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The Spartacus Road: A Personal Journey Through Ancient Italy [Kindle Edition]

Peter Stothard
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The name of Spartacus resounds through history. In the final century of the first Roman Republic an army of slaves led by Spartacus rose up in Italy. Its success was something no one before had ever known. The Spartacus Road is the route along which this rebel army outfought the world's finest military forces between 73and 71 BC, bringing both fears and hopes that have never wholly left the modern mind.

Sweepingly erudite and strikingly personal, The Spartacus Road is a book like none other--at once a journalist's notebook, a reflection on life's fragility, including the author's own fight against cancer; and a classicist's celebration. As he travels along the Spartacus Road and into the classical Italian landscape, Stothard breathes new life into a singular war in antiquity, recounting one of the greatest stories of the ages.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Stothard is a classicist and the editor of the Times Literary Supplement. A decade ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; after a grueling regimen of surgery and chemotherapy, he managed to survive, and that struggle is interspersed with the struggle of the Thracian slave Spartacus and his followers to gain their freedom from Roman oppression in the first century BCE. This is a quirky, sometimes confusing work, part travelogue, part historical account, and part personal memoir. Stothard takes us across Italy, following in the footsteps of the slave army while recounting their triumphs and eventual destruction. He digresses to describe his personal struggle against a pernicious and formidable enemy. Stothard offers fine descriptions of the battles as Roman armies and the forces of Spartacus move across large areas of southern and central Italy. Spartacus himself remains an understandably murky charater, since accurate source material is sparse, but Stothard provides valuable insights into the nature of Roman society and culture in which as much as a third of the population may have endured various forms of slavery. --Jay Freeman


"Now comes a distinguished contribution to the field by the British journalist and classicist Peter Stothard. "Spartacus Road" is a work of history, telling us of Spartacus'' life and legend, but it is also a travel book, as Mr. Stothard follows Spartacus'' rebellious path through 2,000 miles of Italian countrysideS Ancient history often comes to us in this form<as a kind of mosaic that we must piece together for ourselves, as Mr. Stothard has done so well here. And it still arouses modern passions. Mr. Stothard''s engaging book reminds us that, for all the secrets the story of Spartacus refuses to give up, it still leads us back to the heart of things." -- The Wall Street Journal

�By the time one has finished Spartacus Road, one has learned just about all there is to know about the slave leader, his victories, and his final defeat - his body was never found. One also has learned about a good deal else besides, from Frontinus the aqueduct maker to the poet Statius and his epic Thebaid to the word latifundia, Ofirst used in the time of Pliny for giant sparsely populated tracts.�

But what one learns of most of all is a sensibility, all too rare these days, that enables someone like Peter Stothard to sense how, at least in certain locales, the distant past interpenetrates the present and immeasurably enriches it.

"Returning to old books," Stothard says in his prologue, "is like returning to old friends." Anyone who becomes acquainted with this book is bound to find himself making one return visit after another.� -The Philadelphia Inquirer

�Spartacus Road is not a route you can track on your GPS, and Stothard�s book is no conventional guide. It�s an eloquent, sometimes hilarious, account of his travels in Italy, as well as a thoughtful and accessible primer on the history and culture of the ancient world. Unexpectedly, this book is also a deeply personal account of the author�s battle with cancer...At every stop, ancient or modern, Stothard�s erudition and lightheartedness, his familiarity with the classical world and his modern sensibility make this book a delightful read...Stothard describes this world with clarity and humor...Readers will be tempted to grab a copy of his �Parallel Lives� to travel on for themselves.� --Cleveland Plain Dealer

"This is one of those rare books in which there is something of unexpected interest on every page, and which makes the reader wish he or she could pack a small bag and accompany the author on his travels." Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

"Spartacus Road makes for a wonderfully rich and endlessly thought-provoking brew.... Beautifully written, musing and far- sightedS it''s an astounding success." Christopher Hart, Literary Review

�Stothard provides valuable insights into the nature of Roman society and culture in which as much as a third of the population may have endured various forms of slavery.� -Booklist

�Peter Stothard�s account of his journey is the footsteps of Spartacus�s army is not just a travel book, but also a memoir of surviving cancerS The idea for this book retrace the steps of the rebel slave Spartacus and his men for 2,000 miles through the Italian countryside. It would be an opportunity to retell one of the great underdog stories of the ancient world: how a motley bunch of slaves repeatedly defeated the might of the Roman army between 73 and 71BC. It would be a chance to compare ancient and modern Italy, to meditate perhaps on slavery and liberty, to think about the dynamics of asymmetric warfare and so one.� The Sunday Times

"A fusion of memoir, history and travelogue that is unlike any other book ever written about Spartacus, and all the more precious for being quite so unexpected." Tom Holland, The Spectator

�Extraordinary� -- mention on Books Inq. Blog

Product Details

  • File Size: 2522 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1590203232
  • Publisher: Overlook; Reprint edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #953,252 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meditation on Spartacus and dying September 11, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Spartacus did the unthinkable--he challenged Romans on their own turf and actually won some battles. The author visits many of the places where Spartacus spent time and contrasts what they are today and what they were during Spartacus' lifetime. I find such comparisons fascinating; they are a reminder that change is a constant and that life is brief. Peter Stothard, who has made a miraculous recovery from usually a fatal form of cancer, injects his own feelings about death in a thought provoking way into the narrative. He is never maudlin or banal, but instead asks us to try to put ourselves in Spartacus' shoes. What would we have done? What decisions did Spartacus take and what were the forces that compelled those decisions? Along the way, Mr. Stothard meets other pilgrims on Spartacus' road who take different tacts on historical touring. In all it is a journey worth taking and a book worth keeping.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing wrong, but... August 17, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Peter Stothard is a first class classicist. He knows his sources and his Latin, no question about that. However, as I purchased the book, I had high expectations to learn more about Spartacus. I was expecting a book like "The Spartacus War," only better. I was disappointed, in that the book is a mixture of the author's musings on life and death and his bout with cancer; recollections about his trip and his encounters on the road with various persons, including fellow turists and local guides; historical information about Spartacus and his journey; lots of un-edited pictures and drawings. Again, no complaints about the author's writing; I just felt very un-interested about his commentary on the Spartacus' journey.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus Road August 12, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am only halfway through the book, but I can tell you that this is not for the average, run-of-the mill reader.
It is DEFINITELY a scholarly work, very interesting, but interspersed with Latin sentences and sometimes obscure citations, familiar only to an Oxbridge alumnus.
So, I would recommend it only if you are ready for some serious, dedicated reading.
If you, like me, expect an entertaining and interesting travelogue with references to ancient history, give it a second thought.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of the most unique books I have ever read. It is 3 books in one--history, travelogue and a description of one mans personal journey of inner exploration after recovering from cancer. I have been interested in Roman history since I studied Latin in high school. This book explores not just Spartacus' revolt, but the institutions of slavery and gladiatorial combat and its place in Roman society. As the author traces Spartacus' movements, he reports not only on modern day Italy and the travelers he meets, but on the nature of Roman life as reflected in the ruins he finds along the way. For me, it helped me understand better how Rome functioned as an organized society. He also brought a new perspective on travel and how to see my own journeys through new eyes. A great read. Even my wife, who is not interested in history books wants to read it.
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