By Eric Niderost In the spring of 73 bc, Thracian gladiator Spartacus decided that the time was right to attempt an escape. He was a virtual captive at the gladiatorial school of Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Batiatus, located at Capua in the Campania region of southern Italy. Like most gladiatorial schools, the House of Batiatus was a combination barracks, fortress, and prison. There, gladiators such as Spartacus perfected a savage craft of hand-to-hand combat designed to entertain their Roman masters. The gladiators took their names from the short sword, or gladius, favored by many of the combatants. Some, like Spartacus, wielded curved scimitars called sica; others used long swords or tridents. All fought in gladiatorial “games” where life and death were decided by the direction of the crowd’s thumbs. Few expected mercy—most of the thumbs turned down, for death, at the end of a contest. Spartacus wasn’t afraid of dying—as a warrior he scorned death—but he had grown tired of fighting and probably dying for the amusement of his casually brutal Roman captors. Spartacus was a Thracian, a member of the wild tribes that inhabited the region that is now Bulgaria. His real name was Spardakos, which translated as “famous for his spear.” He was about 30 years of age, and some have speculated he was of noble or aristocratic blood. Spartacus was not born into slavery, but rather started his career as an auxiliary in the Roman Army. The legionary foot soldier was the b


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