।। Abrar Yasir ।।

Spartacus was a Thracian slave turned gladiator at the Roman Republic period. He played a key role in the Third Servile war which is also known as gladiator uprising or slave uprising against the mighty Roman Republic. The uprising started in 73BCE and went strong till 71BCE which was then suppressed by the then Roman military general Marcus Licinius Cracuss. The slave uprising almost toppled the then epicurean Roman society and showed bit of silver linings among all enslaved people in the Republic. According to some historians, this glorious incident was one of the major threats to the Roman Republic’s existence and the military tactics of Spartacus are sometimes compared with the great Carthaginian commander Hannibal Barca who almost came in close of defeating Roman Republic in the Second Punic War in 218 BCE. 

Celebrated novelist Howard Melvin Fast took his pen to write a masterpiece on this incident in 1951. He named his novel ‘Spartacus’ to commemorate the leading figure of this slave revolution. In this novel, he successfully portrayed the societal scenario of the then Roman Republic. Not only this, he also reflected the pangs of every enthralled slave as well as inhuman conditions of the enslaved gladiators who were just used like puppets to entertain the brutal Roman citizens. He took few artistic liberties to convey his story to his readers. For example, Spartacus’ wife Varinia, Spartacus’ aide David, Roman Senator Gracchus, Marcus Licinius Cracuss’ friends Antonius, Julia, Caius, Helena, Claudia and few others were imaginary characters but rest of the leading characters like Spartacus, Spartacus’ aides Crixus and Gannicus, Spartacus’ foes Marcus Licinius Cracuss, Marcus Tulius Cicero and Lentulus Batiatus were historically accurate. Though, he took those liberties, the story never loses its track from the actual history to a large extent.

From the very first of the novel, Howard Fast rightfully portrayed the morally deviated the then young Roman society through the characters of Caius, Helena and Claudia. Then, he portrayed the vices of the then Roman oligarchs through the characters of Cracuss, Gracchus, Antonius and Julia. Not only this, he also did not forget to portray the opportunist character of the then Roman politicians. Hence, we see a highly talented but ethically deviated Marcus Tulius Cicero in this novel who tried his best to downplay the glory of slave revolution. Nonetheless, deep down all those characters were shown to have bit of respect and stupendous amount of jealously to the achievement of Spartacus and his aides. The most unique thing in this novel is that the master storyteller Howard Fast expressed the history of this slave uprising led by Spartacus and his aides from the conversations of these characters with each other. That means the narrative structure of this novel is based on the chats of its characters. That is why we see at the preliminary stage of this novel, those characters meet in Villa Salaria to spend a night after the slave revolution and discuss this incident from their perspectives. From their discussions, we come to know the fragments of childhood and adolescence of enslaved Spartacus. Then, we come to know how he became a gladiator under the ownership of a wealthy lanista (a trainer of gladiators) named Lentulus Batiatus. After then, we come to see how he came in contact with other renowned gladiators like Crixus and Gannicus who later turned out to be key slave leaders along with Spartacus in the Third Servile War. We also see how Spartacus developed a beautiful bond with his soul-mate Varinia. Later on, the story shifts to the incident which led to the outset of the slave revolution and we witness how a large number of slaves joined Spartacus and his aides. The story then focuses on the initial victories of the slaves against the Roman military. We also see the dreams of Spartacus and his aides to establish a just and egalitarian society as the story develops. But, things are starting to go downhill after couple of years from the outset of this glorious revolution when the Roman Republic engaged its highest military and financial power to suppress it and a large number of other slaves who did not gather enough courage to join Spartacus deteriorated the situation. Due to this, we see how Spartacus and his aides became martyrs for sake of protecting their dignity. Then the story shifts to its climax which is purely fictionalized where Spartacus’ wife Varinia again became a slave of Marcus Licinius Cracuss and how she and her newborn son became free from Cracuss thanks to the help of guilt ridden Roman Senator Gracchus and how Spartacus’ wife and son started a new life forms the crux of the climax.

In fine, we can say, this book leaves a strong message about the importance of freedom, liberty and equality for every human being and the struggle and unquenchable passion for freedom of all enthralled people have been epitomized through Spartacus. And, hence, as long as the world exists, the name of Spartacus will be pronounced with respect.  

This writer is an alumnus of University of Rajshahi.