Skip to main content
Harvard University Press - home
Spartacus

Spartacus

Aldo Schiavone

Translated by Jeremy Carden

ISBN 9780674057784

Publication date: 03/05/2013

Request exam copy

Spartacus (109?–71 BCE), the slave who rebelled against Rome, has been a source of endless fascination: the subject of myth-making in his own time, and of movie-making in ours. Hard facts about the man have always yielded to romanticized tales and mystifications. In this riveting, compact account, Aldo Schiavone rescues Spartacus from the murky regions of legend and brings him squarely into the arena of serious history.

Schiavone transports us to Italy in the first century BCE, where the pervasive institution of slavery dominates all aspects of Roman life. In this historic landscape, carefully reconstructed by the author, we encounter Spartacus, who is enslaved after deserting from the Roman army to avoid fighting against his native Thrace. Imprisoned in Capua and trained as a gladiator, he leads an uprising that will shake the empire to its foundations.

While the grandeur of the Spartacus story has always been apparent, its political significance has been less clear. What were his ambitions? Often depicted as the leader of a class rebellion that was fierce in intent but ragtag in makeup and organization, Spartacus emerges here in a very different light: the commander of an army whose aim was to incite Italy to revolt against Rome and to strike at the very heart of the imperial system. Surprising, persuasive, and highly original, Spartacus challenges the lore and illuminates the reality of a figure whose achievements, and whose ultimate defeat, are more extraordinary and moving than the fictions we make from them.

Praise

  • Aldo Schiavone’s Spartacus attempts to go back to [ancient] sources, analyze them intelligently, and see whether we can find the truth and understand something of the real man. He does his best to trace the rebellion step by step, interweaving his narrative with wider consideration of the nature of slavery in the Roman world and its role in the social and economic system… Schiavone offers a readable, generally sensible and certainly thought-provoking discussion of Spartacus and of first-century slavery.

    —Adrian Goldsworthy, Wall Street Journal

Author

  • Aldo Schiavone founded the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane, where he was Professor of Roman Law. He is the principal investigator of a European Research Council Project on Roman legal thought, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the author of books including The End of the Past, The Invention of Law in the West, Spartacus, What Is Progress, and Pontius Pilate.

Book Details

  • 208 pages
  • 4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author

Recommendations