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film Spartacus, its historical background, the significance of the movie being made and shown in 1960's America, the real-life events occurring in the U.S. In the 1960's, the historical significance of the slave revolt of Spartacus, how gladiators and slavery in Rome relate to the movie, and background information about Rome at the time of Spartacus, including the slave revolt, and the rise of Roman generals to positions of power.
Spartacus was a slave, who is famous for having led a revolt 'the slave revolt' against the Roman Republic, from 73 BD to 71 BC. Spartacus was born in Thrace, a region northeast of Greece, and was a member of a group of nomadic herders and later served in the Roman Army (Sinnigen, 2003). Spartacus deserted the army, but was captured and enslaved, following which, the Romans trained him as a gladiator to fight other gladiators and wild beasts in the arena for entertainment (Sinnigen, 2003).
In 73 B.C., Spartacus and other gladiators rebelled against Roman authority at the town of Capua, in what is now southern Italy (Sinnigen, 2003). The rebels took refuge on nearby Mount Vesuvius and soon organized an army of about 70,000 runaway slaves (Sinnigen, 2003). Commanded by Spartacus, the army defeated the Roman forces and gained control over much of central and southern Italy (Sinnigen, 2003).
In 72 B.C., following this, the rebels divided into two groups: the Romans defeated one group in Italy, and Spartacus led the other rebels to victory against a Roman army in Cisalpine Gaul (now northern Italy) (Sinnigen, 2003). In 71 B.C., Spartacus's army returned to the south, and it was during this period that Roman forces, commanded by Marcus Licinius Crassus, defeated the rebel army (Sinnigen, 2003). Spartacus was killed in this battle (Sinnigen, 2003).
The movie Spartacus is a historical movie, representing the life of Spartacus (played by Kirk Douglas), and showing the transition of Rome from Republic to Empire (http://www.historyinfilm.com/spart/).The film was directed by Stanley Kubrick, as adapted from the novel by Howard Fast, and was released by Universal Studios in 1960 (http://reviews.imdb.com/Reviews/140/14080).In the film, we pick up on Spartacus' life from the point where he is trained to be a gladiator by Marcellus (played by Charles McGraw), and where he falls in love with Varinia (played by Jean Simmons) (http://reviews.imdb.com/Reviews/140/14080).We follow Spartacus as he decides to lead a revolt against the government of Rome, and as he builds an army of slaves, and we are led to believe that Spartacus is a great man, following his heart, and following his thinking that all should be fair and equal for all men, no matter their position in society, or their wealth (http://reviews.imdb.com/Reviews/140/14080).
Meanwhile, as Spartacus does this, we, the viewers, are taken to Rome, where the politicians and generals hold meetings to decide how best to deal with the problem that Spartacus presents (http://reviews.imdb.com/Reviews/140/14080).We then follow the film, as battles are entered in to, and as Spartacus is eventually defeated: the film ends with Spartacus' crucifixion at the hands of Crassus.
The film covers one of the most important transitions in the history of Ancient Rome: the rise of the generals. In 133 BC, Gracchus, a farmer, was elected to the position of tribune in Rome, and enacted laws which would be to the detriment of the senatorial classes (for example, land reforms): he was very popular with the masses, but not the wealthy landowners, and during his second term as tribune, he was killed by a group of senators (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).This ushered in a period of violence in Roman politics, and was followed with more attempts to democratize the wealth distribution in Ancient Rome, which were battered down by the senators in battles and wars against the democratizers (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).This is formally known, by historians, as the time when two factions were formed in Ancient Roman politics: the populares (those trying to push through democratizing policies) and the optimates (those of the Senate, trying to keep the privileges of the rich) (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).
Following this period, and the distinct split in Ancient Roman politics, the era of the generals was ushered in to Ancient Rome. In 107 BC, Gaius Marius, a farmer, was elected consul and was designated by the Assembly of Ancient Rome to be a general in the war against the Africans: this represents the first time that a general was elected, to head a tribe of soldiers, and was a stepping stone in Ancient Roman history (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).
In 88 BC, Marius returned to Rome, as leader of the populares, following success in many battles, only to find that Sulla (head of the optimates) had taken over as head of the Consul (Marius' rightful position): Marius therefore gathered his troops, and stormed Rome, to regain his rightful position within the government (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).This was yet another milestone in Ancient Roman history, as this was the first time any general had marched on Rome (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).
Following this battle, Sulla was ousted from position, and fled to Asia Minor; Marius took control of the Senate in Rome, but Sulla soon returned to Italy, as a self-proclaimed Dictator, and carried out many executions on people he didn't like, or who had done previous wrong to him (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).Following these executions, Marius went to battle with Sulla and died in the fighting (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).
Following these events, the revolt of Spartacus sits in its historical context, with Spartacus revolting from his position as soldier in the army of the optimates, and being forced into gladiatorship at the gladiatorial school in Capua (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).Spartacus, following the models of the populares leaders realized that the life of a slave and gladiator was not fair, and began his own Marius-style revolt against his captors, which at its height comprised 70,000 revolting slaves (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/spartacus.html).
The actual events fin Spartacus' life, as pieced together from historical records, show that Spartacus led a somewhat more tortured life than that shown in the movie Spartacus: he undertook many more battles, as leader of the rebel force, and had far more trouble controlling his rebel army than shown in the film (with thousands of rebels under his control taking off, in disagreement with his ideas and actions): in the film, Spartacus was portrayed as the perfect hero, with whom people could not disagree, and not fail to support; real life is more complicated than this, and Spartacus was not the ideal man he was portrayed to be.
The events occurring in the U.S.A. At the time of the making and first showing of the film Spartacus, chiefly revolved around the Vietnam War, which had begun in 1957 as a battle for control of South Vietnam between the non-Communist government and Communists (Handlin, 2003). The Vietnam War was the longest war in which the United States took part: it began in 1957 and ended in 1975 (Handlin, 2003). Vietnam, a small country in Southeast Asia, was divided at the time into the Communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam, commonly called North Vietnam, and the non-Communist Republic of Vietnam, commonly called South Vietnam (Handlin, 2003). North Vietnamese and Communist-trained South Vietnamese rebels sought to overthrow the government of South Vietnam and to eventually reunite the country (Handlin, 2003).
In the late 1950's and early 1960's, Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy sent military aid and advisers to support the South Vietnam government; soon after Johnson became president, the Communists threatened to topple the government (Handlin, 2003). Johnson responded to the threat by sending hundreds of thousands of American combat troops to help South Vietnam fight the Communists (Handlin, 2003). By the mid-1960's, the United States was deeply involved in the Vietnam War (Handlin, 2003).
Public response to the Vietnam War differed sharply from the near unanimous public support in World Wars I and II: a majority of Americans supported the war effort at first, but others bitterly opposed it (Handlin, 2003). In the late 1960's, opposition to the war grew, as the war critics argued that the United States had no right to interfere in Vietnamese affairs (Handlin, 2003). Throughout the nation, college students and others staged antiwar demonstrations (Handlin, 2003).
The film Spartacus, can be read as an attempt by Hollywood to bolster the war effort, showing as it does, the defeat of a rebel soldier by a strong army i.e., Spartacus represents the communists within Vietnam, and the U.S. government is represented in the film by the Roman armies, headed by Marcus Licinius Crassus. This line of argument is strengthened by the fact that in the film, Spartacus is seen to behave in very largely socialist (i.e., communist) framework (representing the communist rebels in Vietnam, that the U.S. wanted to conquer), with his socialist ideals, that men should not be slaves, and that no man has the right to keep another man as a slave, and his ideals of wealth distribution, following his populare stance. In this respect, Spartacus, the character in the movie, can be seen to represent all that the U.S. government felt threatened by with regards to communism, and all that…[continue]
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