Filmsite Movie Review
Spartacus (1960)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Political Intrigue, Power Struggles, and In-Fighting in the Roman Senate in Rome:

There was immense concern and outrage in the Roman Senate about the recent bold slave rebellion:

Around Capua, they ravaged the countryside, forcing other slaves to join them. Looting, robbing, burning everything, while they make their camp in the escarpments of Vesuvius. Each day swells their numbers. The situation presently lies in the hands of this august body...And let me add, over 100 estates have been burned. Among them, gentlemen, my own. Burned to the ground and 3 million sesterces lost. I propose the immediate recall of Pompey and his legions from Spain.

An "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.

The rotund and crafty Senator Gracchus, who realized that rival Senator and Roman General Crassus was away, took the opportunity to challenge his political rival and Glabrus, the newly-appointed head of the Roman garrison, to lead the city's troops against the slaves. He stood up during a Senate meeting and proposed that Glabrus pursue the freedom-fighting slaves:

Why call back the legions when the garrison of Rome has nothing to do but to defend us from sausage makers? Let's send Glabrus against these scoundrels. Give them a taste of Roman steel.

One Senator protested, fearing that the absence of the Roman garrison would endanger the city of Rome: "There are more slaves in Rome than Romans. With the garrison absent, what's to prevent them from rising too?" Gracchus suggested that only six cohorts were required, and forced Glabrus to agree to his suggestion. Gracchus also suggested that Glabrus be lauded as he left the city to defend Rome from the usurpers: "Slave hunting is a dirty business. It takes a brave commander to consent to it. I propose that we turn the city out tomorrow in tribute to Glabrus as he marches through."

In two ways, Gracchus was successfully plotting and gaining more power against Crassus, with the ultimate objective of thwarting the power-hungry intentions of his ruling-class rival:

  • Caius Julius Caesar would be left as the temporary chief and commander of the remaining garrison troops in the city
  • with Glabrus out of Rome dealing with the slave revolt, Crassus would be more vulnerable to attack: (Gracchus: "At least it gives me a chance to separate Glabrus from Crassus for a while")

Gracchus was engaged in a vicious power-struggle with Crassus over the control of Rome, as he explained his predicament to Julius Caesar: ("You know, this Republic of ours is something like a rich widow. Most Romans love her as their mother. But Crassus dreams of marrying the old girl, to put it politely").

Upon Crassus' return to the atrium of his palatial estate, he was greeted by Glabrus with a gift of a 26 year-old slave named Antoninus (Tony Curtis) from the governor of Sicily. Antoninus was talented as a "singer of songs," but he would now serve as Crassus' personal "body servant." Afterwards, Glabrus gloated to Crassus that the next day, he would be leading 6 cohorts of the Roman garrison against the slaves on Vesuvius. Crassus responded with a loud exclamation: "Great merciful blood-stained gods!", and suspected that Gracchus was involved in the decision. He was furious:

Do you think I made you commander of the garrison to control some rock patch on Vesuvius? It was to control the streets of Rome!

He was even more upset that Julius Caesar would command the garrison in his absence: "Finding Gracchus in control of the mob and the Senate, you felt impelled to hand over the garrison to him also." However, he knew it was too late for Glabrus to withdraw from the expedition because he was already pledged to go. With designs on taking dictatorial power over Rome, Crassus admitted that he would have to wait for his best opportunity: "One of the disadvantages of being a patrician is occasionally you're obliged to act like one." Currently, he felt completely "immobilized" by Gracchus' tactics, and he was not willing to order his own legions camped outside the city walls to enter Rome due to "Rome's most ancient law." However, he vowed one day to properly take over Rome:

One day I shall cleanse this Rome which my fathers bequeathed me. I shall restore all the traditions that made her great. It follows then that I cannot come to power or even defend myself by an act which betrays the most sacred tradition of them all. I shall not bring my legions within these walls. I shall not violate Rome at the moment of possessing her.

He also ordered Glabrus to not be made a fool by Gracchus' "fanfare" of a "tribute" parade during his departure, and urged him to prepare his troops and "sneak out" at once that evening by side streets: "We've already been made to look a fool. Let's not add the trappings of a clown."

Spartacus - Chief of the Fugitives - With Plans to Form an Army; A New Arrival - Varinia:

Meanwhile, after visiting the deserted training camp at Capua, Spartacus was disgusted when he watched Crixus supervising the spectacle of two captive Roman patrician-noblemen, goaded by flaming torches and forced to be gladiators fighting to the death in the same arena where Draba died: "I swore that if I ever got out of this place, I'd die before I'd watch two men fight to the death again." After halting the "spectacle," he tried to remind his men to not be poisoned by the bloodthirsty Roman mentality:

What are we, Crixus? What are we becoming, Romans? Have we learned nothing? What's happening to us? We look for wine when we should be hunting bread...We can't just be a gang of drunken raiders.

He exhorted his men to fight as noble "gladiators":

Gladiators. An army of gladiators. There's never been an army like that. One gladiator's worth any two Roman soldiers that ever lived....We can beat anything they send against us if we really want to....We'll have a big army. Once we're on the march, we'll free every slave in every town and village. Can anybody get a bigger army than that?

He proposed an inspiring idea - they could grow their united army while on the march, and then rather than remain on land, they could escape to their homelands by sea: "There's only one way to get out of this country. The sea." While plundering Roman country estates along the way, they could use the stolen gold to negotiate with the pirates of Cilicia, Rome's major foe that had "the biggest fleet in the world," to buy sea transport. [Note: Cilicia was an early Roman province, located on what today makes up the southern (Mediterranean) coast of Turkey.]

While recruiting villagers in various towns in the country-side to join their movement to threaten Rome, one of the recruits was Varinia. Spartacus was amazed to see her again. She explained, during a laughing fit with Spartacus, how she had escaped by jumping out of Batiatus' cart and due to his overweight condition, she was able to run away and couldn't be caught. They both realized that they were now free: "Nobody can ever sell you again. Or give you away. Nobody can ever make you stay with anyone." She professed her love for him:

Varinia: Oh, I love you, Spartacus. I love you. I love you.
Spartacus: I still can't believe it.
Varinia: Forbid me ever to leave you.
Spartacus: I do forbid you. I forbid you. I forbid you...

The Decadence of Rome - Backroom Scheming Between Batiatus and Senator Gracchus:

Batiatus met with hedonistic Senator Gracchus in Rome, where the two gluttons feasted and Batiatus was flattered and complimented: "You've sold me slaves at an extremely reasonable price. And you arranged private gladiatorial jousts at cost practically. You know you are both an ethical businessman and certainly far-sighted socially." Gracchus noted his own corpulence as a positive quality: "Corpulence makes a man reasonable, pleasant and phlegmatic. Have you noticed the nastiest of tyrants are invariably thin?" Gracchus considered himself "the most virtuous man in Rome," even though he admitted his own vices:

I'm the most virtuous man in Rome. I keep these women out of my respect for Roman morality. That morality which has made Rome strong enough to steal two-thirds of the world from its rightful owners, founded on the sanctity of Roman marriage and the Roman family. I happen to like women. I have a promiscuous nature and unlike these aristocrats, I will not take a marriage vow which I know my nature will prevent me from keeping.

Batiatus eventually brought up his hatred for Crassus (and his two "over-painted nymphs"), who had single-handedly ruined and bankrupted his gladiatorial business, and how he was now seeking revenge. He blamed Crassus for Spartacus’ rebellious revolution that had changed his life:

There, I was better than a millionaire in the morning, a penniless refugee by nightfall with nothing but rags and my poor flesh to call my own. And all because Crassus decides to break his journey at Capua with a couple of capricious, over-painted nymphs. These two daughters of Venus had to taunt the gladiators, and force them to fight to the death, and before I knew what had happened, revolution on my hands.

He also mentioned how he had sold Varinia to Crassus as his personal slave (but there was no contract and he hadn't been paid), and now Varinia had escaped: ("Now she's off with Spartacus killing people in their beds"). Gracchus offered Batiatus a deposit of 500 sesterces for Varinia once she was recaptured - and mentioned his motivation: "To annoy Crassus, of course, and help you."

The Infamous Bathing Sequence Between Crassus and Antoninus:

In the film's most controversial, homo-erotic bath scene, Roman patrician Marcus Crassus was being attended to by his recently-acquired young male slave Antoninus, and asked a series of increasingly-personal questions:

  • Do you steal, Antoninus?
  • Do you lie?
  • Have you ever dishonored the gods?
  • Do you refrain from these vices out of respect for the moral virtues?

And then he queried, with disguised phrases, about Antoninus' gender/sexual preferences:

  • Do you eat oysters?
  • Do you eat snails?
  • Do you consider the eating of oysters to be moral and the eating of snails to be immoral?
  • It is all a matter of taste, isn't it?...And taste is not the same as appetite, therefore not a question of morals, is it?

And then Crassus admitted his own bisexuality: "My taste includes both snails and oysters."

Then, the domineering Crassus pointed across the river at the city of Rome, where he told the "boy" Antoninus that he was making plans to rule - and insinuated that he would also similarly make Antoninus his sex slave:

There, boy, is Rome! The might, the majesty, the terror of Rome. There is the power that bestrides the known world like a colossus. No man can withstand Rome. No nation can withstand her. How much less a boy? There's only one way to deal with Rome, Antoninus. You must serve her. You must abase yourself before her. You must grovel at her feet. You must love her. Isn't that so, Antoninus?

As Crassus turned for an answer, Antoninus had fled.

Spartacus' Recruitment and Plans to Prepare for a Full-Scale Battle Against Rome:

On horseback on the slopes of Vesuvius, Spartacus surveyed his encampment, where his growing group of men was organized into a self-sufficient community, equipped with weapons, and being trained in fighting techniques. His strategy of allying himself with Cilician pirates was explained:

Here, on Vesuvius, we are safe from attack while we organize ourselves into an army. It may take 6 months, may take a year. We don't know. Once we're strong enough, we're gonna fight our way south to the sea. We're going to arrange for ships with the Cilician pirates. Then the sea will be a road back home for all of us.

Spartacus' Inspiration From Escaped Slave Antoninus:

One of the newest recruits was the 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, who entertained everyone with magic tricks and a poetic song ("I Turn Home"):

When the blazing sun hangs low in the western sky, when the wind dies away on the mountain, when the song of the meadowlark turns still, when the field locust clicks no more in the field, and the sea foam sleeps like a maiden at rest, and twilight touches the shape of the wondering earth, I turn home. Through blue shadows and purple woods, I turn home. I turn to the place that I was born, to the mother who bore me and the father who taught me, long ago, long ago, long ago. Alone am I now, lost and alone in a far, wide, wondering world. Yet still when the blazing sun hangs low, when the wind dies away and the sea foam sleeps, and twilight touches the wondering earth, I turn home.

Spartacus told Antoninus: "There's a time for fighting and there's is a time for singing. Now you teach us to sing. Sing, Antoninus." As Spartacus and Varinia strolled away from the group, he spoke to her 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." Spartacus expressed his longing for an education: "I don't even know to read....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 he wanted to know everything about Varinia:

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 passionately kissed before a fade to black.

Allying with the Cilician Pirates, and The Defeat of Glabrus' Roman Garrison:

During a rainstorm, Tigranes Levantus (Herbert Lom) arrived to offer his support for the Italian slave revolt. He was surprised when Spartacus bought his slave bearers and immediately gave them their freedom: "See, we have no slaves in this camp." Tigranes was bringing word from Ibar M'hali, the Cilician Governor of Delos, to bargain with Spartacus. The two negotiated to trade 500 Cilician ships from the Italian port of Brundusium, for the price of 100,000 sesterces per ship or 50 million sesterces.

Spartacus was asked how long it would take for his slave army to cross one-third the length of ltaly and fight a major battle in every town before reaching the east coast port city. It was theorized that Spartacus would reach the coastal city in about 7 months to board the Cilician ships and secure passage out of Italy. In the meantime, he offered a "chest of treasure" as a down-payment and promised to pay the balance when they arrived at the port and took possession.

After drinking wine together to seal the deal, Tigranes mentioned how he felt that Spartacus' forces would be defeated by either Crassus or the mighty Roman garrison dispatched and led by Glabrus: "Surely you know you're going to lose, don't you? You have no chance. At this very moment, 6 cohorts of the garrison of Rome are approaching this position." He then restated his question: "If you looked into a magic crystal and you saw your army destroyed and yourself dead, if you saw that in the future, as I'm sure you're seeing it now, would you continue to fight?...Knowing that you must lose?" Spartacus was confident of the outcome of the battle because his army of former slaves was unafraid to die:

All men lose when they die. All men die, but a slave and a free man lose different things....A free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That's why he's not afraid of it. That's why we'll win.

Shortly later, Glabrus' army of six cohorts set up their base at the mouth of the valley against the cliffs, but had not built either a moat or protective stockade. With over-confidence in their mission, they had entirely underestimated Spartacus' power and determination. Spartacus was informed that the Roman campaign was completely unprepared: "This campaign is great sport for them. The Romans are having a picnic."

The cohorts of commander Glabrus were ambushed during an unexpected nighttime raid, when only sentries were posted. Their Roman tents were burned, and the soldiers were soundly destroyed, slaughtered, and defeated (it was reported that only 14 survived). The captured Glabrus, who was found "playing dead" in his tent, was confronted by the victorious Spartacus. He was sent back to the Roman Senate with a broken baton ("a symbol of the Senate") - to warn that Spartacus' army would not stop:

Take that back to your Senate. Tell them you and that broken stick is all that's left of the garrison of Rome! 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.

Glabrus was lashed to a horse and returned to Rome.


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