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The Spartacus Road Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 10, 2010

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, June 10, 2010
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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 countryside... 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, 'first 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- sighted... 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 cancer... The idea for this book was... to 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"--Books Inq. Blog

"The most engaging book I've read in some time is Spartacus Road... The narrative mingles history and travel, meditation and deep classical learning."--Anecdotal Evidence Blog

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover; 1 edition (June 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590203232
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,388,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By April England on 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 By G. Stucco on 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 By Anonymous on 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 By C on January 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I should have read the other reviews more carefully; this is not a purely historical story of Spartacus, which is what I was looking for. As some of the other reviews before this one indicate, this book is a historical account of Spartacus and ancient roman history, interspersed with the author's commentary on his travels in Italy while gathering the information/reasearch for this book. So along with the historical information, you read about the author's interaction with modern Italian business owners, tour guides, locals, other tourists... Some of this additional stuff is mildly interesting, some of it is banal and boring and I have to power through it to get back to the meat of the historical story. I will read it all, but it is not as interesting a read as I had hoped it would be. If you want just the facts, this is not the book for you; if you like history with personal observations about modern life in Italy, you may enjoy this book.
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