Historians and the entertainment industry created several versions of the story of Spartacus. But honestly, I like the one created by the latest TV series most.
When the last episode ended a few weeks ago, I actually felt really sad. Even a bit melancholic. And of course, I wondered why. Later I realized where my feeling came from.
I followed the entire show, from the glorious beginning until the bitter end. The story of Spartacus could be considered as a victory of the underdog. I am sure that he was also convinced that no one can attack the mighty Roman Republic and live to tell the tale. But he made it, he actually died to tell about it.
The show presents Spartacus as the most noble human being there is. A man driven by the love for his wife and by the loyalty to his brothers, he gets to a point of no return. To paraphrase the series itself, he has nothing left to lose, thus being the most dangerous kind of man possible. And yes, for several months, he made Rome tremble.
I am not sure if the real Spartacus was just as the one we saw on TV. I honestly doubt it. We are presented with a good and kind man. He cares for those around him, he even tries to help his Roman captors. Above all, he is honorable and just. He does not hurt people if he does not have to, but at the same time, he is capable of brutally slaughtering enemy soldiers and those who betrayed his trust. I am not really / entirely convinced that Spartacus was the gentleman the show tries to present. It was the producers’ way of making us all fall in love with the characters and the events that shaped our history.
We could not know what possibly moved Spartacus. The show offered a convenient answer, by making his lanista kill his beloved wife. Outraged by the abuse he, and others alike had to suffer, he savagely took back his freedom, and continued to fight against the discrimination and agony Romans imposed on them. I am not sure the real Spartacus had such noble thoughts. It might be that he only wanted to be free, and in order to achieve his goal, he needed others who shared his desire. So, I conclude that there is a possibility that he was not the noble hero we see in the show.
One might accuse the series of being much too violent and bloody and pretty explicit. Well, I am not going to deny it. But I consider the era that is portrayed. Noble Roman citizens often lived an opulent and extravagant life. That what we would consider decadent was daily business for them. Educated in the high art of corruption and treason, their greatest concern was to enhance their wealth, while trying to further climb the social ladder. Maybe some things are a bit over the top, but it is still a TV show, meaning to attract and keep audiences. The characters were nicely carved, and their environment was created with a lot of love for details. The buildings, the interiors, the clothing and the makeup were all impressive and added to the bigger picture presented to us. Some things were clearly distorted, historical facts about gladiators and their lives. Most of them survived, since one could not afford to lose a fighter he had paid for. Being a gladiator was a job, many of them being Roman men in need of money. But again, one needs an adventure in order to capture audiences.
I know everybody somehow wished for Spartacus to succeed. As I was saying, he is the underdog, and people tend to favor them.
But he is the proof that history is not always written by the victors. Sometimes one man can make a change and can inspire and move people, he can take up a fight with the big and powerful ones, even if he loses.
And after considering all the details of the show and the real story I realized why the end of the series made me so sad. Of course, I usually get this feeling after I’ve read a good book or watched a good show or movie. It is the “…and know what?...” feeling. But it was something more than that. I actually realized that there was a time when not only history was made, but when legends were born. When one man could change history and become an iconic figure and a symbol for all others who will oppose injustice and oppression in the future. Sure, I suppose men like him are born today, but we will never know. I just wish I could somehow feel what it was like to live in that time. How would I act as a roman? Or a freed slave? Would I be able to face such a destiny? And above all, faced with such a destiny, how would I handle it? Would I hide or would I embrace it, follow the course ancient gods of fortune laid for me, in spite of all the pain and sacrifice? I presume, no! It takes a special kind of man to die for his beliefs and be reborn as a legend.
So does this answer the question, why I am so fond of the show?