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

On the Battlefield - The Massacre of the Rebel Soldiers:

The two mighty armies faced each other in the film's impressive, large-scale battle scenes (requiring thousands of extras): the massive rag-tag, dirty-faced, tunic-wearing group of rebel slave warriors (men and women) fighting with spears for Spartacus, and the robotic, coldly-regimented, well-equipped and trained legions of the armored Romans led by Crassus. The legions endlessly marched forward from a long distance and ominously approached, perfectly united into a checkerboard formation. From a vantage point behind his troops, Crassus watched on horseback with his other commanders. 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.

The rebels surprised the first wave of marching soldiers on foot by igniting over a dozen flaming 'fire-balls' (ignited hay bales) that were rolled and projected toward the enemy. They caused the first legion of Roman troops to flee in a panic. Spartacus followed this with an assault of his masses of foot-soldiers to pursue the retreating Romans, in order to break their ranks. Hand-to-hand sword clashings and fighting broke out, and it appeared that Spartacus' forces were taking the upper hand.

However, then Crassus looked to his right and saw additional reinforcements arriving from "Lucullus and Pompey" that appeared to doom the rebels' chances of victory. Spartacus led a sword-wielding charge into the thick of the fearsome, close-quarters fighting, and found himself dislodged from his horse. In one of the film's most graphic moments (often censored), Spartacus chopped off the arm of one Roman soldier. Crixus was stabbed in the abdomen and succumbed. The slave army ended up surrounded between the three armies assembled by Crassus - and the slave-rebels were quickly overwhelmed and overcome. After intense combat, the sequence cut to a close-up tracking shot of the battlefield's massacre strewn with corpses.

The "I Am Spartacus" Scene:

A search commenced by the Romans to try to identify and locate the rebel leader Spartacus. The captured and surviving slaves, gathered onto a hillside, were promised that they would be pardoned (but returned to enslavement) and spared crucifixion if Spartacus (either alive or dead) was identified to Crassus:

By command of His Most Merciful Excellency, your lives are to be spared. Slaves you were and slaves you remain. But the terrible penalty of crucifixion has been set aside on the single condition that you identify the body or the living person of the slave called Spartacus.

In the film's most inspirational and moving "I am Spartacus" sequence (often highlighted and quoted), Spartacus was protected from being revealed and exposed by other slaves claiming his identity. As he stood to speak to self-sacrificially identify himself, Antoninus rose next to him and protectively declared: "I am Spartacus." Others dared to respond likewise and stood up, refusing to betray their freedom-loving leader, while knowing it was an executional-death sentence for them.

Furious, enraged and foiled by Spartacus' loyal and devoted followers, 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. After learning that the slave survivors would all be crucified, Batiatus appeared to try to claim his bargained deal to auction off the survivors, but Crassus refused: "Last night, you promised Spartacus to me! Where is he? In return, I promised you the sale of the survivors and there will be none!"

Nearby, Crassus heard the crying of a baby and discovered Varinia lying with her newborn son. She identified herself as Spartacus' "wife" - and obviously, the baby was Spartacus' son. She stated that she had seen Spartacus killed, although Crassus doubted her truthfulness. Following the battle, less than 40 women had survived and taken captive, while the rest had fled to the hills with their children. Batiatus complained when he was permitted to sell the surviving female slaves: "They're of surpassing ugliness! A genius wouldn't be able to sell them." Crassus ordered the "scoundrel" Batiatias flogged and sent out of the camp.

Varinia (and her child) were ordered to be taken to Crassus' estate in Rome, to work as his slave. Then, while surveying the chained male survivors being marched back to Rome to be crucified along the way, Crassus happened to recognize Antoninus and ordered: "Hold this man till the end." He also spotted his likely enemy Spartacus and also specified that he should be spared until later.

Crassus' Further Consolidation of Power in Rome After the Victorious Battle:

Back in Rome at Senator Gracchus' home, Batiatus - after his whipping punishment, complained to the Senator about his wounds: "I've more stripes on my back than a zebra. Every time I touch my wounds, they sing like larks." Even so, he felt that he had retained a certain degree of "dignity," but Gracchus wondered if it was worth it:

In Rome, dignity shortens life even more surely than disease. The gods must be saving you for some great enterprise.

Batiatus felt he had acted in a dignified manner during his dealings with Crassus - by refusing to become an informant (for free) and identify Spartacus - for nothing in return: "Anyone who believes I'll turn informer for nothing is a fool. I bore the whip without complaint." Gracchus termed Batiatus' experience as "a bad attack of dignity," and then spurred Batiatus to seek revenge against Crassus for suffering such indignities. The two plotted together and discussed that they might rescue ("steal") Varinia from Crassus' estate to annoy and irritate him. Through gossip, they knew that the narcissistic Crassus was 'in love' with Varinia, and her kidnapping would be a way to spite him by absconding with Spartacus' proud, "impossible" and fearless wife:

Malicious tongues even say that he's in love for the first time in his life...The more chains you put on her, the less like a slave she looks....I can no longer hurt Crassus in the Senate but I can hurt him where he'll feel it most, in his pride. Attack our enemy from within.

Gracchus boldly suggested that Batiatus buy some horses and a cart with a canopy, kidnap her, and bring her back to Rome by nightfall, for a bribe of a million sesterces.

Suddenly, Julius Caesar entered - and the Senator immediately sensed that Caesar had joined forces with the mighty and powerful Crassus: "You've joined Crassus?" Gracchus found himself 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:

Crassus: Did you truly believe 500 years of Rome could so easily be delivered into the clutches of a mob? Already the bodies of 6,000 crucified slaves line the Appian Way. Tomorrow, the last of their companions will fight to the death in the temple of my fathers, as a sacrifice to them. As those slaves have died, so will your rabble if they falter one instant in loyalty to the new order of affairs. The enemies of the state are known. Arrests are in progress. The prisons begin to fill. In every city and province, lists of the disloyal have been compiled. Tomorrow they will learn the cost of their terrible folly, their treason.
Gracchus: Where does my name appear on the list of disloyal enemies of the state?
Crassus: First.

Gracchus lamented how the "rabble" mob of Rome had quickly been persuaded to join the tyrannical side of Crassus, whose authoritarian rule meant the arrest of all those who opposed his policies. Although Crassus claimed that he had no personal "vengeance" against the Senator, Gracchus would be exiled and banished to the countryside, and would be manipulated for his "conspicuous" usefulness and popularity to persuade the often troubled "mob" to support Rome's new leadership:

Upon you I have no desire for vengeance. Your property shall not be touched. You will retain the rank and title of Roman senator. A house, a farmhouse in Picenum has been provided for your exile. You may take your women with you....Your followers are deluded enough to trust you. I intend that you shall speak to them tomorrow for the sake of their own good, their peaceful and profitable future. From time to time thereafter, I may find it useful to bring you back to Rome to continue your duty to her, to calm the envious spirit and the troubled mind. You will persuade them to accept destiny and order, and trust the gods!

Crassus with Captive Slave Varinia at His Villa:

Meanwhile, the doting Crassus in his villa provided his captive slave Varinia with an expensive, hand-crafted stola garment and a heavy, gold necklace that once belonged to the Queen of Persia. Varinia continued to be unimpressed by his wealth or charm. When he questioned her reticence to communicate, she asked: "Why am I here?" Varinia also told him that she had rejected his acquisition of a wet nurse for her thriving baby: "I prefer to nurse the child myself." Crassus disapproved, and wanted her to cut her ties to her old life: "It ties you to the old life. And I want you to begin to look forward to the new." She resisted him: "I don't care about my new life here," and wished he wouldn't threaten to use her baby as a bargaining chip.

She acknowledged that she was his captive possession, but he desired for her to voluntarily and truly love him, as she had loved Spartacus. She sensed both his fear and reverence for Spartacus who was loved by his people. During their conversation, she revealed that she assumed Spartacus had been killed during battle:

Varinia: I belong to you. You can take me anytime you wish.
Crassus: But I don't want to take you. I want you to give. I want your love, Varinia.
Varinia: You think by threatening to kill my child, you'll make me love you?
Crassus: I did not threaten to kill your child. I'm sorry, Varinia. One shouldn't grieve forever.
Varinia: I'm not grieving, I'm remembering.
Crassus: Do I interfere with your memories?
Varinia: Oh, no.
Crassus: (scoffing at her) You tread the ridge between truth and insult with the skill of a mountain goat. Well. What do you remember, when you think about Spartacus? It doesn't distress you to talk about him?....Well, then, what sort of a man was he really?
Varinia: He was a man who began all alone like an animal. Yet on the day he died, thousands and thousands would gladly have died in his place.
Crassus: (chuckling) What was he? Was he a god?
Varinia: He wasn't a god. He was a simple man. A slave. I loved him.
Crassus: He was an outlaw! A murderer! An enemy to everything fine and decent that Rome ever built! (He grabbed her) Damn you! You tell me. Why did you love him?
Varinia: I can't tell you. I can't tell you things you can never understand.
Crassus: But I want to understand. Don't you see? I must understand.
Varinia: You're afraid of him, aren't you? That's why you want his wife to soothe your fear by having something he had. When you're so afraid, nothing can help. Nothing.
Crassus: We shall see.

The Duel-to-the-Death Between Antoninus and Spartacus:

In captivity during nighttime, the two chained-together slaves Antoninus and Spartacus shared their final thoughts: "Could we have won, Spartacus? Could we ever have won?" Spartacus idealistically claimed that their defeat was actually a tremendous victory for the masses against slavery:

Spartacus: Just by fighting them, we won something. When just one man says 'No, I won't,' Rome begins to fear. We were tens of thousands who said no. That was the wonder of it. To have seen slaves lift their heads from the dust, to see them rise from their knees, stand tall with a song on their lips, to hear them storm through the mountains shouting, to hear them sing along the plains.
Antoninus: And now they're dead.
Spartacus: Dead. Varinia dead. And the baby. All of them.
Antoninus: Are you afraid to die, Spartacus?
Spartacus: (heroically) No more than I was to be born. Are you afraid?
Antoninus: Yes.

Crassus arrived to confront Spartacus and to confirm his identity: "Spartacus. You are he, aren't you?" When Spartacus remained silent, Crassus screamed and wildly slapped him, and in return received spit in the face. The dictatorial ruler ordered the two slaves 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.

The two slave 'brothers,' encircled by guards, fought valiantly together in a one-on-one sword duel - each realizing that the victor would suffer an even more painful death by crucifixion. Just before they faced off against each other in the deadly 'gladiatorial' combat, Spartacus whispered orders to Antoninus to allow himself to be killed, in order to spare him from being crucified:

Spartacus: Don't give them the pleasure of a contest. Lower your guard. I'll kill you on the first rush.
Antoninus: I won't let them crucify you.
Spartacus: It's my last order. Obey it...
Antoninus: (resistantly after drawing blood from Spartacus' side) I won't let them crucify you.
Spartacus: What are you doing? Do you realize how long it takes to die on a cross?
Antoninus: I don't care.

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.

Spartacus defiantly proclaimed to Crassus that he would still be victorious and would be venerated by millions after his martyr's death: "Here's your victory. He'll come back. He'll come back and he'll be millions!" And then, to spite Spartacus even further, the vengeful and mean Crassus divulged that he had taken Varinia and the child into his household, and then gave orders to Caesar that the defeated victor Spartacus was to be crucified at the gates just outside of Rome:

I wonder what Spartacus would say if he knew that the woman, Varinia, and her child are slaves in my household? Yes. Spartacus. Crucify him! I want no grave for him. No marker. His body's to be burned and his ashes scattered in secret.

Caesar learned that Crassus was fearful of his own fate even after destroying Spartacus. Crassus confessed that the memory of the martyred Spartacus would live on, while his own destiny was bleak - he was destined to soon be supplanted as the leader of Rome by Julius Caesar:

Caesar: Did you fear him, Crassus?
Crassus: Not when I fought him. I knew he could be beaten. But now I fear him, even more than I fear you.
Caesar: Me?
Crassus: Yes, my dear Caesar. You!

The Closing Sequence: Leaving Rome - Varinia and Her Son at Spartacus' Cross:

Meanwhile, Batiatus arrived at Gracchus' place with Varinia and her young infant. They were hiding from Crassus' legions that had taken over the city and were arresting everyone. Gracchus exclaimed: "So this is the woman it took Crassus' eight Roman legions to conquer!" Gracchus presented them with a Senatorial pass - falsified papers to allow them freedom of travel to Aquitania. He included two million sesterces in two heavy bags, and Articles of Freedom for Varinia and her child. Gracchus told them that he was journeying to Picenum. Varinia approached Gracchus and gave him a kiss on the cheek as a sign of her thankfulness (he joked: "This would really make Crassus jealous!"). After they departed, Gracchus retreated to a curtained room with a gold-handled dagger - to presumably kill himself (off-screen).

On a road just outside the Roman gates where they were asked to show their passes to a guard, Varinia noticed Spartacus hanging closeby on a wooden cross. Risking being identified and captured when they were ordered to "move on" and not loiter, 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:

Oh, Spartacus....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.

In her final words, she asserted that their infant was the reincarnation of the legendary Spartacus' spirit. [Note: Director Kubrick made a similar reference to a reincarnated child at the conclusion of his sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).] With her final 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.

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