The Epic of Spartacus and the Third Servile War

Born in the shadow of Mount Olympus,
Of nomadic tribe, Thracian by birth,
The Myth, the man, the mighty Spartacus,
Ruthless mercenary who proved his worth

A sword, a spear and a strong arm for hire,
One of the most fearsome in the region,
Though he would flee the grasp of would be Empire,
A deserter of the Roman Legion

He was captured, into slavery sold,
Where he was separated from his wife,
Made a Gladiator, or so it is told,
He carved his craft at the tip of a knife
In the arena where he was forced to fight for his life,

The ludus outside Capua is where the plot was hatched,
Betrayed, word made its way to Batiatus’ ear,
Who ordered the collaborators of sedition dispatched
And their heads brought to him impaled on a spear,

Conspirators huddled heads, having to make haste
Discovering their plan had been put in plain sight,
They hadn’t a single second to waste,
It was time to act, to rise up, to fight
It was agreed “We must do this thing tonight!”

The guards came that night, but were taken by surprise
With how ferociously the Gladiators fought back,
That was the signal for every servant of the household to rise
And with whatever was at hand join in the attack

In the ensuing melee, some seventy survived,
Oenomaus had fallen along the way,
Their freedom won, but there existed a divide,
Some wanted to flee and refortify, some wanted to fight and stay

Batiatus pursued, but was easily defeated,
Word of this made its way to the Senate in Rome,
While Spartacus and his men to Vesuvius retreated,
Pillaging villages and liberating slaves as they go

Someone must, this rabble rebellion quell
,But who to charge with the mission,
To Gaius Claudius Glaber the task fell,
Who was quickly rising in rank and position

Whose greatest flaw was being over-confident,
The better choice, Pompey, was occupied in Spain,
So the Senate settled on sending Glaber, who was less competent,
Far less accomplished and far too vain

Encamped at the base of Vesuvius,
Glaber believed he had the upper hand,
But he didn’t count on the cunning of Spartacus,
Glaber doing exactly what his adversary had planned

In laying siege to Spartacus’ volcanic keep,
And in leaving the cliff face undefended,
By cover of moon with most of Glaber’s men asleep,
Using rope made from woven vines, Spartacus descended

Slithering like serpents bellies to the ground,
Silently, stealthily crawling, they crept,
Killing the sentries before they could utter a sound,
Glaber and his men were slain as they slept

Word of the Roman defeat travelled far and wide,
Whispers of revolt and rebellion,
Spread through city street and country side,
In response the Senate dispatched two consular legions

Led by Publicola and Clodianus,
They cornered Crixus and his thirty thousand,
In the battle of Mount Garganus,
Roman victory snatched just when it was in hand

Spartacus usurped them from the rear,
Some screamed in pain, some battle cries shouted,
In a mighty clash of shield, sword and spear,
Having to divide their forces the Romans were routed

“Who is Spartacus? We are Spartacus,
Our Numbers are 70,000 strong,
In the shadow of Mount Vesuvius,
Our Swords are sharp and our spears are long!”

“Mighty Rome quake and quiver in your boots,
We stand united, we stand as one,
We will shake your foundation to the roots,
We are free, your days as our over lords are done.”

The loss triggered the Senate to sound the alarm,
Something had to be done about this rebellion,
Crassus volunteered to act as the military arm
Of eight legions, fifty thousand fighting men

A Sacrifice to Mars was made,
Crassus and his army marched off to war,
With much pomp, pageantry and great parade,
Fifty thousand fighting men, if not more

Fifty thousand men, hardened by battle,
The cruel and ruthless Crassus at the head,
Sent to slaughter human sheep and cattle,
And squash the rabble this dog, Spartacus led

They marched for weeks before their first encounter,
The opening salvo of a long arduous grind,
Mummius with two legions were to maneuver,
Circle and take Spartacus from behind

Seizing on the opportunity, prematurely Mummius attacked,
But Spartacus and his men tore through their ranks,
Crassus and his six remaining legions pushed back,
Spartacus was unable to break Roman Phalanx

The first battle to Crassus went,
He began to push Spartacus south through Lucania,
Spartacus lost the next few engagements,
And was hemmed in on the banks of the Strait of Messina

Bargaining for transport and passage to Sicily,
By Cicilian pirates Spartacus was betrayed,
Unable to recruit more slaves to fight for liberty,
Offering his life for those of his men, with Crassus parlayed

Crassus outright rejected the idea with a snort,
His mind was bent on punishment and pain,
But for Crassus time was running short,
Victorious, Pompey had returned from Spain

The Senate thought better to err on the side of caution,
Pompey was sent to the Servile Front to assure victory,
Carssus had Spartacus besieged, with his back to the ocean
And would not be undone, or robbed of his glory

Some of Spartacus’ men broke ranks and tried to flee,
Like dogs they were hunted down and killed,
Feral mutts put out of their misery,
The Romans were as ruthless as they were skilled

With nowhere to hide, with nowhere to run,
With every free man under his command,
The High Sele Valley, beneath the sweltering sun,
Was where Spartacus would make his final stand

The cut of steel, the bite of blade,
Side by side, one by one they fell,
Most of Spartacus’ men were slayed,
“Curse Crassus, may he burn in Hell!”

“Who is Spartacus? We are Spartacus,
Captured by Crassus’ army,” the prisoners replied,
“Who is Spartacus? We are Spartacus,
The six thousand that Crassus had crucified,
The six thousand crosses that line the Appian Way,
The ghosts that haunt the road from Capua to Rome,
Who is Spartacus and where could you find him today?
Transcending words and ideas of a dusty tome,
Where ever there is slavery and oppression,
You will find Spartacus in spirit,
Time after time, history has repeated the same lesson
So when are we going to hear it?”

T J Therien

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