For those unfamiliar with it, Spartacus was a Starz original TV series that ran from 2010-2013 and focused on the legend of the real-life person. The series focused on Spartacus during three key moments in his life, from his time as a slave all the way to his death. The legend of Spartacus is so popular that it has been adapted into several forms of media over the years, including the 1960 film by Stanley Kubrick.
However, while the legend of Spartacus is based on true events, much of the legend is still fictional. Surprisingly enough, however, much of the TV series holds true to the historical time frame. To look at some of these key distinctions between fact and fiction, here is our list of 5 historically accurate and 5 fabricated things from the Spartacus TV series.
Season one of Spartacus focuses heavily on how the legend began. Furthermore, based off of what historians know, the first season is fairly accurate. It is known that Spartacus was of Thracian origins and eventually captured and enslaved by the Roman army. Eventually, Spartacus would find himself as a gladiator and earn quite a name for himself as one of the best fighters in the ring.
In regards to his ties with the Roman Empire, historians aren’t quite sure of what exactly happened. The show depicts the two groups as collaborators at first, with the Romans eventually turning on the Thracians and enslaving them. While the enslavement part is certainly true, only theories exist that suggest the two sides originally worked together.
As the series’ two main villains, Spartacus comes to interact with them on occasion, especially with Claudius Glaber. For the narrative’s sake, Glaber was portrayed as the person who betrayed Spartacus and sold him into slavery. Throughout the series, the two seemed locked into battle against each other as Spartacus sought revenge against Glaber.
However, very little is known about Glaber in real life aside from his humiliating defeat at the hands of Spartacus. While Glaber himself was very real, there is nothing to suggest that the two men knew each other by anything other than reputation. The real-life battle between the two was likely much more politically driven than personal. Despite this, the show still finds a very clever way to incorporate Glaber into a larger role in the show despite his small mark on history.
Once again, the first season of the show reflects a lot of accurate history. Audiences see Spartacus as he trains under the house of Cornelius Batiatus. Like in the show, the house resides in Capua and functioned as a school for gladiators, new and experienced alike. Furthermore, it is here where Spartacus began his rebellion with the escape of about 70 slaves. While very little is known about Batiatus himself or the actual workings of the house, the show does a great job of leading the characters to the same real-life result.
The third season of the series sees actor Todd Lasance in the role of Julius Caesar himself. This version of Caesar works closely with Roman General Marcus Crassus to help defeat Spartacus and his armies. The show sees Caesar as very involved in the plot to take down Spartacus, even going so far as to infiltrate his forces.
However, while Caesar lived during this rebellion and did personally know Crassus, he had no involvement in the events that transpired. He also certainly did not infiltrate Spartacus’ armies and spy on him in any manner. While it may have made for good drama, it is also one of the show’s biggest inaccuracies.
Part of the show’s grand appeal was the dramatic lifestyle featured in the show, especially between the wealthy and the slaves. This dynamic allowed for some very interesting relationships to form which only added to the drama of the series. Though some of the relationships themselves would have been dramatized for entertainment purposes, a lot of lifestyle practices hold true to history.
For example, gladiators who performed well were treated as free men and awarded great prizes, and sometimes even women. Furthermore, the politics of being a slave also hold true. Though Spartacus himself may have never encountered some of these situations, they certainly took place as part of the gladiator culture.
The actual death of Spartacus remains a mystery to this day. It is speculated that he died at the end of the Third Servile War when Marcus Crassus’ forces finally overwhelmed Spartacus’ soldiers. However, there is no confirmation of this, as Spartacus’ body was never discovered. Though the show finds a clever way to spin the ending of the show with the actual theories around his death, audiences still get to see Spartacus’ final moments
The show featured a very large supporting cast, many of whom audiences grew attached to. Manu Bennet as Crixus played an especially big role, much like the real Crixus did. Other characters, such as Gannicus and Castus, were also real-life individuals who participated in Spartacus’ rebellion.
Even though their actual roles differ between the show and the actual events, it is still nice to know that the role these people played in history is still being acknowledged. For the most part, the show does a fantastic job of incorporating characters from Spartacus’ actual background into the TV show in a way that works with the narrative.
Aside from Julius Caesar, the portrayal of Spartacus’ wife is another major historical inaccuracy. In the show, his wife is separated from him and eventually returned on the brink of death. After her passing, Spartacus forms a relationship with Mira (Katrina Law), a slavegirl at the House of Batiatus.
In actuality, his wife actually spent time with him at the house and even escaped with him and the other slaves. Her actual name is unknown, but there’s no denying that she played a major role in his motivations.
Regardless of his true death, the story of Spartacus ends after the Third Servile War. Here, Marcus Crassus made his final stance against Spartacus, and with vastly superior numbers. The show plays out a lot of similar battle strategies used by the Romans and depicts the results rather accurately. Only a few key changes were made to wrap up some of the show’s story arcs.
Likewise, most major battles that take place in the show actually took place in real life. The move against Spartacus on Mount Vesuvius unfolded in a very similar manner to real life. The shows attention to detail really helped build the narrative a believable fashion, making the show all the more appealing.
Most people are familiar with the famous line, “I am Spartacus.” This quote was made famous thanks to the 1906s film. In this scene, as Spartacus and his army are captured, Spartacus stands up declaring “I am Spartacus” as a means of hoping to spare the rest of his allies. Due to the unquestionable devotion of his followers, though, everyone else eventually stands up and also declares, “I am Spartacus.” The show, however, spins this quote very differently.
During some of the latter and final raids made by Spartacus and his crew, various members are seen declaring “I am Spartacus” throughout. Doing so serves as a great callback to the original film while also showing how Spartacus evolved as an ideal. However, both versions of the famous quote are entirely fictitious. There is no evidence of any quote or of any great defense of his people by Spartacus in any manner. Unfortunately, this famous saying is purely derived from the example set by Spartacus and isn’t actually a part of his history.