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Revealing Antiquity #19: Spartacusby Aldo Schiavone
Synopses & Reviews
Spartacus (109?-71 bce), the slave who rebelled against Rome, has been a source of endless fascination, the subject of myth-making in his own time, and of movie-making in ours. Hard facts about the man have always yielded to romanticized tales and mystifications. In this riveting, compact account, Aldo Schiavone rescues Spartacus from the murky regions of legend and brings him squarely into the arena of serious history.
Schiavone transports us to Italy of the first century bce, where the pervasive institution of slavery dominates all aspects of Roman life. In this historic landscape, carefully reconstructed by the author, we encounter Spartacus, who is enslaved after deserting from the Roman army to avoid fighting against his native Thrace. Imprisoned in Capua and trained as a gladiator, he leads an uprising that will shake the empire to its foundations.
While the grandeur of the Spartacus story has always been apparent, its political significance has been less clear. What were his ambitions? Often depicted as the leader of a class rebellion that was fierce in intent but ragtag in makeup and organization, Spartacus emerges here in a very different light: the commander of an army whose aim was to incite Italy to revolt against Rome and to strike at the very heart of the imperial system. Surprising, persuasive, and highly original, Spartacus challenges the lore and illuminates the reality of a figure whose achievements, and whose ultimate defeat, are more extraordinary and moving than the fictions we make from them.
"Rather than rely on Kubrick's classic film, Schiavone, founder and former director of the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane, depends on the accounts of ancient scribes, historical time lines, and the author's own observations to reconstruct the fabled first-century B.C.E. slave revolt and its legendary leader. The author's goal is to separate the man from the myth and provide a more accurate historical context, and while his account is thorough and interesting, his heavy-handed emphasis on the movements and clashes of armies and the vilifying of the Roman Empire draws the focus away from his subject. Nevertheless, it's clear that Schiavone (The Invention of the Law in the West) is extremely knowledgeable about Roman history, and he does provide a new take on the Spartacus tale, showing that the revolt was not a spontaneous uprising; it was a deliberate and strategic strike against the Roman Empire. The text moves smoothly between narrative and historical analysis, meaning both the newcomer and the experienced Roman historian will find a wealth of entertainment and information. 3 maps." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The slave and gladiator Spartacus has been the subject of myth-making in his own time and of movie-making in ours. Aldo Schiavone brings him squarely into the arena of serious history. Spartacus emerges here as the commander of an army, whose aim was to incite Italy to revolt against Rome and to strike at the very heart of the imperial system.
About the Author
Aldo Schiavone is Full Professor in Roman Law at the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane, of which he was the founder, and the Director from 2006 until 2010.
Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane
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