Fantastic Fugitives: Criminals, Cutthroats, and Rebels Who Changed History While on the Run! is the second book in Brianna DuMont’s Changed History series. The series includes Famous Phonies: Legends, Fakes, and Frauds Who Changed History (2015) and a forthcoming book on thieves who changed history.
Fantastically fast fugitives hiding inside:
Spartacus * Cleopatra * Martin Luther * Koxinga * Mary, Queen of Scots * The Pilgrims * Harriet Tubman * Typhoid Mary * John Dillinger * Emmeline Pankhurst * Virginia Hall * Nelson Mandela
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The Low-Aiming Freedom Fighter
Rome Wasn't Built in a Day, but It Was Built on the Backs of Slaves
Spartacus could have been the heartthrob pinup of his day. He had good looks, hunky arms, and that X factor that made everyone in the room need smelling salts. The Romans saw it and made the slave a gladiator. They trained him to be a ruthless death-dealing warrior, but for some reason it shocked them when he turned on them next.
Before Spartacus bit the hand that fed him, revolt was already in the air. Thanks to two previous slave uprisings, unrest wafted around Italy as contagious as the flu. Being a Roman slave was hard work, and the slaves were sick and tired of man-powering the world's biggest bully — the empire of Rome.
empire of Rome:
Hold on — wasn't Rome a republic during Spartacus's revolt? Technically, yes. The first emperor didn't take over the marble throne until 27 BCE, partially thanks to Spartacus, but the Roman Republic was arguably an empire before that. It had a unified government, always looked to its neighbors for more land, and had amphitheaters full of different peoples under their rule.
Being a gladiator meant being desirable, deadly, and disgusting all at once to the Roman elite. Watching grown men duke it out to the bloody end was a favorite pastime of Roman citizens. That part didn't really bother Spartacus. Blood games and fights to the death were totally normal in the first century BCE. He just didn't like being the one on the sharp end of a sword every day.
A Puzzle of a Guy
Who knows when Spartacus was born; it wasn't like he was supposed to grow up and be famous. It was somewhere in Thrace during the Roman Republic, a time in which a bunch of old, wrinkly guys in Rome called a Senate ruled over the population. The Senate was known for doing things like ordering legions of men to go conquer other people and bring them back lots of slaves and gold.
Literally the "help." Auxiliaries were not native Romans, and they got about a third of the pay that Roman legionaries did. They provided manpower and specialized fighting techniques like horseback riding.
Thracians were known for fighting with abandon, spearing men's heads and screaming like crazy when they attacked their enemies. Let's just say no self- respecting Roman citizen wanted to meet a Thracian in a dark alley. The Senate realized the ferocious Thracians would make good Roman soldiers, but they didn't want to actually make them real Roman soldiers. Instead, the senators hired Thracians to fight in auxiliary units on the Roman side, but not in the legions. Those were for Roman citizens only.
You're probably thinking of the Colosseum in Rome at this point. Don't. It won't be built for another 140 years. Games were held in amphitheaters that looked a lot like the oval Colosseum, though.
Spartacus was a free Thracian who fought in a Roman auxiliary, but he didn't stay for long. He deserted and was caught, which was bad news if he ever wanted to go home again. The price for desertion from a Roman auxiliary unit was slavery. Since Spartacus was a hunk in leather armor and muscled like a WWE wrestler, he was sold to a gladiator school. These schools were all around Roman Europe, but Spartacus was sold to one in Capua, near Pompeii.
It could have been worse. Slaves in Rome were considered tools — expensive ones who ate, slept, and pooped, but on the same level as a hammer. They were frequently sold to work the fields, to build public projects, or to mine for gold all day. All this was done to build and glorify Rome. Gladiators, on the other hand, ate like kings and had top-notch doctors for any boo-boos they got in training. If a gladiator survived his first season, not only was he lucky, he'd soon be seeing the three Gs: gold, girls, and glory.
That doesn't mean being a gladiator was a great gig. Many gladiators didn't survive long enough to become hyped-up celebrities, chased and harassed by adoring fans.
In addition to military deserters, gladiators were also picked from the worst kinds of criminals. This didn't exactly make for a homey atmosphere in the shared barracks, but it was perfect for bloodthirsty games.
Spartacus wasn't chosen to become a gladiator simply because he was all muscles and tired of marching. He also had that "it" quality, which made people drool.
That "it" factor made him an awesome gladiator, but it also made him dangerous to Rome. When Spartacus talked about escape during lunchtime or before bed, people listened. The Thracians were into his plan because Spartacus was blood, and the Gauls were into it because they liked blood.
Known for fighting naked and to the death, and their women were known for stabbing their own men if they fled a battle.
The Gauls voted in their own co-leader, Crixus the Gaul, and Spartacus and his new BFF, Crixus, decided all they had to do was overpower the puny guards and run like heck for the mountains. They were prime-time killing machines; what could go wrong?
It didn't bother Spartacus and Crixus when all they could find for weapons were kitchen skewers and pots and pans. Seventy slaves fought their way out, and they didn't look back. Just a few miles down the road, Spartacus and his crew seized a wagon full of weapons and exchanged their forks for swords.
Now they could hightail it home to Thrace and forget all this slave business ever happened. They could raise some sheep or farm a bunch of wheat. From here on, they'd only kill for their own fun, not for some snooty senator's weekend pleasure. Maybe that's all that Spartacus really wanted. As for the rest of the fugitives, living well wasn't exactly the sort of revenge they had in mind.
"Living Well Is the Best Revenge" Is So Overrated
And an unknown number of women and children, too. We know Spartacus definitely brought his lady friend along, but we don't know her name.
What's the first thing a fugitive needs if he hopes to remain undetected? A really awesome hiding spot, of course. Spartacus and his men chose Mount Vesuvius — the volcano — as their ideal hiding place. Don't worry, it still had another 152 years to go before the Big One. In 73 BCE, Vesuvius was a fugitive's paradise. It had all the fertile farmland, runaway farm slaves, and rich farmhouse villas for plundering that a ragtag army could want. The local slaves flocked to Spartacus like togas to an amphitheater when he arrived.
Mount Vesuvius blew its top in 79 CE, covering the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in a thick layer of ash. While not a great situation for all the people living there, it's really great for archaeologists today who can study a perfectly preserved Roman town.
When Rome heard about the escapees, the Senate didn't get too worked up about it. Runaways were hardly worth interrupting their daily parties. They had to do something, though, so they sent in a rookie. Gaius Claudius Glaber wasn't a somebody; all the somebodies were busy fighting real battles against barbarians and bringing honor to their names. Fighting slaves wasn't honorable, but someone had to put an end to these slaves' freedom. Glaber got three thousand men and strict instructions to make it quick before things got embarrassing.
Fawning Fan Club or Jealous Haters?
Before Banksy, there were the Romans. Let's face it, everyone loves to graffiti. Ancient Pompeii, being preserved under ash, has some of the best examples of this ancient art form. The graffiti at Pompeii includes little jewels of insight chiseled all over the city, including the gladiatorial barracks where men lived, slept, and ate together. Here are some gladiators who left their mark more literally:
Celadus the Thracian: The heartthrob who made all the girls swoon.
Marcus Attilius: The rookie who bested two champions.
Antiochus: The guy who got to hang there with his girl, Cithera.
Jesus: The non-famous dude who ribbed the gladiator Lucius Asicius for smelling like fish sauce — the cheap kind.
Like a dummy, Glaber thought he could rely on his superior Roman brain to win against Spartacus and his band of escapees. Glaber decided to starve the runaways into submission by setting up camp at the foot of Mount Vesuvius to wait them out. Maybe he warmed up some goat milk and tucked into bed for the night. The next thing Glaber knew, Spartacus and his men were rappelling down the mountain using vines they had roped together. They slaughtered many of Glaber's men and plundered his camp after the rest fled. It was a mortifying defeat, even for a rookie.
Still, Rome wasn't too worried. Until Spartacus beat the next army sent by Rome to defeat them, and the next one after that. The senators were starting to get a little hot under their togas, but they didn't barricade themselves in an arrow- proof bunker yet. After all, the gladiators were merely runaway slaves.
The senators had a big problem, though. The slaves were starting to attract a huge following, and we're not talking about Twitter.
Practically Ghandi with a Sword
Unlike Glaber and the Romans, Spartacus didn't underestimate his enemy. He fought as ferociously and craftily as a Thracian, but, thanks to his time as an auxiliary soldier, he also knew Roman military tactics. Soon, thousands of frustrated freemen and overworked slaves had joined Spartacus's open rebellion. The men trained by day and plundered by night.
It wasn't all fun and games. Serious differences came between BFFs Crixus and Spartacus. Crixus wanted more loot and more war. Spartacus wanted to go home to Thrace, but as we know from the Odyssey, getting home isn't always easy in the ancient world. They patched up their argument for the time being and decided to stay in Italy, fighting the armies Rome kept slinging at them.
For the senators, it wasn't any fun and games. They sent another army and another army to chase down the fugitives, but it wasn't easy finding them.
Spartacus knew he couldn't beat the Romans in a fair fight, so he played dirty. He preferred hit-and-run tactics where he and his band could taunt the enemy rather than getting mowed down on some open field.
Spartacus marched up and down Italy like he owned the place, freeing slaves, foraging in people's houses for food, and gaining support — like forty thousand people sort of support. When his band looted, Spartacus divided the spoils evenly. Since even freemen got in on the action, Spartacus must have been pretty persuasive. Now it was time to go home to Thrace in triumph.
Too bad Crixus didn't see it the same way. To him and the ten thousand fellow fugitives he persuaded, the Romans hadn't paid enough for their behavior, and the only currency Crixus would accept was blood. Spartacus parted ways for good and went north, taking the thirty thousand rebels he'd collected from the countryside with him.
If Crixus's main goal was killing Romans, he accomplished it easily. If his second goal was to stay alive, he failed dismally. It wasn't because the Roman generals had gotten wise to the rebels' guerilla-style tricks; it was because Crixus was no Spartacus. Discipline, scouting, tactics — all those things were for wimps. (Or, in this case, the living.)
Crixus went down in a blaze of glory, screaming like a naked hooligan and taking everyone in his path down with him. Spartacus was on his own.
on his own:
But he did take a day to honor Crixus by making a few captured Roman soldiers play gladiator against each other, which was totally degrading.
Good thing Spartacus was already heading home. Without his partner in crime, he was vulnerable. Yet, when Spartacus and his men reached the edge of the Alps, he turned around and marched back down Italy toward Sicily.
Spaghetti and meatballs weren't around yet, and tomato sauce wasn't eaten in Italy until the eighteenth century. Imagine instead porridge, bread, and cheese for the masses, and for the really fancy folks, roasted parrots, flamingo tongues, and puppies.
Say what? He finally made it to the Alps and then turned around? It wasn't because he loved sightseeing and slurping pasta with his woman. He was vetoed from continuing on to Thrace by his men. Maybe it was the Alps, with its snow and altitude sickness. Maybe it was because Spartacus never told his followers his real plan. (Or us.) Or maybe it was because those peeved ex-slaves really wanted to sack Rome itself. They were drunk on victory, which is never a good thing. Whatever the real reason, the fugitives busted a U-ey and marched back down Italy toward the capital.
A Gallic vs. Roman Smack-Down
Gauls and Romans were as different in their fighting styles as cotton candy and steel. Here's a rundown:
It Takes Money
Like every good story, this one has a cringe-worthy antagonist. For Spartacus, it was Marcus Licinius Crassus. Crassus was a somebody in Rome. He got rich and powerful by helping people put out fires. If that sounds weird, that's because it is. Crassus ran a firefighting service, but he didn't offer it for free.
When a person's house caught on fire and slowly reduced to ashes, Crassus would negotiate for his "firefighter" services, which were really just a bunch of slaves with buckets of water. The longer the house burned, the more Crassus would demand in payment. Nothing personal, just business. After the house burned down, he'd negotiate a super-low rate to take the ruined property off the owner's hands. What a guy! Then again, his dad earned the nickname "he who does not laugh," so it's not surprising that ruthlessness ran in the family.
Two men were elected consul each year. Consuls were the most powerful men in Rome during the Republic and similar to a president today.
Mr. Scrooge (Crassus) became so rich off other people's misery that he could afford his own legions to hunt down Spartacus. If he could beat Spartacus, then he'd become popular enough in Rome to be elected consul. Crassus finagled four legions from the Senate and bought six more from his own coin purse. Fighting slaves may not have been honorable. Saving Rome, though ... now, that was.
Crassus would need deep pockets to take down the former gladiator. Spartacus had treated Italy like his personal playground for almost two years, making Roman legions run away crying.
Crassus had about forty-five thousand legionaries to get the job done, which is the same number Julius Caesar took to conquer all of Gaul only a couple of decades later. Crassus clearly wasn't taking any chances. Although Spartacus had more men, they weren't trained killing machines like legionaries, just ticked off farmers with pitchforks.
Both men had a strategy for battle. Crassus planned to herd the former gladiator into a spikey dead end, trapping him between the sea and Crassus's legionaries. Spartacus relied on pirates that he'd bribe to sail him and his men to Sicily — and to safety. Why Spartacus thought pirates would ever keep their word is another question. In the end, the pirates took his gold and ran, leaving Spartacus crunched between the sea and the big ole wall that Crassus's men built.
Spartacus still had a lot of crazy Gauls among his followers, and once again, they decided to go out on their own — naked and screaming and fighting to the death.
Crassus out-generalled the Gauls and gave them exactly what they always wanted — a really gory death in battle.
And We've Come to the End
After the Gauls bit the dust, Spartacus's army shrunk faster than wool in a dryer, but he had another, bigger problem on his hands. The Roman senators were so scared of him by this point that they'd recalled some of the other somebodies from conquering land and people abroad. Things were only going to get worse for Spartacus.
The two sides lined up for battle, which is exactly the opposite of what Spartacus wanted to happen. He knew this was the end for the rebels, so Spartacus added a Hollywood touch to encourage his men. He ran a sword through his horse declaring he'd either be dead soon, or they'd win and he'd have all the Roman horses he could ride. When the Roman legions charged, Spartacus went straight for Crassus in a Russell Crowe kind of way. It was time to end this thing.
He never made it. Kind of like how he never made it to Sicily, Rome, or Thrace. Story of his life. Some legionary cut down the runaway slave before he got anywhere close to Crassus. No one found his body, but you can assume it was trampled under thousands of men and then thrown into a massive grave with no marker.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fantastic Fugitives"
Copyright © 2016 Brianna DuMont.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Note vi
Chapter 1 Spartacus 3
Chapter 2 Cleopatra 17
Chapter 3 Martin Luther 31
Chapter 4 Koxinga 46
Chapter 5 Mary, Queen of Scots 59
Chapter 6 The Pilgrims 73
Chapter 7 Harriet Tubman 86
Chapter 8 Typhoid Mary 101
Chapter 9 John Dillinger 116
Chapter 10 Emmeline Pankhurst 129
Chapter 11 Virginia Hall 140
Chapter 12 Nelson Mandela 152
Notes on Sources 167
Image Credits 179