Official 58 Task 1

Spartacus, the rebel leader who fought against the Romans with an army of fellow escaped slaves, is one of the most famous figures in ancient Roman history. Spartacus led his men against their Roman oppressors and managed to defeat the Roman army in several battles. Eventually Spartacus and his army were defeated and put to death. To this day, Spartacus fascinates both historians and the general public. Several aspects about his story have made him a particularly appealing hero.

First, Spartacus’ original goal in his conflict against Rome is one everyone can empathize with—he wanted to return home. Spartacus and his men had been taken by the Romans from faraway lands. In fighting the Romans, Spartacus and his men initially sought to return to the homelands from which they had been uprooted. Spartacus and his men’s desire to return home is one we can all appreciate. 

Second, Spartacus’ initial success in fighting against the powerful Roman army has earned him the admiration people feel when someone who is overmatched triumphs through sheer skill. Spartacus and his men formed a relatively small, ill-equipped army; the Roman army, in contrast, was large, well-financed, and highly trained. Spartacus’ ability to seriously trouble the Romans on the battlefield testifies to his military brilliance, making him a hero in most people’s eyes.

Third, in fighting against Rome, Spartacus sought to liberate all Roman slaves and thus commanded respect as an early human rights advocate. Before his final battle with the Romans, Spartacus was sent an offer by a Roman general: if Spartacus would stop fighting, he would be made a Roman senator, a member of Rome’s powerful elite, and his men would be freed. However, Spartacus rejected this offer because it would have left the institution of slavery in place.

Now listen to part of a lecture on the topic you just read about.
Spartacus was a real person who escaped from slavery and fought against the Romans.
However, many stories that are told about the life of Spartacus are not historically accurate.
The information in the reading relies on those inaccurate stories.
First, returning to their homes overseas was not the only goal of Spartacus and his men.
You see, those first battles in which Spartacus’ army defeated the Roman army cleared a route by which Spartacus and his men could have escaped the Roman territory.
But they didn’t take that opportunity. Instead, Spartacus’ men started marching towards the city of Rome.
They probably wanted to conquer the city and take as many valuables from the Romans as they could.
So, Spartacus was not fighting just to get home; he was interested in revenge and wealth—and those are less admirable goals.
Second, although Spartacus did win a few battles, he was not necessarily a military genius.
What really happened was—the Romans didn’t take Spartacus and his army very seriously at first, so they initially sent only poorly trained and ill-equipped army units to put down the revolt.
It was these weak units that Spartacus defeated.
When the Roman army sent their best soldiers, Spartacus was quickly defeated, suggesting that Spartacus wasn’t a brilliant military leader.
Third, the story that Spartacus wanted to liberate all Roman slaves is not backed by historical evidence either.
So, where did the story come from? Well, we know exactly who created this story, and why.
It happened in eighteenth-century Europe. Eighteenth-century Europeans widely practiced slavery themselves, but there was also an antislavery movement—thinkers and writers who were strongly opposed to slavery.
People in the antislavery movement wanted to have an inspirational hero from ancient times—and they thought Spartacus could be that hero.
And so an eighteenth-century playwright wrote a play in which Spartacus fought to liberate all slaves. But it was just an inspirational story in a play, not the historical truth.

Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they challenge the specific points made in the reading passage.