Spartacus

( 6 )

Overview

Spartacus, a fictionalization of a slave revolt in ancient Rome in 71 B.C., is well known today partly because of the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier. It was originally published in 1951 by the author himself, after being turned down by every mainstream publisher of the day because of Fast's blacklisting for his Communist Party sympathies. The story of Spartacus, born a slave, trained as a gladiator, who led a slave revolt that was eventually put down by Crassus, was immensely popular, has ...
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Overview

Spartacus, a fictionalization of a slave revolt in ancient Rome in 71 B.C., is well known today partly because of the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier. It was originally published in 1951 by the author himself, after being turned down by every mainstream publisher of the day because of Fast's blacklisting for his Communist Party sympathies. The story of Spartacus, born a slave, trained as a gladiator, who led a slave revolt that was eventually put down by Crassus, was immensely popular, has sold millions of copies, and has gone through nearly a hundred editions. The appearance of this title in the North Castle series brings back into print a book that many regard as a classic, and is enhanced with a new Introduction by the author.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781563245992
  • Publisher: Sharpe, M. E. Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/24/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 372
  • Sales rank: 331,089
  • Lexile: 990L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2005

    Jerry, an avid reader

    I saw the 1960 movie (after reading the comic book based on the movie that year...what kid does not like adventure stories? I then read the book in 1968 when I found it in a used book store. Sure, Fast is a socialist...I'm a Republican, so what! The first review by Octavius may have some valid points from an intellectual, historical point of view but this book is not about 'swordfighting' or 'rebellion', it is about the relationship of men to women and people to each other. It is a romantic historical novel and I do not think that Fast could have written it without being inspired by his first late wife whom he was married to for a very long time....in many ways, it is a tribute to her. This book does draw a contrast between the 'degenerate' Romans and the 'noble' slaves. Of course all the Romans were not degenerates and all the slaves were not noble. Fast's book is just a story. Arthur Koestler looks at the Spartacus tale and uses it as a vehicle to draw a portrait of the 'Evolution of Revolution'....very excellent. His Spartacus sets up a state in southern Italy based in Metapontum (a city which Spartacus actually conquered). Many problems exist with setting up a new state and Koestler goes into this. Sometimes, the new state can be just as wicked as the old but Koestler's Spartacus is an 'evolving character' begining as a simple 'circus performer' to a more inspired human being. The fact remains however that in 73 BC Gladiators in Capua broke out of 'close confinement'. People who are happy, don't revolt. Gladiators could obtain freedom and even become wealthy, like today's sports figures. Something 'got under the craw' of these gladiators. They escaped to Vesuvius where they were safe for a while. Other slaves joined them, swelling their numbers to perhaps 70,000. Sparatcus was an excellent general. Like George Washington, he knew it was important to keep an army 'in the field'. Spartacus wanted to 'sue the Romans for peace'. He had the right idea but he was not sophisticated enough to understand that a separate state on the Italian Penninsula was not acceptable to the Romans. This all comes out in the fragments available to us in he sketchy Roman record....Livy,Plutarch,Appian, Florus, Saullist Accounts which were written by Roman historians about 100 years after Spartacus. The revolt failed after the Romans managed to intercept and destroy the army of Crixus. Crixus (a gladiator comrade of Spartacus) commanded about half of Spartacus's troops. One army would act as a 'anvil-pivot', while the other army would be the 'hammer'. Between them they would trap and slaughter the Romans. The Roman historians say that some of the Roman soldiers would try to defect to Spartacus but 'he would not have them'...fearing, I guess that they would be spies. Spartacus was no doubt smart and he must have been charasmatic or the whole armed rebellion would have dissolved shortly after the gladiators escaped their confines. The Romans managed to trap Crixus and destroy his army. With a major defeat, other slaves thought twice about joining the armed rebellion. Now, it was just a matter of time before the Romans finally wore down Spartacus to a point where he became weak enough to defeat in direct battle. Actually, Fast's story all comes down to focusing on Varinia, the wife of Spartacus. Everyone in this book talks about her because the story is done in retrospective from the point of view of the Wealthy Romans who were trying to make some sense of the slave revolt. In effect, Varinia is the 'lone survivor' of the revolt. Fast wrote this book under very difficult circumstances and he was in jail for a short period of time when he wrote parts of this book. Without that 'experience', he probably could not have written his book as well as he did. It is beautifully written with picturesque descriptions of the Italian country side during the Roman Republic. I think men and woman, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends sho

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2004

    Light On History, Heavy On Communism

    It is difficult to classify this novel as historical fiction when so much of the historical elements in the novel were distorted to suit Fast's blatant communist theme. Fast depicts Crassus as a modern day Rockefeller to support his Marxist theme but the hands-on entrepreneurial spirit he depitcts was treated with contempt and shunned by the Roman nobility. Crassus was certainly resourceful with obtaining money but his activities were not conducted with the the types of modern views or methods Fast depicts. Crassus owned prized real estate in Rome (both Caesar and Cicero bought a home from him), had investments with tax collection franchises, and also owned several mines in Spain. Nevertheless, Crassus was primarily an advocate in the courts and a politician: not a factory owning robber baron. Fast erroneously uses homosexuality to portray Romans as corrupt and decadent but intercourse between two adult males was usually taboo in classical times, even in Imperial Rome and Classical Greece. Especially during the Late Republic, homosexuality was regarded as unmanly and viceful. This can be derived by studying how many of Caesar's political enemies focused on his reputation as a homosexual (Caesar was rumored of having a homosexual relationship with the king of Bythnia after fleeing from Rome and Sulla's dictatorship.) This is also known because the Romans had a strong sense of manifest destiny based on their notion of what they called 'gravitas'; a strong sense of civil and moral virtue bound with pragmatic stoicism. This world view defined how they saw themselves as a people and was a collective cultural contrast from the Greeks who they portrayed as corrupt and licentious pleasure seekers unfit to rule the world. Thus, Fast's depiction of Republican Rome as debauched and corrupt society with open homosexual values is completely inaccurate. Fast's emphasis on Rome being an uncompromising oppressor is also false. The most absurd and blatantly false portrayal is Fast's depiction of Rome disposing of the vanquished slaves as sausages for cannibalistic consumption: ridiculous! Compared to contemporary civilizations, Rome had an extremely liberal policy in its treatment of slaves. Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, and other societies rarely freed any slaves or their offspring, not to speak of making them citizens or equal subjects. Manumission in Rome was very common and freed slaves were given political suffrage: their children in turn were born citizens and could fully enjoy all benefits conferred upon the plebean class. Contrary to Fast's skewed depiction, Rome was the guiding light of freedom in its day. It was a place where individual citizens had rights, and were free to govern not only their own affairs but that of their nation as well. The Roman people therefore strived for civic participation and a strong education with an emphasis on law and public speaking. It was a place where people had a right to a trial before their peers and to appeal unfair judgments. Laws had to be written and publicly displayed before they were enforced. Roman citizens also rarely paid taxes and were given free rations of food on a regular basis. Instead of seeing public money go into the coffers of tyrants or monarchs, even the poorest of Roman people could be content in having their money being used for public projects such as roads, harbors, aqueducts, closed sewers, defense, drainage, irrigation, and a subsidized food supply that all could enjoy. In short, the only thing 'historical' in Fast's novel is a correct account of general events, dates and names; this frail historical skeleton is weighed down with nothing more than heavy agenda driven gibberish. Fast shows absolutely no grasp of any anthropological, historical, or socio-political understanding of the ancient world, least of all Rome. Fast simply needed something, anything, that would serve as a vehicle with which to carry his Bolshevik message to a general audience. If I wa

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2002

    The slave who almost toppled an empire

    When a great individual comes into a position of power his impact is felt on society, in ¿Spartacus¿ by Howard Fast, a slave leads an army against the Roman Empire. The story begins seven to nine months after the Servile War broke out, a war that lasted for almost four years. The story is about a slave named Spartacus, who at the height of his campaign, led almost one hundred thousand slaves against Rome. However the book focuses more on the postwar events and how they affected the citizens of Rome, particularly the upper class, who controlled the slaves. Even though the ending is known to the reader, it cannot be helped that the reader still cheers Spartacus on during his war, and for that reason ¿Spartacus¿ is an excellent read. <P> Fast weaves the story though flashback, using different characters¿ personal experiences with Spartacus and his revolt. This technique is very effective in relaying theme and explores all the different aspects of Spartacus. Fast also uses this approach because the story, in essence, is told backward, from the beginning the reader knows that Spartacus has lost, but, with this approach, the reader gets to experience the effects that the slave revolt has had on the Roman society. After the Servile War, life for the small upper class could never return to normal, for after Spartacus the slaves were now recognized as people instead of animals. The ripples were even felt with the general that defeated Spartacus in the war. A slave that was the son of a slave mattered to a great general. This further illustrates Spartacus¿ crushing blow to the Roman hierarchy. ¿Yet the least sensitive of human beings could not have traveled the great highway without pondering upon the series of terrible battles between slaves and free men which had shaken the Republic to its roots_and indeed shaken the whole world the Republic ruled.¿ (129) This except shows how Spartacus¿ power was felt throughout the whole Roman society. Although all the perceptions of Spartacus were different though the eyes of the nobles and the characters the story is told though, they all shared the envy of Spartacus. He was a man of virtue and for that the upper class hated him for it, and the slaves loved him for it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2002

    Great book

    I immensely enjoyed reading this novel by Howard Fast. I had a choice of over 100 books to read during the summer, and I chose this one. Some parts were, to say, disturbing, but I loved it anyway. This book taught me about the human spirit, and the will to overcome oppression, and to get freedom.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2001

    Spartacus brings Terror to the Roman Empire

    <p> In the book 'Spartacus,' by Howard Fast the reader encounters an amazing story about a gladiator slave, named Spartacus. Spartacus led almost fifty thousand slaves, in a four-year revolt against the Roman Republic. While the book is about Spartacus' slave rebellion, the story primarily focuses on the post-war actions and feeling of several upper class Roman citizens, and the profound impact that the slave rebellion had on these few individuals. 'Spartacus' is and excellent book worth readinb, because it gives much insight into many of life's lessons. <p> There are many ways and techniques in which the author, Fast, makes this epic tale come alive. The single most noticeable literary technique, is a type of writing using a flashback approach. The story starts several months after the Servile War. The story is told backwards in the sense that it can only be seen when the characters are remembering and talking about Spartacus' slave rebellion. The characters are used in this fashion, because normally, it would not make sense to tell the story of a hero, who in the end simply loses. The author also wants to emphasize the effect of Sparatacus' war, on the citizens. This approach works very well, because the reader gets to understand many different points of view about the Servile War, and more importantly the reader can truly see the emotional impact that this war had on the people of Rome. The author uses this flashback technique to weave an intricate, fascinating, and heartbreaking tale, that shows how the elite of Roman society, those with wealth and power, for the first time began to see that slaves were not objects, but human beings. They began to recognize how wrong they were in their treatment of the slaves, and many of them, for the first time, recognized their inner faults. Oddly enough they became envious of the god-like man named Spartacus, because he had all of the qualities of a righteous man, that they did not posses.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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