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I Am Spartacus!

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Arcades of the courtyard of Palazzo Pitti, Florence: Gladiator. Ancient Roman statue (2nd century), copy after an Ancient Greek original (5th century BC). The head is from another Roman statue, it was added in 16th century. Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto, October 28 2007. Used with permission from Wiki Commons.

I Am Spartacus!

By Richard Girard

" The violence and obscenity are left unadulterated, as manifestation of the mystery and pain which ever accompanies the act of creation." Anaïs Nin (1903--77) Franco-American novelist, diarist. Preface to Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller(1934).

I have just finished watching the DVD's of the Starz Original Series "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." I borrowed them from my local public library, so I was able to watch them in the chronological historic order given above, rather than the order in which they had been shown to the viewing public.

I have always loved the story of the slave and gladiator who rose against Rome. The revolt of Spartacus made Rome tremble in fear at the potential of the overthrow of their corrupt system, a system which exploited the peoples of the Mediterranean every bit as much as the Romans exploited their slaves.

My love for this story goes back to the first time I saw the movie "Spartacus" (1960), with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Laurence Olivier, and Jean Simmons in the early 1970's. It is very tame when viewed today: almost none of the darkest aspects of Roman system of slavery are even hinted at, let alone mentioned. Still, you can't help but cheer for Douglas and his army of gladiators and other slaves, as they confound Rome for almost two years.

Neither the 1960 movie, nor the two Starz miniseries, are particularly accurate in the historical sense. The escape from Batiatus's lanista ( gladiatorial school) was much closer to the facts in the 1960 movie. However, in 1960, no movie maker alive could have brought anything close to the violence and depravity of the Late Roman Republic to the movie screen: it would have been described as smut. The two Starz miniseries certainly do a better job in that regard.

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Richard Girard is a polymath and autodidact whose greatest desire in life is to be his generations' Thomas Paine. He is an FDR Democrat, which probably puts him with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the current political spectrum. His answer to (more...)

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