I will not forget the first season of Spartacus. Blood and Sand starred Andy Whitfield as the legendary Spartacus and Manu Bennett. The show was something original, best compared to the epic 300 series from Zack Snyder. My son and I watched the entire series together. He was 14 when the series premiered. I remember taking him to see Manu Bennet at a NY comic con who I had been introduced to through friends in the industry. Manu signed the original helmet he wore during many of the fight scenes. I had bought it from STARZ' auction after the series ended as a gift for my son.
The thing that was really cool about our regular viewing was that as the story was based on historical facts, my son and I would endlessly check facts and debate for hours how "things really were." He became fascinated with the roman period and. He and I visited Rome together. We visited the Colosseum and learned all about it's history, from who built it to who fought there. Followed later that night by dinner in the Roman Jewish Quarter. An absolutely great memory.
Sadly, Andy Whitfield passed away from cancer after the first season, something that hung heavy on my teenage son. It took time for him to adjust to Liam McIntyre who took over for Andy. Dustin Clare's introduction to the series as Gannicus, in the prequel initially seemed like a ploy, but in hindsight felt more like a distant relative coming to the family in a time of need. His presence grew to full stardom by season 2 and 3.
The battle scenes including Crixis, Spartacus and Gannicus are amongst some of the greatest action scenes on TV. The story and pace continued to hold up despite the myriad of imitators. When the assignment from my editors came up for a guide to the series I gladly took on writing the introduction. The show for me remains groundbreaking and one of my all time favorites. Not to mention that I will watch anything with Lucy Lawless, from Xena Warrior Princess to Battlestar Galactica.
The quality actors that contributed to Spartacus left a permanent mark in the genre, that will stand the test of time. I am equally amazed by both the Spartacus actors and so decided that the best way to view the series is in sequential narrative. For me the two men were partners in portraying the lead character, and delivering a great story, from the series pilot to its closing finale.
Quintus Lentulus Batiatus administrates his father’s ludus, while his father Titus is in Sicily enjoying retirement. With the support of his old friend Solonius, he tries to win the favor of a local noble, Tullius, by purchasing a Gallic slave named Crixus, who has a huge potential to be a great fighter. Arriving at the ludus, Crixus soon knows veteran Gladiator Oenomaus and his slave wife Melitta, as well as Syrian slave recruits Ashur and Dagan. In the meantime, Lucretia welcomes a young, recently widowed friend, Gaia, who suddenly has returned to Capua. They both feel drawn to the pleasures of ludus and opium. In an attempt to participate in the opening games of the arena, Batiatus selects his most skilled Gladiator, Celtic Gannicus, the original champion of the House of Batiatus, for a duel in the market. Unknown to Batiatus, however, the young Vettius, the owner of a rival ludus, is nothing more than an agent of Tullius, which results in deadly consequences. A week after his bodyguard’s murder at Tullius’ hands and a severe beating, Batiatus and his men are still recovering. Tullius sends a message, via Batiatus’ good friend Solonius, and offers to double his offer. Batiatus is not in a good mood, and soon plans his revenge against Vettius with the Syrians’ help.
Quintillius Varis comes to Capua to select Gladiators for the games, but Gaia and Lucretia cut across him and make him an offer to stay at Batiatus’ home, where Batiatus acts apparently surprised, but then offers him the ludus’ services. Meanwhile, the current doctor becomes pissed off when Batiatus criticized him and dropped Oenomaus’ name to succeed him. Embarrassed, the doctor defies Oenomaus to a duel, in which Oenomaus finally kills him and becomes the new doctor. Inside the ludus, Gannicus, victorious from his bout with Crixus, and Melitta are forced to have sex for Varis’ entertainment. That situation leaves both of them with problems, but Batiatus makes sure to secure the position of primus for his mightiest gladiator Gannicus in the upcoming games. Batiatus then is pleased with himself, he is prepared for the sudden return of the lanista and Paterfamilias, his father, Titus, who treats his son with disdain. The old man laughs when he hears that Gannicus will represent the House in the games, and is willing to make peace with Tullius, undermining most of young Batiatus’ plans. Titus manages to mend relations with Tullius and accepts to confront his own men against each other in some more honorable games in the afternoon.
While the father and the son are far, Varis returns to the House of Batiatus with a friend, Cossutius, hoping to re-experience the pleasures of his previous visit, this time with one of the virgin slave women. At the arena, Auctus, Barca’s lover, and the newcomer Crixus, duel against each other and the less experienced Crixus manages to kill Auctus, thus earning the brand of the brotherhood. Surprised by the newfound Gladiator of his son, Titus sees some abilities in him after all, and decides to never leave the ludus again, in spite of Quintus. Tensions between the younger and the older Batiatus continue, especially in the old stadium where they have a fight. At home, the women are also struggling to accept the parent's seemingly permanent presence. When Gaia meets an acquaintance on the market, she presents him to Lucretia, and he immediately comments that he is available for home pleasures. But the older Batiatus would never approve such debauchery. His son, however, manages to convince him to make a stop Neapolis, apparently to buy new slaves and enjoy the salty air. Lucretia is committed to proceed with Selonius as a companion, and they spend the night together. Then, Tullius arrives unexpectedly, demanding to fight Gannicus. The Gladiator is commanded to lose the duel. After that, Gannicus is recovering from his wounds, but is however able to share an intimate moment with Melitta.
Gladiator's Honorable Death
During an encounter, Gaia underestimates Tullius and dies at his hand. The sudden return of the Batiatus men just worsen things even more, especially for Lucretia. Following Gaia’s death, Titus resolves to clean the House of her presence. In response to his father’s ultimatum to choose between his House and his wife, Batiatus tries to buy time. But that is not appreciated by Lucretia, who believes that he would have to quit. She also has her own solution for her husband’s wishes of having a child: through Crixus the Gaul. Meanwhile, Titus announces a tournament to determine the value of the new men who make up half of his gladiators’ stable. The losers will be sent to the mines. Tullius visits the ludus again, once more looking for Gannicus, while offering preferential matches in the new arena. Melitta and Gannicus grow feelings for each other, but Gannicus, feeling desperate, deliberately reduces his guard allowing Crixus to win, and sealing his sale to Tullius.
Titus, severely weakened, is now bed-ridden by an intoxication perpetrated by Lucretia. He is finally silenced by a poisoned wine that Tullius gives him. But Melitta gets poisoned too. Quintus and the doctor return to mourn the dead. Batiatus now seeks revenge against Tullius for everything that has happened, including Titus’ death. Gannicus pushes Batiatus to complete the deal with Tullius so that he can avenge the House of Batiatus by killing Tullius. Solonius advises caution and a more sensible final solution. Naevia replaces Melitta as the personal Lucretia’s body slave, who promises her that no man will touch her. In the end, Tullius and Vettius both fall into the trap. Tullius is walled in the foundations of the new arena, and Vettius sells his ludus to Solonius and flees. Batiatus now has a new rival, his old friend who has distanced himself from his constant rebukes, and one willing to use his own methods against him. After winning the final battle of the opening ceremony, Gannicus receives his freedom from the Magistrate. He soon departs from the ludus, but not before giving his champion necklace to Crixus.
Spartacus: Blood And Sand
The story begins with the participation of an unknown Thracian on a campaign against the Getae, a Dacian tribe, under the command of the legatus Claudius Glaber. In 72-71 B.C., the Roman general Terentius Varro Lucullus, who was proconsul of the Roman province of Macedonia, marched against the Getae, allies of Mithridates VI of Pontus, an enemy of Rome. The Getae frequently attacked the Thracians’ south lands, so Glaber persuades them to enlist in the Romans’ service as auxiliaries. Glaber, influenced by his wife Ilithyia to seek a greater glory, decides to break the campaign against the Getae in order to confront Mithridates’ forces in Asia Minor. Then, the Thracian with no name, preferring to protect his homeland as promised, feels betrayed and leads a mutiny against Glaber. But when he returns to his village, he finds it in flames. He then manages to escape with his wife, Sura, but they are captured by a vengeful Glaber the next day, and the Thracian is sentenced to die in the arena of Gladiators, while Sura is condemned to slavery.
The Thracian is sent to Capua, in Italy. Against all odds, he kills four experienced Gladiators on the arena and becomes an instant sensation with the crowd. Senator Albinius then commutes his death sentence to slavery. As the name of the prisoner remains unknown, Lentulus Batiatus, owner of a ludus (Gladiator training center) in Capua, suggests to call him “Spartacus,” because of the fierce Thracian King of that name. Aware of the talent and the ferociousness of the Thracian, and also the popularity that he gained with the masses, Batiatus acquires him for training within the walls of his ludus. Soon after, Spartacus is put under the tutelage of the Doctore Oenomaus, a former Gladiator and fellow servant of the House of Batiatus, who becomes his instructor. Then, he meets Varro, a Roman who sold himself into slavery to pay off his debts and support his family, and befriends him. But he’s also harassed by more senior Gladiators, especially Crixus, an undefeated Gaul, and Barca, a Carthaginian. Crixus has a secretive sexual relationship with Batiatus’ wife, Lucretia. Soon, Spartacus gets to meet other slaves of the House, like Mira, a Hispanic girl that falls in love with him; Ashur, a former gladiator from Syria; and Naevia, Lucretia’s domestic slave. Later, Spartacus learns that Sura was sold to a Syrian slave trader. Batiatus, the lanista, who has been unable to control Spartacus during the first days of training, promises him to find Sura and bring them together in exchange for his cooperation in the arena. After many almost fatal trials and a lot of additional training, Spartacus reaches the status of a living legend and is named the “Champion of Capua.” Batiatus organizes the purchase of Sura, and when Spartacus is about to finally reunite with his wife, she arrives mortally wounded after allegedly having been assaulted by bandits on the road. But her murder was secretly ordained by Batiatus to keep Spartacus focused and loyal. In the meantime, Ashur commands to kill Barca in order to avoid the payment of the winnings owed to him. Afterwards, Spartacus takes off its heritage as a Thracian and forgets his dream of freedom, to be satisfied with a life as a champion. Also, Crixus and Naevia become lovers on the quiet.
A Glorious Death
The turning point comes when Spartacus has to fight against his only friend in the ludus, Varro, in an exhibition game that celebrates the arrival to the maturity of Numerius, the son of Capua’s Magistrate. Ilithyia, who has hated Spartacus since he humiliated her husband Glaber during the mutiny, seduces Numerius and convinces him to demand death for the loser of the match. As expected, Spartacus wins, and when the young man gives the thumbs down, Batiatus, wanting to ingratiate himself with Numerius’ powerful father, forces Spartacus to obey and kill Varro. Suffering from both a wound received during the match and his remorse at having to kill his friend, Spartacus has febrile dreams that leads him to suspect that Batiatus orchestrated Sura’s death. Later, he confirms his suspicions. Knowing that it’s all or nothing when it comes to slavery, Spartacus resolves to kill Batiatus and lead a revolt against the House which he once fought for. In order to get his revenge, Spartacus asks Crixus and the rest of the Gladiators for help, to defeat the House of Batiatus once and for all.
A fight to death between Spartacus and Crixus is organized for the elite of Capua in the ludus. The doctor, Oenomaus, faces Batiatus over Barca’s death, and asks him for Ashur’s involvement in it. Spartacus gains the support of Mira, who surreptitiously opens the door of the villa from the training area. Crixus initially refuses to help Spartacus in hope to meet his lover Naevia. However, after learning during the fight that he has been deliberately drugged to ensure Spartacus victory, he finally helps him reach Batiatus. In the first attack, the doctor Oenomaus prevents Spartacus from killing the lanista, and in the chaos that follows, the Gladiators kill the guards and some guests. Crixus persuades Oenomaus to join them; Ilithyia flees and orders her guards to protect her by sealing part of the ludus. Oenomaus, fulfilling his word, attempts to kill Ashur, but the Syrian barely manages to escape. Crixus grievously injures Lucretia, stabbing a sword into her abdomen, perforating her belly and killing her unborn child. Aurelia, Varro’s wife, kills Numerius after revealing him that Varro was her husband. Spartacus finally kills Batiatus before the seriously injured Lucretia, and after the massacre, he swears he will make Rome tremble.Weeks after escaping from the ludus, Spartacus and Crixus command and train their small troop of domestic slaves and gladiators, temporarily sheltering in the sewers. Spartacus has only thoughts of revenge: he wants to kill Glaber, while Crixus is motivated by the search for his lost love Naevia. Glaber, now Praetor in the Roman Senate, which is controlled by his father-in-law, returns to Capua. Ilithyia is pregnant and wants to stay in Rome, but Glaber requires her to accompany him, so they return to Capua and take up residence in the ludus. They are surprised to find Lucretia alive, who is now seen as an Oracle because she miraculously survived Spartacus’ slaughter. Elsewhere, Oenomaus stays away from Spartacus and Crixus and feels very guilty for having helped destroy the House of Batiatus. He is fighting in the pits now, hoping to die, but he is finally brought to the villa before Glaber, and Lucretia conducts a ritual to ask the gods for help against Spartacus.
Caesar manages to infiltrate the rebels and begins to cause conflict between Spartacus and Crixus. Before Spartacus and Crixus resolve their differences, Spartacus announces Gannicus as his new second in command. Meanwhile, Caesar continues to cause problems and ends up trapping Agron. Soon after, Romans lead an attack to retake Sinuessa, and Gannicus is trapped behind the enemy lines. Later, he manages to escape and make his way back to the new rebel camp, where Spartacus and his forces are trapped in a snow-covered impassable ridge. Kore unwillingly betrays Crassus, and then escapes to the rebel camp. Spartacus and his crew reach a crossroads in their search, while a relentless Crassus strongly encourages his men to find the rebels. Then, Spartacus and Crixus decide to take separate ways, with each man choosing his own path. Crixus chooses to advance in Rome with his followers, including Naevia and Agron, while Spartacus and his followers head for other places outside the country. Later, while Spartacus’ group is celebrating, Laeta and Spartacus discover their feelings for each other.
Crixus and his supporters defeat several Roman armies before being tackled by Crassus’ troops. Agron is wounded and Crixus and Caesar battle each other. But Crixus is stabbed in the back by Tiberius. After that, Crassus commands Tiberius to decapitate Crixus, and the rebel army is completely defeated. Crassus then sends Naevia to Spartacus’ camp to inform him of Crixus death. Agron is crucified by Caesar but survives. Spartacus then captures Tiberius with the indirect help of Caesar, and an infuriated Crassus sends Caesar to negotiate with Spartacus to release his son. Spartacus then uses Tiberius and the captured Romans as Gladiators, in a match to honor Crixus. At the end of the games, Naevia battles Tiberius and defeats him, but Spartacus reveals that Crassus and Caesar have offered the return of 500 captured rebels in exchange for Tiberius. During the exchange, Kore stabs Tiberius from behind and kills him. Then Kore and Caesar return to Crassus and do not reveal to him that she was his son’s real killer.
Spartacus tells his surviving rebels to prepare for one last battle. With no discipline and a low morale among his followers, Spartacus turns his forces to face Crassus in the final battle of Siler River. Before the battle, Spartacus meets in private with Crassus and the two come to a mutual understanding, but both agree to fight each other to death on the battlefield. Spartacus also reveals to Crassus that Kore killed Tiberius. Later, Spartacus gives a final speech to his remaining rebels, and Nasir creates a sword that will allow Agron to fight despite the wounds of the crucifixion. At the beginning of the battle Spartacus and the rebels manage to kill several Romans, but Lugo is hit by a projectile in flames, and curses the Romans. After that, a Roman cavalry soldier kills Castus, who dies without regrets in Nasir and Agron’s arms. Saxa is also fatally wounded by several Romans and dies in Gannicus’ arms. Naevia battles with Caesar and he stabs her in the back of her neck, with the same sword used to decapitate Crixus. Caesar then engages in battle with Gannicus, and the Gladiator injures him, but soon is surrounded and captured by Caesar’s soldiers.
A Gladiator's Vengeance
The Romans attack the temple, commanded by Glaber. Invaded, Spartacus and the rebels use the escape tunnels to leave, but not before Oenomaus loses his left eye while fighting the fierce Egyptian mercenary. They decide to take the steep mountain roads of Mount Vesuvius. Glaber stops the search and plans to besiege the mountain, hoping to force the rebels out in the open. Later, he sends Ashur to face Spartacus and his followers alone, and negotiate their surrender. Ashur's offer is rejected when it is revealed that Spartacus and his followers could once again become slaves. After a prolonged duel, Naevia decapitates Ashur.
Spartacus comes up with a plan to ambush the Roman camp. Spartacus, Agron, Crixus, and Gannicus will descend the mountain behind the Roman guards, burn the camp and leave the legion in disarray. Then, the rest of the rebels will unite them in battle, attacking from the side. Back in Capua, Ilithyia is about to deliver her baby. Lucretia helps her, but after the birth, she cuts Ilithyia’s belly and commits suicide by jumping from the ludus cliff with the baby in her arms. Ilithyia, witnessing all this, collapses and dies from blood loss. The battle between the forces of Glaber and the rebels results in a fatally wounded Oenomaus. He dies in Gannicus’ arms. Spartacus has a one-on-one sword fight with Glaber. The Praetor tells him that his death and the destruction of his legion will bring many more legions of Roman soldiers after them, and the rebels will never win in the long run. But Spartacus does not listen and cuts his throat, killing him. Then he reunites with the surviving rebels to celebrate their victory.
Spartacus: War Of The Damned
It's been almost a year since the slave uprising began, and Spartacus and the rebels have defeated several Roman armies in their quest to make Rome tremble. The Senate puts Marcus Licinius Crassus in charge of the creation of a new Roman army to defeat Spartacus. He and his followers take control of the walled city on the coast of Sinuessa, and take some prisoners. Meanwhile, Gaius Julius Caesar is put under the command of Crassus’ private army, causing conflict with the young and ambitious Crassus’ son, Tiberius. In an attempt to prove to his father that he is better than Caesar, Tiberius leads an attack on Spartacus, something he ordered him not to do. Tiberius is seriously wounded by one of the rebels, and is saved by his best friend, who convinces him to retire. At the same moment, the increasingly paranoid and murderous Naevia kills an old friend of Gannicus. Tiberius is punished by his father after the failed attack, and Kore tries to comfort him, but he ends up raping her.
Crixus is informed by a brothel owner that Naevia is in the south. Spartacus sends Aurelia to the north so she can reunite her with her son, then goes to the town square on his own to kill Glaber. There, he discovers that they have captured and mortally wounded Aurelia. Then he breaks cover and engages in combat with Glaber and his soldiers. Soon he is assisted by Crixus and other gladiators, and escapes with Aurelia, but fails to kill Glaber. Finally, Spartacus agrees with Crixus that they should march south in search of Naevia. They depart and soon arrive in a secluded villa owned by a wealthy Roman, who had Naevia for a short time before she left and travelled further south. One of the slaves, a young man named Nasir, tries to kill Spartacus at night. Spartacus chooses not to kill him, but to train him. Later, the crew release a band of slaves sent to the dreaded mines. A slave with his last breath says to Agron and Nasir that Naevia lives but is working in the mines. Agron, who believes that an attempt to free Naevia could result in the death of all the rebels, lies to Crixus and says that Naevia is dead. In Capua, Ashur tortures Oenomaus for information on Spartacus and his men without success. As part of the torture, Ashur reveals Oenomaus the affair between his wife Melitta and his closest friend Gannicus. Oenomaus then inadvertently reveals the rebels’ purpose to go south in search of Naevia.
Nasir can no longer keep the secret of Agron’s lie and tells Crixus the truth. Agron distances himself from the group. Spartacus, Crixus, and the others, masquerading as slaves and guards, infiltrate the mines in search of Naevia. However, Glaber had sent his soldiers there, along with Ashur. Crixus meets briefly with Naevia, but in their attempt to make their way out, the soldiers catch them. Crixus battles the soldiers so that Naevia and the rebels can escape. Ashur knocks him out and captures him. Later, he is sent to a villa where he finds Oenomaus. Rebel numbers decrease in the woods, as they are killed one by one by Roman persecutors. Only Spartacus, Mira, Naevia, and a wounded Nasir stay alive. Spartacus sees a horde of strangers approaching, only to discover that it is Agron with the rest of the rebels that come to their aid. While searching for a temple to spend the night, Spartacus meets Lucius, a Roman disillusioned with Rome because of the civil war. Lucius shelters and gives valuable information to the rebels. Spartacus and Crixus then are ready to leave and they hatch a daring rescue plan, which will be taking the arena in Capua. Gannicus returns to Capua to give Oenomaus an honorable death in the arena. When the fight starts, Mira sets the arena on fire and when it finally collapses, Spartacus and Agron attack the gladiators and the remaining guards. They successfully escape with Gannicus, Crixus, and Oenomaus, but not before Spartacus throws a spear directly to Glaber and hits him on the cheek.
With Crixus and a wounded Oenomaus rescued, the group returns to the temple. Gannicus mocks Spartacus and the rest of the rebels, feeling that they are fighting for a lost cause. Soon after, Oenomaus confronts him for his betrayal with Melitta, and Gannicus leaves. Meanwhile, in Capua, Glaber tries to join forces with Seppius and his group of mercenaries, but is rejected. Then he sends Ashur to recruit the most violent of the ancient Gladiators for his new plan. Finally, Glaber kills Seppius and enlists the former band of mercenaries who belonged to him. In the port city of Neapolis, Spartacus, Agron, and Lucio try to buy a new shipment of slaves, all of which come from the Germanic tribes from the north. The operation is successful and the rebel army swells with Agron’s distant relatives. But later, a match turns into a bloody battle when Seddulus, the greatest of all the new rebel recruits, tries to rape Naevia, after which Naevia stabs him. Spartacus, asserting his authority as leader, struggles with Seddulus and brutally kills him. After witnessing the horrifying scene, Agron’s tribesmen swear allegiance to Spartacus.
Lucretia and Gannicus meet at the market, where Lucretia tempts him with a plan to kill Glaber. He then captures Ilithyia and brings her before Spartacus. She reveals to him that she is expecting a baby. Meanwhile, Glaber and Ashur roam the city in search of clues about where Gannicus has taken Ilithyia. Lucius arrives to Capua with a message from Spartacus. In exchange for a cart full of weapons and armor, the rebels will release Ilithyia. Glaber seems to agree with the terms. At the time and place agreed, Glaber complies with the wagon, but betrayal is revealed when the wagon is full of mercenaries, including Ashur and an Egyptian warrior. Lucius is killed, but Spartacus and most of his men escape, and Glaber returns to Capua without Ilithyia. Finally, Spartacus releases her in the forest after revealing her that Glaber had no intention of saving her. Ilithyia then returns home with information about the rebels’ location.
Crassus and Spartacus engage in a bloody battle, where Spartacus manages to defeat Crassus after two severe beatings, but is fatally wounded by three Roman soldiers who appear behind him and impale him with a spear. Agron then arrives and transports Spartacus far from the battlefield. Pompey also arrives and steals the credit for defeating Spartacus. Gannicus is crucified and dies recalling his glorious days in the arena as the Champion of Capua. Also he sees Oenomaus at the distance, smiling while waiting for his friend to join him in the afterlife. Crassus crucifies Kore for joining the rebels, while he forgives her for killing his son. Spartacus finally dies in Agron’s arms after stating that the biggest victory in this life is to be a free man. Laeta, Sybil, Nasir, and Agron, one of the three surviving Gladiators of the House of Batiatus, join the other survivors of the rebel army to start a new life together. Spartacus is buried in a tomb marked by a shield with a red snake on it. His real name was never revealed. He was buried a free man.