b j e c t s by o r g a n i z i n g a
p r o c e s s i o n involving h u n d r e d s if n o t t h o u s a n d s of slaves (Polybios 3 0 . 2 5 . 1 7 ) ,
a n d it w a s a m a r k of e x t r e m e indignity for the exiled Ptolemy V I to arrive at
R o m e a c c o m p a n i e d by just four slaves ( D i o d o r o s 3 1 . 1 8 . 1 - 3 ) . B u t then a g a i n ,
these m e n w e r e k i n g s . C a i u s C a e c i l i u s I s i d o r u s , a R o m a n l a n d o w n e r w h o
flourished in the g e n e r a t i o n f o l l o w i n g the S p a r t a c a n rebellion a n d w h o himself
w a s a f o r m e r s l a v e , h a d c o m e t o o w n 3 , 6 0 0 p a i r s of o x e n , 2 5 7 , 0 0 0 other
l i v e s t o c k a n d 4 , 1 1 6 s l a v e s a t the t i m e o f his d e a t h in 8 BC (Pliny
Historia
Naturalis
33.135).

PIRACY AND THE SLAVE TRADE
W h e n s t r o n g k i n g d o m s w i t h p o w e r f u l n a v i e s e x i s t e d , s u c h a s t h o s e of the
Hellenistic kings, piracy w a s usually reduced to a m i n i m u m . Yet the last hundred
years of the R o m a n R e p u b l i c s a w o n e of the m o s t r e m a r k a b l e d e v e l o p m e n t s of
p i r a c y t h a t the M e d i t e r r a n e a n h a s k n o w n , w h e n f r o m m e r e f r e e b o o t e r s the
p i r a t e s o r g a n i z e d t h e m s e l v e s into a p i r a t e - s t a t e w i t h h e a d q u a r t e r s in Cilicia
a n d C r e t e . It w a s the m o r e r e m a r k a b l e that the sea w a s controlled by a single

p o w e r , w h i c h , w h e n it p u t f o r t h its s t r e n g t h u n d e r a c a p a b l e leader, h a d n o
difficulty in p u t t i n g a n end t o a m a l i g n a n c y in such a short s p a c e of time. T h e
e a s e with w h i c h P o m p e y finally achieved its s u p p r e s s i o n h a s naturally led to a
severe c o n d e m n a t i o n of R o m e ' s negligence a n d a p a t h y in permitting piracy to
f l o u r i s h for s o l o n g a p e r i o d . T h i s is especially s o w h e n the alliance f o r m e d
b e t w e e n M i t h r i d a t e s a n d the p i r a t e s o f Cilicia h a d given the Pontic king
c o m m a n d of the A e g e a n , w h i c h h a d been nearly fatal to Sulla (First Mithridatic
War, 8 9 - 8 5 BC).
T h i s w a s p a r t l y d u e t o the t u r m o i l o f the t i m e s , w h i c h h i n d e r e d policing of
the s e a s , a n d p a r t l y d u e t o the influence of R o m a n slave d e a l e r s w h o tolerated
the p i r a t e s a s w h o l e s a l e p u r v e y o r s o f s l a v e s . T h e m o r e t h a t the e c o n o m y
w a s g l u t t e d w i t h s l a v e s , the m o r e d e p e n d e n t it b e c a m e o n t h e m . W h e t h e r
c o n v e y i n g v i c t i m s o f w a r or t h o s e o f k i d n a p p i n g , there c a n be n o d o u b t a b o u t
the i m p o r t a n t r o l e p l a y e d b y p i r a t e s in m a i n t a i n i n g the level of the R o m a n
s l a v e supply, directing their h u m a n c a r g o e s t o d e s t i n a t i o n s such a s Sicily where
t h e y w e r e n e e d e d . T h e p i r a t e s w e r e the m o s t c o n s i s t e n t s u p p l i e r s . A p p i a n
w r i t e s t h a t the p i r a t e s o p e r a t e d 'in s q u a d r o n s u n d e r p i r a t e chiefs, w h o w e r e
like g e n e r a l s o f a n a r m y ' (Mithridatica
9 2 ) . A t this level of o r g a n i z a t i o n they
w e r e c a p a b l e o f r a i d i n g r o a d s a n d b e s i e g i n g t o w n s a l o n g the c o a s t s of Italy.
T h e y even s t a g e d p r e d a t o r y r a i d s into the w e s t e r n M e d i t e r r a n e a n , w h e r e they
w e r e r e p u t e d t o b e in c o n t a c t w i t h v a r i o u s i n s u r g e n t m o v e m e n t s , including
S e r t o r i u s in Iberia a n d , a s w e shall see later, S p a r t a c u s in Italy.

GLADIATORS - MEN OF THE SWORD
W h e n P e r u s i a ( P e r u g i a ) c a p i t u l a t e d t o O c t a v i a n u s a n d the s u r v i v o r s w e r e
r o u n d e d u p , he allegedly t o o k 3 0 0 rebel s e n a t o r s a n d equites a n d , in the w o r d s
o f S u e t o n i u s , 'offered t h e m o n the Ides o f M a r c h a t the altar of D i v u s Iulius,
a s h u m a n s a c r i f i c e s ' ( Divus Augustus
15.1). N o t long afterwards, Octavianus


20


h a v i n g m e t a m o r p h o s e d i n t o A u g u s t u s , V i r g i l h a s the e m p e r o r ' s l e g e n d a r y
a n c e s t o r , the p i o u s A e n e a s , p e r f o r m h u m a n s a c r i f i c e a t the f u n e r a l o f the
y o u n g prince P a l l a s :
Then came the captives, whose hands he had bound behind their backs to send
them as offerings to the shades of the dead and sprinkle the funeral pyre with
the blood of their sacrifice. (Virgil, Aeneid 1 1 . 8 1 - 8 4 West)
H i s t o r i c a l l y it w a s the E t r u s c a n s , a p e o p l e r e g u l a t e d b y a h i g h l y r i t u a l i z e d
religion, w h o m a d e it their c u s t o m t o sacrifice p r i s o n e r s o f w a r t o the s h a d e s
of their o w n fallen w a r r i o r s . L i v y s a y s t h a t in 3 5 8 bc a t o t a l o f 3 0 7 R o m a n
soldiers w e r e t a k e n p r i s o n e r a n d s l a u g h t e r e d a s h u m a n sacrifice in the f o r u m
of the E t r u s c a n city of T a r q u i n i i ( T a r q u i n i a ) ; in r e v e n g e 3 5 8 c a p t i v e s , c h o s e n
f r o m the n o b l e s t families o f T a r q u i n i i , w e r e d i s p a t c h e d t o R o m e three y e a r s
later a n d publicly f l o g g e d in the F o r u m a n d then b e h e a d e d ( 7 . 1 5 . 1 0 , 1 9 . 2 - 3 ) .
T h e T a r q u i n i e n s e s m a y h a v e b e e n e n a c t i n g a f o r m o f h u m a n sacrifice, b u t the
R o m a n r e s p o n s e - if historical - w a s a n a c t of v e n g e a n c e , n o t cultic o b l i g a t i o n .
S o g l a d i a t o r s p e r h a p s o r i g i n a t e d f r o m s u c h E t r u s c a n h o l o c a u s t s in h o n o u r
of the d e a d : they w e r e s o m e t i m e s k n o w n a s bustuarii, funeral m e n , a n d the
c o n t e s t w a s c a l l e d a munus f r o m b e i n g a d u t y p a i d t o the d e c e a s e d b y his
descendants. T h e African Christian Tertullian, writing a r o u n d AD 2 0 0 , describes
these c o m b a t s of the a m p h i t h e a t r e a s the m o s t f a m o u s , the m o s t p o p u l a r
spectacle of all:

Funerary painting from
Paestum (Gaudo Tomb 7 North
Slab, c. 340 BC) depicting a duel.
Such paintings were not mere

decorative elements, as they
reflect the values and ideals
of the Lucanians who now
controlled Paestum. This scene
represents the final moments
of a competition, with a judge
standing behind the winner
about to place a wreath on
his head. These duels were
not to the death. (Fields-Carre
Collection)

21


Crucial to the development
of the spectacle of gladiatorial
combat were the lanistae. They
were indispensable operators
who functioned as slave traders,
managers, trainers, and
impresarios all in one. However,
they were seen by their fellow
citizens as utterly contemptible,
some think like an unpleasant
cross between a butcher and
a pimp. Sculptural relief (Selcuk,
Arkeoloji Muzesi) showing a
lanista armed with baton and
shield. (Fields-Carre Collection)


22

The ancients thought that by this sort of spectacle they rendered a service to
the dead, after they had tempered it with a more cultured form of cruelty. For
of old, in the belief that the souls of the dead are propitiated with human
blood, they used at funerals to sacrifice captives or slaves of poor quality.
Afterwards, it seemed good to obscure their impiety by making it a pleasure.
So after the persons procured had been trained in such arms as they then had
and as best they might - their training was to learn to be killed! - they then did
them to death on the appointed day at the tombs. So they found comfort for
death in murder. (Tertullian De spectaculis 12)
S o R o m e t u r n e d munus, in the fiery a n t i - p a g a n e l o q u e n c e of T e r t u l l i a n , into
a ' p l e a s u r e ' a n d a ' m o r e c u l t u r e d f o r m o f cruelty'. A s well a s p u n i s h m e n t a n d
s a c r i f i c e s , munera b e c a m e p u b l i c e n t e r t a i n m e n t .
Alternatively, 4th-century t o m b paintings a n d v a s e paintings f r o m C a m p a n i a
s e e m m o r e o b v i o u s l y t o d e p i c t a r m e d single c o m b a t s , a n d literary s o u r c e s
d o refer t o C a m p a n i a n c o m b a t s a t b a n q u e t s (e.g. S t r a b o 5 . 4 . 1 3 , A t h e n a i o s
4 . 1 5 3 f - 1 5 4 a ) . In these C a m p a n i a n c o m b a t s elite volunteers c o m p e t e d for prizes,
fighting only to the p o i n t of first b l o o d s h e d . T h e R o m a n s b e c a m e familiar with
C a m p a n i a n g l a d i a t o r i a l c o m b a t s at the tail end of the s a m e century. Livy s p e a k s
of a battle in 3 0 8 BC of R o m a n s a n d C a m p a n i a n s a g a i n s t the S a m n i t e s , w h o
f o u g h t w i t h inlaid shields, p l u m e d helmets, a n d g r e a v e s o n the left leg. A s they
a d v a n c e d into battle, the S a m n i t e s 'dedicated themselves in the Samnite m a n n e r '
while the R o m a n c o m m a n d e r , w h o w a s p o s t e d o n the left w i n g , m e t them heado n 'declaring that he offered these m e n a s a sacrifice to O r c u s ' (Livy 9 . 4 0 . 1 2 ) .
C e l e b r a t i n g the victory, the R o m a n s a d o r n e d the F o r u m with c a p t u r e d a r m s :
' T h u s the R o m a n s m a d e use of the splendid a r m s of their enemies to d o h o n o u r
t o the g o d s ; while the C a m p a n i a n s in their p r i d e , o u t of h a t r e d to the Samnites,
e q u i p p e d the g l a d i a t o r s w h o p r o v i d e d e n t e r t a i n m e n t at their b a n q u e t s with
similar a r m o u r a n d g a v e t h e m the n a m e of S a m n i t e s ' (ibid. 9 . 4 0 . 1 7 ) .



W h a t e v e r its true o r i g i n s , the first g l a d i a t o r i a l fight t o o k p l a c e in R o m e in
2 6 4 BC, the year w h e n the first w a r w i t h C a r t h a g e b e g a n . A t the funeral o f
D e c i m u s I u n i u s B r u t u s S c a e v a his t w o s o n s , M a r c u s a n d D e c i m u s B r u t u s ,
for the first t i m e e x h i b i t e d , in the m a r k e t c a l l e d F o r u m B o a r i u m , t h r e e
s i m u l t a n e o u s g l a d i a t o r i a l fights. It m a y h a v e b e e n a m o d e s t affair by later
s t a n d a r d s , b u t half of R o m e a p p a r e n t l y t u r n e d o u t t o w a t c h the fight. T h e
f o l l o w i n g statistics s h o w h o w fast the i d e a c a u g h t o n
Date

Numbers

264 BC

3 pairs of gladiators

Valerius Maximus 2.4.7

Source

216 BC

22 pairs of gladiators

Livy 23.30.15

200

BC


25 pairs of gladiators

Livy 31.50.4

183

BC

60 pairs of gladiators

Livy 39.46.2

174 BC

74 pairs of gladiators

Livy 41.28.11

Initially, gladiator duels took
place in whatever public spaces
a town might possess. Under
the emperors, however, the
characteristic scene for such
displays was the amphitheatre.
The first known permanent
amphitheatre is not in Rome
but Pompeii (c. 70 BC), an
enormous structure for
a provincial town with its

seating capacity of 20,000
places. A view of the
amphitheatre looking
north-west with Vesuvius
in the distance. (Fields-Carre
Collection)

Beginning a s a grandiosity o c c a s i o n a l l y a d d e d t o a n aristocratic funeral, the
g l a d i a t o r s themselves being t a k e n f r o m a m o n g s t the p e r s o n a l s l a v e s o f the
d e c e a s e d a n d e q u i p p e d in m a k e s h i f t f a s h i o n , over t i m e the c o m b a t s w e r e
extended to public celebrations. A n d s o it w a s by Cicero's d a y the m a s s e s , a s he
says (Pro Sestio 1 0 6 , 1 2 4 ) , c o u l d e x p r e s s themselves at a s s e m b l i e s , elections,
g a m e s (ludi) a n d gladiatorial contests (munera).

23


×