x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Book review: Schiavone's epic tale of revolt brilliant

Aldo Schiavone's Spartacus takes a serious look at the life of the Thracisan gladiator who led a slave revolt against Rome.

Spartacus
Aldo Schiavone
Harvard University Press

There is clearly an enduring fascination with Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator who, against all odds, led a ragtag slave army in a brilliantly executed - but ultimately doomed - rebellion against the mighty Roman Empire in the 1st century BC.

New books about the man who many consider ancient Rome's greatest hero abound, ranging from cheesy, TV show-inspired novels on one end of the spectrum to more scholarly examinations of the remarkable military tactician's life on the other. The Italian academic Aldo Schiavone's riveting and illuminating new book falls into the latter category, taking readers beyond the Hollywood myth and into the realm of serious history.

Schiavone's comprehensive and detailed account, which is quite compact for such an epic tale at just 149 pages, follows Spartacus from when he was captured and forced to become a gladiator after deserting from the Roman military to the crucifixion of some 6,000 rebel slaves along the whole of the Appian Way from Capua to Rome following his army's eventual defeat by the superior forces of the empire.

* Paul Muir