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Spartacus and the Slave Wars: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford Cultural Editions Series) Paperback – January 12, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0312183103 ISBN-10: 0312183100 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Bedford Cultural Editions Series
  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's; First Edition edition (January 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312183100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312183103
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'Here Shaw provides a virtually comprehensive collection of translated sources for Rome's major slave wars, superbly contextualized for the undergraduate student. As a bonus, the reader gets an eye-opening essay on Spartacus as a modern historical icon, the best short introduction to the nature of Roman rural slavery that one is likely to find, and a thoughtfully selected bibliography. Even specialists in ancient slavery will have much to learn from Shaw's incisive analysis.' - T. Corey Brennan, Bryn Mawr College 'Brent Shaw has done a real service by collecting the sources of Spartacus and putting them in the context of earlier Roman slave wars. This volume is impressive: the material is fascinating and the translations are excellent. It is a collection that will challenge students to think about slavery in a comparative context.' - Ronald Mellor, University of California at Los Angeles 'Brent Shaw's collection of ancient testimony relating to Spartacus and slave wars offers a compelling, user-friendly, yet scholarly presentation of one of the most fearful episodes in Roman history. His translations are accurate; the transitional narrative, comments, and explication clear and concise. A brief history of the Spartacus myth offers an additional bonus.' - Valerie M. Warrior, Boston University 'This is an imaginative volume with lively and readable translations. Brent Shaw uses a widely known event, the Spartacus War, to teach about the central social institution that characterized Roman society and slavery, and surveys the historiorgraphy about Spartacus as a tool to discuss modern uses of ancient history.' - Richard Saller, University of Chicago

About the Author

Brent D. Shaw is professor of Classical Studies and chair of the Graduate Group in Ancient History at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been published in many major historical, sociological, and anthropological journals, including Past & Present, American Historical Review, History Today, Journal of Roman Studies, Man, and American Journal of Sociology and is editor of the collected papers of Sir Moses Finley. He is the recipient of the Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, and has been Commonwealth Scholar at Cambridge University, honorary visiting Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, and Goldman Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. His study of violence in Roman society, especially in civil conflict in the later Roman Empire, helped inspire this volume.

Customer Reviews

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The translations in this book are wonderful.
S. Lim
I would recommend this if you are looking for a good source on Spartacus or you are simply interested in history.
Joseph H. Trochez
While this is generally a one sided view, it is the best we really have in terms of documents on the conflicts.
Ky. Col.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By S. Lim on January 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
This was a textbook for Prof. Shaw's Slavery & Society in Ancient Rome class, which I took.

Other reviewers have praised the introduction, and rightly so. It includes a great introduction to the political, social, and economic forces behind agrarian slavery; a summary of the servile wars themselves; an exploration of various artistic representations of Spartacus; and raises questions about historical accuracy and the ancient authors' representation of Spartacus.

The translations in this book are wonderful. We also used Thomas Wiedemann's "Greek and Roman Slavery," but Shaw's translations are easier and more interesting to read--engaging, concise, and lucid. The selections, at least for the section on the Spartacus war itself, are quite comprehensive in scope. The documents for the other sections provide a sense of how various factors played into the slave wars. The information in this book is very "digestable," without being inadequate or excessive.

The bibliography is also excellent, and proved to be VERY useful for further research. The sources are categorized by subject. Subjects range from the general ("Slaves & Slavery", "Slave Wars: General") to the two wars themselves ("The Sicilian Slave Wars", "The Spartacus War"). There are also sources for comparative slavery, Spartacus in historical writing and fiction, and various artistic representations (i.e. Spartacus in film).

This book is accessible for students' use as a textbook, but I also recommend it as a valuable resource for people interested in the slave wars, slave resistance in general, and agrarian slavery.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ben Kane on August 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
Around 4,000 words have come down to us through history about Spartacus. That's all. Given this tiny amount of original material, I think it's incredible how much the western world knows about him. For nearly a century and a half, countless books and films have been produced about him. There have even been stage plays and ballets. Most iconic of them all of course was the 1950s Howard Fast novel, and the film which arose from it, starring Kirk Douglas. More recently, there have been TV miniseries, most notably the blood 'n' guts 'n' sex Blood and Sand, which makes for compelling viewing but plays extremely fast and loose with the history (even more than the Douglas film).

For anyone who is interested in Spartacus and what he did, and wants to know more than they've seen in screen representations of the man, I recommend this slim yet excellent volume by Brent Shaw, of the University of Pennsylvania. It contains every little scrap of information about Spartacus that is known of, even when it's only a sentence or two. It also gives accounts and the records of the two largescale slave uprisings on Sicily. These took place about 60 and about 30 years before Spartacus' own rebellion, and may well have helped to inspire him, and the tens of thousands of men who joined him. As one of the other reviewers has noted, there is also an excellent bibliography.

A great addition to anyone's library. Other useful books include The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss, and the Osprey volume Spartacus and the Slave War.

Ben Kane, author of Spartacus: The Gladiator.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Graeme Moore on December 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The old adage that history is more often than not written by the victor is nowhere more highlighted than in the conflicts that arose between the Roman Republic and its slaves.

Be aware that Spartacus dominates maybe only a quarter of the book. That said the author has titled it "Spartacus ad the Slave Wars" and not "Spartacus". The uninitiated may be surprised to realise that slave uprisings werent isolated to the Spartacus revolt but occured several times between 2nd and 1st C BC and on reasonable scales as to be a serious threat to Roman psyche.

So 3/4 of the work is for contextural purpose: Capturing the background,value, usage and life of slaves and their positive and negative contribution on Ancient Rome. It also examines social attitudes and bias of Romans and non Romans to the slave and nowhere is this captured more than in the source documents that make up the bulk of this work.

Narrative by the author is short once one passes the introduction chapter (that has some nice black and white maps covering the Spartacan slave war as well as slave routes in the Ancient Med), more often just pretext to lead the reader into the relevance of the document so one can assess the background events, setting, time frame etc it pertains to. The source documents can cover anything between a mere paragraph onwards to several pages. Written by statesmen, writers, historians, etc they are plucked from several centuries of contributors(2nd C BC - end of Empire)and give the work a more reliable and historical feel than if the book were simply endless narrative to limited references leading to conjecture by a modern historian.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ursula Hahn on January 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author lays out the topic vividly in easy-to-grasp fashion for the lay public and with superb references. His translations of the ancient texts into modern English are superb. Can barely put down the book.
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