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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Historical Tidbit--The Real Spartacus + Blog Tour Stops

Today's Persistence of Vision Blog Tour Stop includes a Review and This-and-That Interview at Words Fueled by Love. Hop on over and check it out!


Do you know...

How much of the legend of Spartacus is fact? Quite a lot of it, actually, though the details are often filled in. I saw the old Kirk Douglas movie, Spartacus, years ago. I remember liking it a lot, but now I only remember a few key parts. I'm hazy on the details.

I have a brother who's really into body building, so naturally he LOVES the Starzz series. I haven't watched it on TV but he bought the seasons on DVD and I borrowed them. While the stories are really good, I feel I should warn anyone thinking about watching them that they are R-Rated in the EXTREME! Lots of nudity, cursing, and gore. Just warning you.

So I started researching the truth behind the Spartacus legend. There's less to tell than you might think.

Spartacus either was a Roman soldier or was captured by them. Eventually he became a gladiator, which is the time of his life most people focus on. In actuality, he had quite a bit of adventure even before that. 'Florus (2.8.8) described him as one "who from Thracian mercenary, had become a Roman soldier, of a soldier a deserter and robber, and afterward, from consideration of his strength, a gladiator".' Source. That description actually sounds more like the film Gladiator, starring Russel Crowe. I can't help but wonder if Ridley Scott took some inspiration from the Spartacus story himself.

Once in the gladiator school, Spartacus and many of his fellow trainees broke free and started a war. The historical record leaves Spartacus' motives hazy. Was he fighting to abolish slavery? Reform Roman society? It doesn't appear so. Really, he was probably just fighting for his own freedom. Despite the romantic element in most Spartacus re-tellings, there is no mention in the historical record of any wife or woman he might have been fighting for or trying to avenge.

The official record says that he died in the final battle of the Third Servile War, though many say his body was never found. Of course, his story has been told and re-told, inspiring everyone from the average Joe to the highest political thinkers.

This is one of those vague but stubborn, hanger-on legends like Robin Hood or King Arthur. It's also a good example of our society's historical fiction. It gets told, changed and re-told. With each telling it evolves. Not necessarily a good or bad thing, but interesting to track.

What do you think? Why do legends of this kind survive so tenaciously? Do you think it's a good thing that we change them and add things that aren't present in the historical record? What does it say about our society or historical fiction in general? How do YOU think Spartacus really died?

Remember, knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies.

Happy Presidents Day Everyone! :D

1 comment:

  1. I think taking a legend, a myth, an old story and giving it a new and fictional spin is a fun way to trigger the imagination.