Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Spartacus (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Spartacus (1960)

In director Stanley Kubrick's ancient 1st century BC epic - the adventure (sword and sandal) biopic was filmed in Super Technirama; although somewhat dated and uneven, it was a magnificent historical costume epic. It was based on left-leaning Howard Fast's 1951 fictionalized novel about a slave revolt in Rome between 73-71 BC led by a gladiator. The script had been adapted by openly-credited Communist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (thereby breaking the abhorrent system of black-listing). The 1991 re-release of Spartacus restored much of what had been originally cut from the film, including adding two more minutes of the notorious bathhouse scene.

At the time, with a budget that spiraled up to $12 million dollars, it was considered one of the most expensive Hollywood productions at the time (the previous year's Biblical epic Ben Hur (1959) had a budget of $15 million), and ended up with domestic revenue of $14 million - it was the highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year. It had six Academy Award nominations, including Best Dramatic Score (Alex North) and Best Film Editing, with four wins for Best Supporting Actor (Peter Ustinov), Best Color Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Color Cinematography, and Best Color Costume Design.

  • during the opening title sequence created by design consultant Saul Bass, the role of each of the six main cast members was illustrated by a symbolic item:
    • Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) - a manacled or chained hand (a symbol of defiance)
    • Crassus (Laurence Olivier) - an imperial or Roman eagle (on a sceptre)
    • Varinia (Jean Simmons) - a hand holding a water or wine jug
    • Gracchus (Charles Laughton) - a hand reaching out
    • Batiatus (Peter Ustinov) - a hand holding a snake
    • Julius Caesar (John Gavin) - a hand holding a sword
  • the film's title was then presented above an image of the ends of two green sword blades that moved vertically into the frame to challenge each other - representative of the slaves' struggle for freedom and dignity against Rome
  • the film was introduced with a voice-over narration (by Vic Perrin) about the pagan, oppressive and dictatorial rule of the Roman Republic before the institution of Christianity, when a "disease called human slavery" was rampant in society. Many were enslaved by the wealthiest Roman class of patricians and by a class of privileged commoners known as plebeians. Spartacus' birth signaled that he would provide the vision to bring about the "death of slavery 2,000 years before it would finally die"
  • in the year 73 BC during the reign of the all-powerful, corrupt, stagnant and declining Roman Republic, the title character Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) was introduced as a life-long slave - a "proud, rebellious son" who was sold at age 13 to "living death" working under bondage in the Libyan mining pits located in the conquered Greek province of Thrace; he was presented as a resistant, strong, intelligent, ferociously-angry, clench-jawed, proud and disobedient slave who was saved from being punished to death

Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov) - Gladiator-School Business Owner (lanista)

Batiatus Purchasing Spartacus For His Gladiator School
  • Spartacus was purchased (with others) by callous Roman businessman-slave trader Lentulus Batiatus (Best Supporting Actor award-winning Peter Ustinov), a gladiator-school owner (lanista)
Varinia (Jean Simmons) - Slave Woman at Gladiator School
Spartacus' Protest Against His Slave-Owners: "I am not an animal!"
  • one evening, servant-slave women were paraded into the quarters of the gladiators for their sexual pleasure; when Varinia (Jean Simmons) entered Spartacus' caged cell, he refused to mistreat or rape the demure young woman; he also rebelled and protested being watched from above and treated like an animal - he shouted out: "I am not an animal"
  • at the gladiator school during weeks of dehumanizing training in the camp led by brutal head gladiatorial trainer Marcellus (Charles McGraw), the branded slaves were kept in cells, and during the day were mercilessly instructed and exercised on the brutal skills of how to strategically kill to the death in the arena - for purposes of the "sport" of entertainment to be watched by wealthy patricians

Roman Senator Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier)

Marcus Publius Glabrus (John Dall)
  • one day, aristocratic visitors arrived at the Capua camp, including very rich patrician Roman Senator Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier) and military commander Marcus Publius Glabrus (John Dall), plus two "ladies" - Crassus' wife Lady Helena Glabrus (Nina Foch) and sister-in-law Lady Claudia Marius (Joanna Barnes), Glabrus' fiancee; Crassus mentioned how he was in competition with an elderly, philosophical plebian and political leader - Senator Lentulus Gracchus (Charles Laughton) for control of the Roman Senate
  • the group of visitors suggested entertainment for their pagan amusement - "a private showing of two the death" for a large sum of 25,000 sesterces; four gladiators were selected, and in one of the pairings, Spartacus was selected to fight against fellow Ethiopian slave Draba ("the big black one") (Woody Strode)
  • during their exciting savage duel-fight, Spartacus was overwhelmed and disarmed, but Draba defiantly chose to spare his life instead of lethally spearing him in the throat; Draba ignored a thumbs-down gesture, turned and threw his trident spear into the gallery at the visitors; as he climbed up into the seating area to kill patrician Crassus, he was speared in the back by an arena guard; as he fell at Crassus' feet, the patrician cruelly slit the back of his neck with a dagger - blood splattered onto Crassus' face
  • as the patricians left the next day, Crassus had already purchased Varinia (due to his liking her "spirit") for 2,000 sesterces, and she was to be escorted to Rome (by Batiatus's steward, but Batiatus ended up with the task); enraged by Varinia's sale, Spartacus led a gladiatorial-trainee/slave revolt, and with their advanced combat skills, the trainees were able to defeat their captors and escape from their confines to flee into the Italian countryside on foot and on horseback; the group set up camp on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, where the "army" of slaves grew as it traversed the countryside and went on a rampage - "looting, robbing, burning everything" - and freeing other slaves to join the movement
Important Figures in the Roman Senate

Senator Gracchus (Charles Laughton)

Marcus Publius Glabrus (John Dall)

Caius Julius Caesar (John Gavin)
  • meanwhile, in the Roman Senate, Senator Gracchus, who realized that rival Senator and Roman General Crassus was away, plotted to gain more power; he took the opportunity to challenge his political rival Crassus by ordering Marcus Publius Glabrus (John Dall), the newly-appointed head of the Roman garrison, to lead the city's troops against the slaves; with Glabrus gone, Caius Julius Caesar (John Gavin) would be left as the temporary chief and commander of the remaining garrison troops in the city
  • once Crassus returned, Glabrus gifted him with a 26 year-old slave named Antoninus (Tony Curtis); Crassus was furious that 6 cohorts of the Roman garrison led by Glabrus had been ordered by Gracchus against the slaves on Vesuvius, and was even more angry that Julius Caesar would command the garrison in his absence
  • Spartacus became the acknowledged chief of the fugitives, with plans to form an army of slaves: ("We'll have a big army. Once we're on the march, we'll free every slave in every town and village"); while recruiting villagers in various towns in the country-side to join their movement to threaten Rome, one of the recruits was Varinia; she explained to an amazed Spartacus that she had escaped while being transported to Rome by Batiatus, and she professed her love for him
  • once Batiatus arrived in Rome, he began scheming with hedonistic Senator Gracchus; he was angry that Crassus had single-handedly ruined and bankrupted his gladiatorial business, and also that the independent-minded Varinia had escaped from him
  • in the film's most controversial, homo-erotic bath scene, bisexual Roman patrician Marcus Crassus was being attended to by his recently-acquired young male slave Antoninus, and asked him a series of increasingly-personal questions about his gender/sexual preferences: ("Do you eat oysters?...Do you eat snails?"); and then Crassus admitted his own bisexuality: "My taste includes both snails and oysters"; Antoninus fled
  • on the slopes of Vesuvius, Spartacus described his strategy of allying himself with Cilician pirates; Spartacus also accepted a new escaped slave - Antoninus, who described his special talents: "Singer of songs...I also juggle...I can do feats of magic." Spartacus was impressed by Antoninus' love of poetry and music; he also spoke to Varinia about Antoninus' amazing and gifted talent to sing, compared to his own uneducated background and his sole skill of knowing how to fight: "Who wants to fight? An animal can learn to fight. But to sing beautiful things and make people believe them"; he expressed his need for an education: "I know nothing. Nothing. I want to know - everything. Why a star falls and a bird doesn't. Where the sun goes at night. Why the moon changes shape. I want to know where the wind comes from...."; he also added: "I want to know all about you. Every line, every curve. I want to know every part of you. Every beat of your heart" - they kissed and presumably made love afterwards - off-screen

Spartacus: "I want to know - everything"

Spartacus With Varinia: "I want to know all about you..."

They Kissed Passionately
  • Spartacus' goal was to take for his slave army across one-third the length of ltaly and fight a major battle in every town before reaching the east coast port city in about 7 months; on the coast, the slaves would board hundreds of purchased Cilician pirate ships to secure passage out of Italy; it was a risky strategy - Spartacus' forces could be defeated by either Crassus or the mighty Roman garrison dispatched and led by Glabrus
  • however, Spartacus proved the might of his army when he defeated Glabrus' campaign sent against him; Roman tents were burned, and the soldiers were soundly destroyed, slaughtered, and defeated (it was reported that only 14 survived), and the humiliated Glabrus was sent back to Rome with a message from Spartacus: "Tell them we want nothing from Rome, nothing, except our freedom! All we want is to get out of this damn country! We're marching south to the sea. And we'll smash every army they send against us"
  • angered by Glabrus' defeat, Marcus Crassus banished the disgraced commander from Rome, and then to curry favor for himself, Crassus then nobly offered to step down, and accept some of the blame for Glabrus' defeat by withdrawing from public affairs; populist leader Gracchus was suspicious of Crassus' motives, suspecting that he wished to rule as a dictator in Rome; he could then justify his power grab during the crisis of Spartacus' slave revolt; Senator Gracchus recommended appointing Julius Caesar as permanent commander of the garrison; his second recommendation was unsuccessful - to intercept and destroy Spartacus at the city of Metapontum
Varina's Bathing Scene - Interrupted by Spartacus
  • while Spartacus' forces were on the move across southern Italy, Varinia was discovered bathing nude in pond water by Spartacus; she surprised him by alerting him to her pregnancy, and that she was expecting to give birth in the spring
  • in competition with Gracchus, the scheming Marcus Crassus also attempted to align himself with Julius Caesar and have his garrison take the field against Spartacus' slave menace; Caesar agreed there was a serious problem, but would not agree to betray Senator Gracchus and shift his allegiances to Crassus; without any other alternative, Gracchus offered Crassus the commanding leadership of the legions to pursue Spartacus and restore order, but then withdrew his offer when Crassus maneuvered for more dictatorial power; it was soon divulged by Gracchus that he had sought to ensure Spartacus' triumph in Italy (through a deal with the Cicilian pirates) in order to overcome his rival Crassus: ("We won't interfere if they transport Spartacus and his slaves out of Italy"); he rationalized: "Politics is a practical profession. If a criminal has what you want, you do business with him"
  • as Spartacus' forces approached the coast, he received devastating news; due to Crassus' interference, the Cilician pirates had been bribed to abandon Spartacus, and the Roman armies (led by Pompey and Lucullus) had been dispatched to the area from south and east, to force the rebels away from the coastline toward Rome; it was all part of Crassus' plan to scare the residents of Rome, and force his hand to obtain absolute power in the Senate; Spartacus' only possible avenue of retreat was back to Rome - to confront Crassus' legions
  • with contrasting speeches, Spartacus delivered a heartfelt speech to his followers, in which he announced their predicament, and how they must now, as freedom-loving slaves, march to Rome and confront (as free men) their rich and evil slave-holders: ("I do know that we're brothers. And I know that we're free. We march tonight!"); meanwhile, the pompous and power-hungry Crassus had succeeded in being appointed as Rome's all-powerful military commander to confront Spartacus' slave army; he promised to rein in Spartacus: ("I promise the living body of Spartacus for whatever punishment you may deem fit. That or his head"), and shortly later on the battlefield, he vowed to restore order to the empire: ("This campaign is not alone to kill Spartacus. It is to kill the legend of Spartacus")

Spartacus' Memorable Heartfelt Speech to His Followers About Their Upcoming March To Rome: "We March Tonight!"

Crassus' Promise to Rome: "I promise the living body of Spartacus for whatever punishment you may deem fit. That or his head"

Crassus' Speech on the Battlefield: "This campaign is not alone to kill Spartacus. It is to kill the legend of Spartacus!"
  • before the armies met on the battlefield, Varinia was about to give birth; Spartacus worried about the unending fighting that they faced; he claimed he had often prayed to God for deliverance, and for a son who would be born free - who would learn of his righteous cause
Impressive Large-Scale Battle Sequence
  • the two mighty armies faced each other in the film's impressive, large-scale, colossal battle scenes (requiring thousands of extras); it was an intimidating sight as the various blocks of legions of Roman soldiers on the immense battlefield then coalesced into large assault lines and emerged as one strong fighting force; Spartacus' forces fought back with large rolling fireballs and masses of foot-soldiers, but then additional reinforcements arrived from "Lucullus and Pompey" that doomed the rebels' chances of victory; the slave army ended up surrounded between the three armies assembled by Crassus - and the slave-rebels were quickly overwhelmed and overcome
  • assembled on a hillside, the captured and surviving slaves were promised that they would be pardoned (but returned to enslavement) and spared crucifixion if Spartacus (either alive or dead) was identified to Crassus; Crassus' deal for betrayal was foiled when each devoted slave - in an inspirational scene - proclaimed: "I'm Spartacus" to save the real Spartacus from execution by standing up and daring to be identified as such
  • enraged, Crassus ordered that all of the 6,000 survivors marching back to Rome would be crucified as they proceeded along the roadside of the 132 mile-long Appian Way between Capua and Rome; Varinia (and her newborn child) were found on the battlefield and ordered to be taken to Crassus' estate in Rome, to work as his slave; and Antoninus was spotted and held separately; Crassus also thought he spotted his likely enemy Spartacus and also specified that he should be spared until later
  • for the indignities he had suffered, Batiatus plotted with Gracchus to rescue ("steal") Varinia from Crassus' estate to annoy and irritate him; now with Crassus in power, Julius Caesar had joined forces with him: "You've joined Crassus?"; Gracchus was apprehended and brought to the Senate, to be schooled and deposed by the tyrannical Crassus, who had established a "new order of affairs." He was ordering the arrest of those who were "disloyal" and committing "treason" as enemies of the state; Gracchus was to be exiled and banished to the countryside, and forced to persuade the often troubled "mob" to support Rome's new leadership
  • the slave Varinia who was captive at Crassus' villa was unimpressed by the commander's wealth or personal interest in her; he desired for her to voluntarily and truly love him, as she had loved Spartacus, but she refused
  • in captivity and chained together, Antoninus and Spartacus shared final thoughts; Spartacus gave a short heroic statement to Antoninus after being asked: "Are you afraid to die, Spartacus?" ("No more than I was to be born"); the two were ordered by the new dictatorial ruler to fight each other to the death immediately, rather than the next day in the temple in front of an audience as Julius Caesar had suggested: "They will fight now for me. Here! And to the death. And the victor shall be crucified. We will test this myth of slave brotherhood"
Spartacus and Antoninus Singled Out by Crassus and Ordered to Fight to the Death
  • during their one-on-one sword duel to the death, Spartacus whispered orders to Antoninus to allow himself to be killed, in order to spare him from being crucified; just before triumphing in a mercy-killing of Antoninus by stabbing him in the abdomen, Spartacus apologized: "Forgive me, Antoninus." As Antoninus expired, the two exchanged loving words: (Antoninus: "I love you, Spartacus, as I loved my own father." Spartacus: "I love you, like my son that I'll never see. Go to sleep"; Crassus gave orders to the up-and-coming Caesar that the defeated victor Spartacus was to be crucified at the gates just outside of Rome
Varinia to Crucified Spartacus As She Rode Off: "Goodbye, my love, my life."
  • in the film's closing sequence, Batiatus had successfully arrived at Gracchus' place with the kidnapped Varinia and her young infant, before she was about to flee with Batiatus from the city with a forged travel pass; on a road just outside the Roman gates, Varinia noticed Spartacus hanging closeby on a wooden cross; she walked up to the foot of the cross and held up her bundled newborn son for the crucified Spartacus to see - she assuringly declared that their boy was free and would never forget his father: (she assured him: "This is your son. He's free, Spartacus, free. He's free. He's free. He'll remember you, Spartacus, because I'll tell him. I'll tell him who his father was, and what he dreamed of"); although forced to move along, with her final tearful words of goodbye, she held onto Spartacus' ankles and tearfully begged him to die, before riding off in a cart with Batiatus: "Oh, my love, my life. Please die, die. Please, please die, die my love. Oh, God, why can't you die?...(Looking back) Goodbye, my love, my life. Goodbye, good-bye"

Sample of Opening Title Sequence

Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) - Toiling As a Life-Long Slave in the Libyan Mine Pits

Spartacus' Arrival at Batiatus' Gladiator School

Head Gladiatorial Trainer Marcellus (Charles McGraw)

Trained in Best Methods to Kill Opponents

Spartacus vs. Draba in the Gladiatorial Arena - Fighting to the Death

Draba's Failed Attempt to Kill Crassus in Viewing Area

Slave Revolt and Escape, Led by Spartacus

Crassus' New Slave-Servant Antoninus (Tony Curtis

Crassus Vying to Assume Power in Rome

Spartacus - Leader of an Army of Freed Slaves

Varinia - Joining Spartacus' Forces as His Lover

Controversial Bathhouse Scene Between Crassus (Laurence Olivier) and Antoninus (Tony Curtis): "My taste includes both snails and oysters"

Marcus Glabrus' Roman Garrisons Defeated by Spartacus

Spartacus: "We want nothing from Rome, nothing, except our freedom!"

Schemers in Rome: Senator Gracchus to Julius Caesar: "Politics is a practical profession..."

Spartacus Realizing He Was Trapped at the Coast in S. Italy, and Must Retreat Back Toward Rome

Spartacus Praying For His Son to Be Born Free

Bodies of the Thousands of Slaughtered Followers

Spartacus and a Small Group of Survivors

The Film's Most Famous Scene: "I'm Spartacus"

Varinia Found on the Battlefield With Her Newborn Son

The Crucified Survivors Lined the Appian Way Back Between Capua and Rome

Varinia Forced to Love Crassus

Before Duel to the Death, Antoninus Vowed to Spartacus: "I won't let them crucify you..."

Antoninus' Dying Words to Spartacus ("I love you, Spartacus...")


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z