Sunday, February 21, 2010


Spartacus Risked It All For a Chance to be Free

He was born in a place called Thrace

located in northern Greece or Macedonia.

Thrace was a part of the Roman Empire.

Therefore Spartacus was born into bondage.

Like many who were not citizens,

Spartacus joined the Roman Legions.

He must have not liked the fact

that these legions existed to place people in bondage.

He deserted and attempted to escape.

How does one escape from an empire?

Spartacus was captured and enslaved.

He became a gladiator.

The gladiator was a special kind of slave.

He received intensive training

so that he might fight to the death in the coliseum

for the entertainment of Rome.

The gladiator knew that he would probably

be murdered by one of his brother slaves.

Many began to ponder

if there was another way to live.

The penalty for conspiring

against a slave owner was death.

The sentence was carried out with one of three methods.

Crucifixion, burning to death, or exposure to wild animals.

This sentence didn’t just punish a guilty slave.

All the slaves who toiled for an owner

would suffer the same death sentence.

No, it wasn’t easy to escape slavery.

Before Spartacus, the slaves of Sicily

who were of African descent

arose in rebellion.

They were defeated, but their example was known.

So Spartacus and his fellow slaves had a choice.

They could murder each other,

or they could risk a horrible punishment

and fight for freedom.

Seventy slaves escaped to Mt. Vesuvius.

They appealed to those in bondage to join the rebellion.

90,000 joined the army of slaves.

The Romans became nervous.

Spartacus knew the legions,

and he knew how they could be defeated.

The army of slaves defeated those legions

and took control of southern Italy.

Spartacus marched the army north to the Alps

where they would be out of reach of the empire.

They succeeded and could have been free.

But Spartacus and the army had changed.

They no longer merely wanted to be free.

Now they wanted to free all the slaves,

march into the city of Rome

and build a new world.

Spartacus might have said:

“The whole world will hear the voice of the tool

and to the slaves of the world,

we cry out,

Rise up and cast off your chains!

We will move through Italy,

and wherever we go,

the slaves will join us

and then, one day,

we will come against your eternal city.

It will not be eternal then.” [1]

The army of slaves marched

through the entire length of Italy.

They attempted to join

their African sisters and brothers in Sicily.

The legions blocked the passage

and built a wall surrounding the slave army.

The slaves broke out of the trap,

but were eventually defeated.

Then Roman law was enforced.

6,000 slaves who fought for freedom

were crucified on a road called the Appian Way.

This is what the Romans called civilization.

But working people had an example

that will last for all time.

Of a slave who yearned to be free

who demonstrated how people with nothing

could begin to change the world.

[1] Fast, Howard, Spartacus

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