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Submitted by on Aug 8, 2021

Spartacus (Greek: o Spártakos; Latin: Spartacus; c. 111–71 BC) was a Thracian gladiator who, along with Crixus, Gannicus, Castus, and Oenomaus, led the Third Servile War, a significant slave rebellion against the Roman Republic. Beyond the war events, nothing is known about him, and historical reports are frequently conflicting. All accounts agree, however, that he was a former gladiator and a capable military commander.

This uprising, shown in literature, television, and cinema as an example of oppressed people battling for their liberation against a slave-owning oligarchy, has inspired many political ideas and has been portrayed in literature, television, and film. The philosopher Voltaire referred to the Third Servile War as “history’s sole fair war.” Although ancient historians do not explicitly reject this view, no historical account states that the objective was to abolish slavery in the Republic.

Plutarch, a Greek writer, refers to Spartacus as “a Thracian of Nomadic origin,” which might reference the Maedi tribe. “A Thracian by birth, who had formerly served as a soldier with the Romans, but had since been a prisoner and sold for a gladiator,” according to Appian.


“From a Thracian mercenary, he had become a Roman soldier, who had defected and been enslaved, and subsequently, because of his strength, a gladiator,” Florus wrote. According to the writers, the Maedi Thracian tribe occupied the territory on the southwestern margins of Thrace, along its boundary with the Roman province of Macedonia — present-day southwestern Bulgaria. Spartacus’ wife, a Maedi prophetess, was also enslaved with him, according to Plutarch.

Spartacus is also known as Spartacus in the Black Sea area. It is known to have been worn by five of the twenty Kings of the Thracian Spartocid dynasty of the Cimmerian Bosporus and Pontus, as well as a Thracian “Sparta” “Spardacus” or “Sparadokos,” father of Seuthes I of the Odrysae.

Spartacus was a hostage seized by the legions, according to various accounts and their interpretations. Spartacus received his training at Lentulus Batiatus’ gladiatorial school (ludus) near Capua. He was a murmillo, a heavyweight gladiator. These warriors wielded an 18-inch-long sword with a broad, straight blade (gladius) and a big rectangular shield (scutum). Spartacus was one of a gang of gladiators preparing an escape in 73 BC.

The scheme involved about 70 slaves. Despite their small numbers, they grabbed cooking utensils, battled their way out of the school, and captured numerous carts with gladiatorial weapons and equipment. The runaway slaves overcame the soldiers sent after them, plundering the countryside around Capua, recruiting many more slaves into their ranks, and finally retiring to Mount Vesuvius for a more secure position.

The fugitive gladiators picked Spartacus and two Gallic slaves, Crixus and Oenomaus, as their leaders once they were free. Although Roman historians thought that the runaway slaves were a cohesive force led by Spartacus, they may have superimposed their hierarchical notion of military leadership onto the spontaneous organization, limiting other slave leaders to minor roles in their narratives.

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