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On the Spartacus Road: a spectacular journey…

On the Spartacus Road: a spectacular journey through Ancient Italy (2010)

by Peter Stothard

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The author retraces Spartacus's route round Italy as far as it is known, with musings about his brush with cancer and the people he meets on the way as well as the ancient authors who mention Spartacus, however glancingly.

This just didn't gel for me. If it hadn't been a bookclub choice I doubt if I'd finished it. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Oct 8, 2016 |
Running low on (paper) reading material, I selected this from the English-language section of a bookstore in Rome. Stothard is or was a journalist who presumably wrote for a living, but you'd never know from this. Uncertain in its structure, needlessly roundabout in its syntax, rambling in narrative, this book annoyed me so much I read Economist and Outside magazines instead of this book on a plane and left it, 2/3 unread, in an airport.
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Another book that I really wanted to love. And yet, I couldn't quite come to grips with it. Peter Stothard, editor of the TLS and renowned classicist attempts to trace the steps of the famous Thracian gladiator about whom very little is really known. And so he wanders around the backroads bringing to life now obscure towns and regions. But for me I couldn't quite grasp the thread of the narrative, couldn't quite bring the ancient world to life. So I came away a little disappointed. But I would still recommend it ( )
  Opinionated | Mar 3, 2013 |
An odd book in a sense; I couldn’t be sure if Peter Stothard meant to write a travel guide, an ancient history book or an autobiography. I suppose he just meant to write whatever he pleased, a combination of all three and more. For most of us, the nearest we get to Spartacus is Kirk Douglas in a criminally short skirt, or cries of ‘I’m Brian and so’s my wife!’ By way of informing the terminally uninformed, the author travels around Italy tracing the antique Thracian’s journey from escaped gladiator to successful rebel to slave general to massacred enemy of Rome.

He relies on his trusty Barrington Atlas (of the Greek and Roman world – wish I had one!) and his own youthful forays into Classical literature to act as a tour guide for the reader around some of Italy’s forgotten gems as he gives us his own musings on the Spartacus story. There’s also a big part of his own story too, that of his journalistic career and of his beating cancer (which he nicknamed Nero). He wears his scholarship lightly and downplays his abilities as a Classicist, while all the while including his own translations of Horace and Martial and discussing less well-known poets and historians in admirable depth.

As in all his previous portrayals, elusive Spartacus proves never to be the star of his own show – the accounts are always about the Romans who fought him or the Marxists who had him ‘adopt’ their agenda or the Hollywood gravy train. For someone so famous we know almost nothing about him, and yet by the end, you feel like you’ve been on his journey. An odd book indeed.
1 vote gerundivalattraction | Oct 26, 2011 |
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In this inspiring and original book, former editor of The Times, Sir Peter Stothard, re-traces the journey taken by Spartacus and his army of rebels.

In the final century of the first Roman Republic an army of slaves brought a peculiar terror to the people of Italy. Its leaders were gladiators. Its purpose was incomprehensible. Its success was unprecedented.

The Spartacus Road is the route along which this rebel army outfought the Roman legions between 73 and 71 BC, bringing both fears and hopes that have never wholly left the modern mind. It is a road that stretches through 2,000 miles of Italian countryside and out into 2,000 years of world history.

In this inspiring and original memoir, the former editor of The Times, Peter Stothard, takes us on an extraordinary journey. The result is a book like none other – at once a journalist’s notebook, a classicist’s celebration, a survivor’s record of a near fatal cancer and the history of a unique and brutal war.

As he travels along the Spartacus road – through the ruins of Capua to Vesuvius and the lost Greek cities of the Italian south – Stothard’s prose illuminates conflicting memories of times ancient and modern, the simultaneously foreign and familiar, one of the greatest stories of all ages. Sweepingly erudite and strikingly personal, On the Spartacus Road is non-fiction writing of the highest order. [ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spartacus-Roa... ]
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Chronicles Spartacus's gladiatorial school training, post-escape leadership of a growing army of slaves, and defeat of major Roman armies before his capture and execution.

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