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(died 71 BC) Leader in the Gladiatorial War against Rome (73–71). A Thracian, he served in the Roman army. He became a bandit and was sold as a slave when caught. He escaped a gladiatorial school, where he had plotted a revolt with other gladiators, and set up camp on Mount Vesuvius, where he was joined by other runaway slaves and some peasants. With a force of 90,000, he overran most of southern Italy, defeating two consuls (72). He led his army north to the Cisalpine Gaul, where he hoped to release them to find freedom, but they refused to leave, preferring to continue the struggle. Returning south, he attempted to invade Sicily but could not arrange the passage. The legions of Marcus Licinius Crassus caught the slave army in Lucania and defeated it; Spartacus fell in pitched battle. Pompey's army intercepted and killed many of those escaping north, and Crassus crucified 6,000 prisoners along the Appian Way.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Spartacus, visit Britannica.com.