Spartacus (2004) 

 

 

 

 

Director:    Robert Dornhelm. 

Starring:    Goran Visnjic (Spartacus), Alan Bates (Antonius Agrippa), Angus Macfadyen (Marcus Crassus), Rhona Mitra (Varinia), Ian McNeice (Lentulus Batiatus), James Frain (David), Henry Simmons (Draba), Ross Kemp (Cinna), Ben Cross (Titus Glabrus), Paul Kynman (Crixus), Paul Telfer (Gannicus), Chris Jarman (Nordo), Georgina Rylance (Helena), Stuart Bunce (Cornelius Lucius), Hristo Shopov (Maecenus).

TV mini-series

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

 

Part 1. 

A village in Gaul.  The Romans burn down a village, killing the men and taking the women away.  Varinia says that once she made a promise to tell our story.  She says the Romans came and destroyed her world and made her a slave.

"Rome herself was torn by conflict. Bloody civil wars raged for years between the plebeians and their rivals, the patricians, led by senators like Marcus Crassus, the richest man in the world.  As a child, he had seen his father murdered in the Forum.  Crassus had risen from the ashes of his family's defeat to unlimited wealth and unlimited ambition.  Ambition kept in check only by his rivals, like Antonius Agrippa.  The civil wars were over.  Men smiled at one another in public.  But the fighting never stopped."

Antonius Agippa learns of another great victory by Pompey.  The victory was over vermin-ridden Gaulish peasants.  Crassus too is not going to like this news.  Some people say Pompey will become consul.  Crassus doesn't like this.  He "borrows" Cornelius's wife. 

Crassus has thousands of slaves, all at the whim of their master.

Varinia is to be sold as a slave.  She is bought by Batiatus, who has the finest gladiatorial school in all Italy.

Cornelius's wife, named Helena, asks Crassus how can the Senate choose Pompey over him as the next consul?  Crassus says it would be a close vote. 

A man named Spartacus, a Thracian slave, is presently working in the Egyptian gold mines.  Spartacus sees a small boy slave being beaten for his rocks falling out of his basket and comes to his rescue.  He is placed on a crucifix.  He is saved, however, by Batiatus for his gladiator school.

Spartacus starts adjusting to the new school.  Crixus , a big fellow, insults the two Thracians, Spartacus and Gannicus.  The result is a fight between Crixus and Spartacus.  The smaller Spartacus is defeating his enemy, but the head master of the school stops the fight.  He then tells all the men to go to their cells.

At the public baths, Crassus and Agrippa denigrate Pompey as the next possible consul.

The gladiators are taught the use of the Roman short sword, called the gladius, from which the gladiators get their name.   The head master picks Spartacus as his partner to come at the more experienced master.  Spartacus keeps being made to look the part of the slave, until he picks up some sand and throws into into the master's eyes.  At that moment he could have killed the master, named Cinna.   Cinna is going to cut Spartacus for his stunt, but Batiatus again intervenes.  He warns Cinna not to damage his expensive property. 

Varinia is brought to Batiatus.  She wants no part of him and fights him off her.  She pushes him onto a table.  He tells the guards to hold her, and he slaps her. 

Before going to fight in the arena, the gladiators who will be fighting, get to be with a woman chosen by the leaders. Varinia is given to Spartacus.  Spartacus gives her his cloak to keep her warm, and says he will sleep in a corner and won't bother Varinia. 

Capua, 160km (or 105 miles) se from Rome and 29 km (or 18 miles) nw from Naples.  Spartacus and the other gladiators have come to fight in Capua.  Two arsonists are burned to death in the arena.  The first match will be Crixus versus Gaius.  Then it will be Gannicus versus Antonius.  Spartacus fights against Commodus. Varinia watches the match while serving Batiatus.  Spartacus wins and the audience wants Commodus killed.  Spartacus slits the man's throat. 

Varinia sees Spartacus in his cell.  He is disgusted with the audience who take their pleasure in blood and death.   On another night, she asks Spartacus to lay with her on the hard bed.  He says no, because Cinna ordered it.  "And because Thracian men and women are to remain chaste until married."  Varinia says that slaves don't marry.  Spartacus replies:  "I would marry you."   He also tells her that he loves her.  And then he asks her to marry him. Varinia says she will if he will take a vow.  So Spartacus vows, then Varinia takes the same oath. 

Spartacus wins one match after another. 

Cornelius Lucius and his wife, Helena, along with Marcus Crassus come to visit with Batiatus.  Crassus says that he wants the two Thracians to fight to the death.  Batiatus says it will cost Crassus 25,000 denarii.  Crassus immediately agrees to the price.  Batiatus in the end puts up Spartacus against the African Draba. The first fight, however, matches the Jewish fighter with another man.  The Jewish fighter wins.  Draba defeats Spartacus, but he refuses to kill him.  A guard tries to kill Draba, but Draba kills him instead.  He then tries to crawl up the wall to get at the Romans, but Cinna puts a spear through Draba and then other guards throw more spears into Draba's back. 

Spartacus is bothered by the question of why Draba didn't kill him? 

Batiatus has Cinna kill another black gladiator in vengeance for what Draba tried to do to him and his guests.  This cruelty actually leads to a revolt among the gladiators.  The women in the kitchen then revolt, hitting the Roman guards with various items.  Spartacus kills Cinna.  The revolt is a success.  He tells the others:  "Live to fight the Romans!"  Then they break out of the compound and go after the Roman soldiers.  They kill the soldiers in a massacre. 

Batiatus escapes the revolt.  He goes to Maecenus at the Capua garrison.  The Romans go south after the rebels.  The rebels stop to massacre the Roman soldiers again. 

Crassus talks to the senators and says they must take three entire cohorts and go after the slaves.  He then says that Titus Glabrus can lead them.  Glabrus is honored by the position.  Crassus wanted to take the position but he knew that Agrippa would have blocked him out of sheer spite.  Agrippa says to a colleague that Crassus wants to become Emperor.  The soldiers march out of the city. 

The rebels choose Spartacus as their leader.  Spartacus then discusses some basic laws for everyone to follow.  He rejects the idea of making the Romans their slaves.  He says the system of slavery makes both the slave and the slave owner into animals.  They will go from estate to estate freeing the slaves and taking for themselves the food supplies of the estates.  Along their way the rebels run into Cornelius and Helena.  Their own slaves kill the two wealthy estate owners, and the rebels precede on their way. 

Crassus learns of the murders of Cornelius and Helena.  He is naturally upset. Spartacus is the rebel leader and he is taking his people to Mount Vesuvius, southeast of Naples. 

Varinia tells Spartacus that she is pregnant.  He is very happy about this.

Titus Glabrus is informed that the slave army is climbing the north wall of the mountain.  David the Jewish gladiator tells Spartacus that Titus Glabrus has settled down for the night at the foot of the mountain.  The other gladiators asks what is Spartacus's plan to deal with the Romans?  Spartacus reveals that he has no plan.  He urges the others to come up with a plan.  Varinia speaks to her husband and says that Spartacus may not have chosen to be the leader, but the moment has chosen Spartacus as the leader. 

Usually the Romans would build a fortress around them when they settle in for the night.  Titus Glabrus, however, says he and the men are exhausted and the enemy is just a bunch of slaves.  He says there's no need for fortification.

Spartacus comes up with a plan.  They will attack first.  The women make long ropes to let the rebels go down easier.  The attack is at night.  Spartacus and Crixus kill Titus Glabrus first.  Then they massacre the Roman soldiers.  Spartacus saves one soldier to take a message back to the Roman Senate.   Spartacus tells the Romans to leave them alone, or they will kill every Roman soldier who comes after them. 

The lone soldier tells the senate and Crassus takes a vow that he will hunt the rebels down and he will see to it that Spartacus hangs, crucified, at the gates of Rome.

 

Part 2.

Orsino, the Sicilian pirate, comes to the rebel camp.  He says if he helps the former slaves, he will make many enemies for himself in Rome.  So he wants to take the one chest the formers slaves have now and then get five more chests at the southern coast of Italy.  Spartacus and his people will be taken from the coast to a secret place.  After Orsino leaves, Varinia say that Spartacus can't trust either Orsino or Crixus.  Spartacus says they don't have other options than to work with these men for awhile. 

The Roman Senate learns that the slaves are at Nola [lies on the plain between Mount Vesuvius (which is ne of the volcano) and the Apennines]. 

Spartacus talks of heading northward toward the Alps.  Meanwhile, Crassus decides to pick 200 random slaves and puts them to death. 

Spartacus and Varinia lose their son.  He tells his wife that there will be other children. 

The senate learns that the slaves are moving north to the Alps.  Crassus says that this time they will bring down the frontier troops of the Sixth and Seventh Legions from Transalpine Gaul.  Agrippa now nominates Coprius Maximus as the military commander.  Spartacus soon gets wind of the
Roman plan.  

Spartacus attacks the this-time-prepared Romans.  The slave cavalry defeat the Roman Calvary.  David then attacks the Roman center.   Then David withdraws from the center and the Roman soldiers follow after them into the woods.  The rebels now attack from the front and their cavalry strikes from the back.  They kill the Romans, including their commander.  Spartacus asks where did the rest of the Roman cavalry go.  He is told their cavalry ran away.  Now Spartacus says that they left their camp open to invasion.  He rides over to the camp and sees the destruction and and slaughter of many women.  Varinia survived.  Spartacus and she are reunited. 

Crixus wants to stay where they are now, but Spartacus says they cannot defeat the whole Roman army.  Crixus says if Spartacus doesn't have the stomach for facing the Romans, he may slink away.  Varinia says that if they split up, the Romans will destroy both groups.  Now, however, Spartacus says that Crixus is right.  They can split up and head for the coast and sail for Sicily.  The people like that idea.

Crassus is very unhappy at recent events.  Two Roman legions have been destroyed.  And now the slaves turn south, perhaps to head for Rome itself.  So now, Crassus says he will take six legions with him and will smash this slave rebellion once and for all.  Agrippa tells the senators that Crassus wants to create his own private arms for his own designs.  Crassus says that the nation's security is at stake and the very lives of the senators are threatened by the slave rebellion.  In this situation, only a traitor would refuse Crassus's plans.  That shuts up Agrippa as the senators loudly applaud Crassus. 

Crassus rides out of Rome at the head of his six legions.  Agrippa watches and now decides to contact Pompey for possible help against Crassus. 

Orsino suggests to Spartacus that they meet at Calabria [a region in Southern Italy, forming the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula], where he can bring his boats close to shore.  Spartacus agrees, but then he tells Orsino that if he betray the slaves, he will find Orsino and kill him.   

Gannicus informs Spartacus that Rome sends a new army against  them and he better have a look at it.  The encampment is huge with six legions.  Their general is Crassus. 

Crassus tells two officers that he knows that  right now Spartacus is watching them. 

Spartacus decides to stay put in his present position and let Crassus come to them.  Crassus tells his staff that Spartacus is staying where he is, wanting for the Romans to come get him.  Crassus decides to let three legions attack straight into the slave lines.  But the three other legions will sneak behind the slave formation and attack Spartacus from the back. 

Three legions come straight toward the slave fortifications.  The Romans circling behind the rebel encampment are discovered by the rebels.  Quickly, Spartacus orders an attack on the three legions behind them.  Crassus is told about the disaster and his good mood is destroyed for he has lost the element of surprise and three legions.  He calls off his attack.  Back at their encampment Crassus decides to apply the principle of decimation to his three legions. Every tenth soldier is asked to come to the front.  There these soldiers have their throats cut.

Back before the senate, Agrippa accuses Crassus of brutality used on his own soldiers.  Crassus just sees the decimation as part of the discipline for the greatest army in the world.  Agrippa asks where is Spartacus now, and Crassus says he believes that Spartacus will move on Sicily.  Agrippa now calls for the replacement of Crassus with Pompey and Lucullus.  Crassus says they can recall him, but at their own peril.  It will take a least 3 weeks before Pompey's troops can get in position, and, meanwhile, Spartacus will be on the move and destroying the estates as he goes along.  He adds that he himself is the only possible miracle Rome may count on.  So Crassus stays at the head of the army facing Spartacus.  Agrippa says to his colleague that Crassus has something up his sleeve, and this gives him his sureness of future victory.

What Crassus has is Orsino.  His troops bring Orsino to him and Crassus says that Orsino is going to help the Roman cause.  He holds his sword up to Orsino's throat.  If Orsino doesn't help Rome then Orsino will suffer a great punishment.   Orsino has no choice.  He says:  "The coastline of Calabria."

Spartacus has reached the coastline of Calabria and sees the ships waiting out on the Mediterranean Sea.  He thinks it will only take a day for the ships to arrive and the former slaves be placed on the ships.  The next morning arrives and the ships are gone.  Spartacus screams out:  "It's a trap!"  He rides out on his horse and finds a huge fortress erected by the Romans. 

Spartacus tries to negotiate with Crassus, but it's impossible.  Crassus has the upper hand and can even starve the slaves into surrender. 

At night, Crassus is awakened and told that the slaves are attacking the Roman wall, north of here near the Bay of Euphemia.  He rushes out to set his men up for the attack. Crassus sees lots of men with torches approaching the wall, but realizes in time that it's just some oxen outfitted with torches  on their backs. 

Back in Rome, Agrippa has a good laugh at Crassus's fight against the oxen.  Pompey is now moving toward Spartacus. 

Spartacus is being chased by Crassus from the south and Pompey's troops are after them from the north. Spartacus wants to head north, avoiding Pompey, and head over the Alps.  Crixus now fights with Spartacus to become the tribe's leader. Spartacus wins, bur refuses to cut Crixus's throat.  He says that the tribe still needs Crixus, but Crixus is going to leave.  A big part of the tribe goes with Crixus. 

Crassus is told that all the Gauls under Crixus have left Spartacus's army.  Crixus is making camp by Lake Lucania.  Crassus attacks the Gauls and destroys them.  Crixus has been run through by at least four spears. 

News arrives that Lucullus and five legions have landed at Brindisium, a day's march north and east of here.  [Brundisium was on the southeastern shoreline of Italy on the Adriatic Sea on the heel of the Italian boot.]  Now the slaves are about to be caught between three Roman armies.  So Spartacus decides to attack Crassus. 

Spartacus asks his wife not to take her own life if he dies in battle. 

Spartacus and Crassus meet on the battlefield.  Meanwhile, Varinia is giving birth to her child.  Spartacus and Crassus fight to get to each other.  Spartacus is cut down, surrounded by Roman soldiers.  Crassus stops a soldier from killing Varinia who has given birth to a son. 

Crassus has taken 6,000 prisoners.   He gives the order to crucify all 6,000 of them.  A soldier tells Crassus that Pompey is on his way to Rome to claim Crassus's victory as his own.  Crassus heads for Rome.  He reaches the senate in time to have to watch Pompey being celebrated as the victor over the slave army.  Julius Caesar says that they must not forget the work of Crassus in this matter.  Agrippa says the senate should give Crassus an ovation, their secondary honor.  Pompey agrees to an ovation for Crassus.  Crassus looks stunned at the outcome of his endeavors.  He explodes while telling the senate of how much he really did for Rome, only to be given some secondary honor.  Another senator, Caesar, now proposes that both Pompey and Crassus be made consul, that is, co-consulship.  Pompey accepts.  Then Crassus accepts. Agrippa protests, but he is shouted down. 

The soldiers  of the slave army are still being crucified.  Crassus speaks to Varinia about what king of man Spartacus was.  She says Spartacus was something different:  "He was the way that people might be if they chose."  Crassus now asks Varinia to love him.  She tells him:  "He was something that you could never be."  He yells at her to get out.

The last rebel to be killed was the Jewish fighter David.  David is defiant to the end, so Crassus thrusts his sword into the man's belly. 

Agrippa is upset, saying that Caesar will be the real beneficiary of this co-consulship.   He asks:  "What have we done?"  Agrippa says he would pay two million sisterces to steal Varinia from Crassus. He then frees his slaves.

Crassus still holds a grudge against Pompey and Caesar. 

Someone steals Varinia and she is brought to Agrippa for the money.  He gives Varinia a lot of money.  She asks him why?  He say it's a poke in the eye for Crassus and maybe a foolish old man's last gesture of redemption.  He admires how the slaves fought for their freedom.  They fought for something good, whereas Rome fought for something bad.

Crassus demands to know from Agrippa where is Varinia?  At this very moment Agrippa stabs himself in the mid-section.  Crassus drops his crown by the body of Agrippa and then leaves. 

Varinia and her child Spartacus are dropped off with a tribe. 

 

Great story of a revolt by slaves to obtain their freedom.  The tale of Spartacus has deeply affected other rebels fighting for their freedoms.   Wikipedia has a list of people and groups inspired by the story of Spartacus in the Third Servile War (7371 BC), the last of a series of unrelated and unsuccessful slave rebellions against the Roman RepublicAngus Macfadyen (as Marcus Crassus) did a good job of playing a very determined and ambitious man. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


 

Historical Background:

See Spartacus (1960).

 

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