Filmsite Movie Review
Spartacus (1960)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Unveiling by Senator Gracchus of Crassus' Hidden Objective to Become Dictator in Rome:

Once Glabrus was back in Rome and he spoke in front of the Senate, he described Spartacus' threats and campaign plans:

Glabrus: Their leader said their hatred of Rome was such that all they wished was to escape from her rule. If unopposed, he promised a peaceful march to the sea. If opposed, he threatens to ravage the countryside and destroy every legion sent against him.
Crassus: And once they get to the sea?
Glabrus: They plan to take ship with Cilician pirates and return to their homes.

The Senate was forced to pronounce punishment upon Glabrus for "criminal carelessness." Crassus banished the disgraced Glabrus from Rome: "Let Publius Marcus Glabrus be denied fire, water, food, and shelter for a distance of 400 miles in all directions from the city of Rome."

As a way to curry favor for himself, Crassus then nobly offered to step down, and accept some of the blame for Glabrus' humiliation by withdrawing from public affairs: "Glabrus is my friend and I will not dissociate myself from his disgrace. I now lay down the command of my legions and retire to private life." He left the chamber with Glabrus who bid him goodbye. Crassus listened from around the corner as populist leader Gracchus announced his true feelings about Crassus' resignation:

I suggest this is no time for a man of honor to withdraw from public affairs!...This sort of heroic public behavior is nothing new. I've seen it before and we all have now known the meaning of it....No matter how noble this looks from the outside, I don't like the color of it.

He was suspicious of Crassus' motives and predicted that his only desire was to rule as a dictator in Rome. He would be able to justify his power grab during the crisis of the slave revolt as a way to combat the threat of Spartacus' movement spreading through the Empire:

I'll take a little republican corruption along with a little republican freedom, but I won't take the dictatorship of Crassus and no freedom at all! (wild applause) That's what he's out for and that's why he'll be back.

Spartacus' Forces on the Move:

The many thousands of Spartacus' growing group of followers (his slave-soldiers and the elderly, women and children) mobilized to make their way across Italy, braving rivers, trekking across difficult terrain, facing violent stormy weather and winter snows. One family endured the death (and burial) of their child.

[Note: Thousands and thousands of extras were hired to populate the panoramic epic scenes of the masses of people, including the battle scenes, without any digital CGI.]

Varinia was discovered bathing nude in pond water by Spartacus, who frightened her by interrupting her halting recitation of verses sung to them by Antoninus: "To the mother that bore me, to the father that taught me, to the god - To the blue woods and the purple shadows, I...." When Spartacus approached and exclaimed: "I want to make love to my wife!," and then roughly grabbed her, she cautioned that he had to be gentle with her - she surprised him by alerting him to her pregnancy, and that she was expecting to give birth in the spring.

Meanwhile, back in Rome during debate in the Senate, Julius Caesar proposed to curtail the uprising in southern Italy led by Spartacus: "They've already infected half of Italy with this uprising. If we permit them to escape now, this condition will spread throughout the entire empire." Seeing another opportunity to consolidate his power and to appease the panicked residents of the city, Senator Gracchus recommended two immediate actions to channel his military power into his young and promising protege Julius Caesar:

  1. Confirm Caesar as permanent commander of the garrison
  2. Assign two legions to intercept and destroy Spartacus at the city of Metapontum!

At the same time, Spartacus' forces victoriously marched through Metapontum, where they were cheered on by the populace while forcing wealthy Roman noblemen to offer spoils.

Plotting in Rome Between Two Arch-Rivals - Crassus and Gracchus:

In one of the Roman bath houses, reports were being spread that 19,000 men were lost, including Roman commander Commodius and all his officers. There were calls for an investigation as to why it was taking 5 years to train a Roman legion, while Spartacus had trained his forces in only 7 months, and was nearing the seaport of Brundusium.

Crassus had a few words with Julius Caesar, and asked as a fellow member of the Patrician Party why he had allied himself with Senator Gracchus: "Why have you left us for Gracchus and the mob?...I want you to come back to your own kind." Crassus, who revealed that he had contempt for the lower classes of Rome and wanted to restore patrician order, clearly wanted to have Caesar's Roman garrison take the field against Spartacus' slave menace, and Caesar agreed that order had to be restored: "We have no other choice if we're to save Rome," but he would not agree to betray Senator Gracchus and shift his allegiances to Crassus. Crassus ended their conversation with a veiled threat to Caesar about making a choice in his favor:

Which is worse? To betray a friend or to betray Rome herself?

As they were leaving the baths, they encountered Senator Gracchus who was worried that no one had volunteered to lead 8 legions to march against Spartacus. With no other choice, Gracchus was compelled to offer Crassus the commanding leadership of the legions to pursue Spartacus and restore order. In exchange for the position, Crassus demanded more power:

My election as First Consul, command of all the legions of Italy, and the abolition of Senatorial authority over the courts.

Gracchus called Crassus' terms "unacceptable," deeming them a step toward "dictatorship." After the rejection, Crassus said he would bide his time until the situation changed: "When that day comes, I shall be ready." Shortly after Crassus left, Caesar and Gracchus feared that Crassus' intentions would be detrimental toward Rome's future. It was soon divulged by Gracchus that he had maneuvered to ensure Spartacus' triumph in Italy in order to overcome his rival Crassus:

Caesar: If something isn't done about Spartacus, the Senate will change.
Gracchus: And Crassus will move in and save Rome from the slave army by assuming dictatorship. But that everything depends on which way Spartacus jumps. Just now he's trying to get out of Italy. If he succeeds, the crisis is over and Crassus may stay in retirement indefinitely. I've arranged for Spartacus to escape from Italy....I've made a little deal with the Cilician pirates. I've assured them that we won't interfere if they transport Spartacus and his slaves out of Italy.

Caesar was appalled that Gracchus was dealing and bargaining with the criminal pirates, to facilitate Spartacus' exit out of Italy so that Rome could be rid of the threat of Spartacus' army - and of Crassus as well. Gracchus rationalized his political bargaining to spell defeat for Crassus:

Politics is a practical profession. If a criminal has what you want, you do business with him.

Devastating News for Spartacus' Forces on the Coast - Crassus' Maneuverings for Power Entrapped Spartacus:

On horseback with his rebel leaders, Spartacus reached the Italian coast, and was now only 20 miles from Brundusium. They were scouting ahead of the army that was six hours behind them, and made plans to camp there by the sea. Once everyone arrived, the entire group celebrated, danced and caroused on the beach. Spartacus' objective upon arrival in the port city was to load 150 of the 500 Cilician ships each day. Antoninus described how there wasn't enough food in the warehouses of the harbor district of Brundusium to provide for the fleet. Spartacus had a quick answer - he proposed to slaughter cattle along the way.

Spartacus met with Tigranes Levantus, and was about to pay off the balance due: "The balance of the 50 million sesterces we owe you." However, Tigranes brought "evil tidings" about a Roman fleet carrying Lucullus and his army that would arrive the following day at Brundusium. (Spartacus already knew that Pompey's army had landed at the southern port of Rhegium three days earlier, and was on the march northward.) And then, Spartacus was informed of the most devastating news of all - there were no ships in the Brundusium harbor: "The Cilician fleet, out of strategic necessity, has been obliged to withdraw."

At knifepoint, Tigranes revealed that the Cilician pirates had been bribed by Crassus to abandon Spartacus, and the Roman armies (led by Pompey and Lucullus) had been dispatched to the area, to force the rebels away from the coastline toward Rome. It was all part of Crassus' plan to scare the residents of Rome, and force his hand to obtain absolute power in the Senate.

Spartacus surmised that he was surrounded by the Roman forces:

  • to the east by Lucullus' fleet
  • to the south by Pompey's army

Therefore, Spartacus' only possible avenue of retreat was back to Rome - to confront Crassus' legions:

Crassus is inviting us to march on Rome, so he can take the field against us....He knows I won't let myself be trapped down here between two armies with my back to the sea. He knows my only other choice is Rome. Somewhere on the way, we meet. He beats us, he becomes the savior of Rome, and there's his final victory over the Senate.

Spartacus refused to listen to Tigranes' last-ditch expensive proposition to smuggle him and his leaders out of Italy to find safe refuge in some other eastern country. After a trumpet was sounded and the people were assembled, Spartacus delivered a heartfelt speech. He announced their predicament, and how they must now, as freedom-loving slaves, march to Rome and confront (as free men) their rich and evil slave-holders. It was almost certain that many of them would die fighting for their cause:

Tonight, a Roman army lands in the harbor of Brundusium. Another army is approaching us from the west. Between them, they hope to trap us here, against the sea. The Cilician pirates have betrayed us. We have no ships.

Rome will not allow us to escape from Italy. We have no choice but to march against Rome herself and end this war the only way it could have ended. By freeing every slave in Italy.

I'd rather be here, a free man among brothers, facing a long march and a hard fight, than to be the richest citizen of Rome, fat with food he didn't work for, and surrounded by slaves.

We've traveled a long ways together. We've fought many battles and won great victories. Now instead of taking ship for our homes across the sea, we must fight again. Maybe there's no peace in this world, for us or for anyone else. I don't know. But I do know that as long as we live, we must stay true to ourselves. I do know that we're brothers. And I know that we're free. We march tonight!

Simultaneously and in contrast, the Senate (due to fear and panic) was announcing that Crassus had succeeded in being appointed as Rome's all-powerful military commander to confront Spartacus' slave army, and restore order to the empire. The pompous and crazed Crassus promised to personally destroy Spartacus:

By order of the Senate, be it known that we have this day elected Marcus Licinius Crassus, First Consul of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the armies of Rome.

Crassus: I promise you a new Rome, a new Italy and a new empire. I promise the destruction of the slave army and the restoration of order throughout all our territories...I promise the living body of Spartacus for whatever punishment you may deem fit. That or his head. This I vow by the spirits of all my forefathers. This I have sworn in the temple that guards their bones.

Before the Two Armies Met on the Battlefield:

While strategizing with his legion commanders, Crassus ordered that previous battle orders would be immediately changed, due to Spartacus' "keen interest" in their plans. He announced how he would use a little known mountain pass to further surround Spartacus' army, and lead Rome to a glorious victory:

Spartacus has every reason to believe that he has outdistanced the pursuing armies of Pompey and Lucullus. However, there are passes through the Apennine Mountains unknown to any map. It may fortify your courage to know that Pompey is, at this moment, encamped some 20 miles to the west of us, and the army of Lucullus approaches from the south by forced night march.

Crassus was not just fighting for Rome, but for his own personal, single-minded vendetta against Spartacus, whom he both feared and hated:

I'm not after glory! I'm after Spartacus. And, gentlemen, I mean to have him. However, this campaign is not alone to kill Spartacus. It is to kill the legend of Spartacus.

The gladiatorial school owner Batiatus was summoned to Crassus' tent, and was asked to give a physical description of his former gladiator-trainee Spartacus on the battlefield. Crassus was shocked to realize that he had actually witnessed Spartacus in the ring when he visited with "those two charming ladies." The scheming and unctuous Batiatus humbly bargained - in exchange for identifying Spartacus - to be appointed as the agent for the sale of all of Spartacus' surviving soldiers, who would be auctioned off to "pay for the expenses of this heroic expedition."

Before the armies commenced fighting, in the quiet hours of the night, Spartacus walked amongst his ragged group of followers as they slept or sat around open campfires. In his own tent, Varinia was about to give birth and mentioned how the unborn infant was a "bad child" who hit her with his fists. She hoped the child wouldn't be born before they got to Rome. He worried about the unending fighting that they faced:

Spartacus: No matter how many times we beat them, they still seem to have another army to send against us. And another. Varinia, it seems like we've started something that has no ending.
Varinia: If it ended tomorrow, it would be worth it.

He admitted that he sometimes felt "weak" and "alone" even with her, and often prayed to God for deliverance, and for a son who would be born free - who would learn of his father's righteous cause:

Spartacus: I imagine a god for slaves and I pray....I pray for a son who'll be born free....Take care of my son, Varinia. If he never knows me, tell him who I was and what we dreamed of. Tell him the truth. There will be plenty of others to tell him lies.
Varinia: I can't live without you, Spartacus.... (she sobbed)
Spartacus: Varinia, for you and me there can be no farewells. As long as one of us lives, we all live. (For the first time, he felt the baby's movements) I felt it. Did you feel it?...That was so strong.

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