In her historical novel Fortune’s Favorites, Colleen McCullough tells a very different version of the rebellion of Spartacus – what Roman historians called the “Third Servile War” (73-71 B.C.) – than we saw in the Kirk Douglas film: It was not a revolt against the institution of slavery, nor even primarily a rebellion of slaves. It did begin with a breakout of slave gladiators-in-training from a ludus or gladiators’ school, but by the time the war got going in earnest, most of Spartacus’ followers were free Samnites, unreconciled to Roman rule and still nursing a grudge from the Social War (91-88 B.C.). Their aim, if they could not throw off the Roman yoke in Italy, was to relocate their nation en masse to Sicily and found a new state there. So it was really a nationalist rebellion.
Does McCullough have history on her side?