Monday, June 25, 2012

Spartacus Blog Tour

Spartacus the Gladiator
by Ben Kane
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Category: Historical Fiction
Available in Print and eBook, 480 pages

Long the stuff of legends, Spartacus is known to most modern readers through the classic Kubrick film version of Howard Fast’s novel. Now bestselling historical novelist Ben Kane returns to the source material and presents a lively and compelling new vision of the man who was Spartacus—Roman army auxiliary, slave, gladiator and ultimately the leader of an army of slaves who nearly brought Rome to its knees.

Ben Kane’s brilliant novel begins in the Thracian village to which Spartacus has returned after escaping from life as an auxiliary in the Roman army. Jealous of his attachment to Ariadne, a Dionysian priestess, the Thracian king betrays Spartacus to the Romans who take him, along with Ariadne, into captivity and to the school of gladiators at Capua.

Against the background of the unbelievable brutality of gladiatorial life, Spartacus and Crixus the Gaul plan the audacious overthrow of their Roman masters. They escape and flee to Vesuvius, where they recruit and train an army of escaped slaves that will have to face the conquerors of the known world, the most successful deadly army in all of history in a battle that will set in motion the legend that is Spartacus.

Praise for Spartacus:

“Gritty, passionate and violent, this thrilling book is a real page-turner and a damn good read. It bringsSpartacus—and ancient Rome—to vivid, colorful life.” — Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire

“The story of Spartacus, and the slave uprising against the Romans in 73 BC is well known to many readers and cinemagoers. Yet Ben Kane manages to bring a freshness to the saga. Told with Kane’s usual panache and historical knowledge, this book is highly recommended.”- Kathy Stevenson, UK Daily Mail

“Not so mysterious as Warbeck, nor so canny as Catherine, Spartacus did one thing really well, and that was fight, and he does a lot of it in Ben Kane’s tremendously direct frill- (not thrill) free novel, which describes how Spartacus is betrayed and sold to be a gladiator in the arena. Eyes are merciless, blows are wicked and screams are piercing, but this is, vividly recounted in muscular prose.”- Toby Clement, UK Sunday Telegraph

“Ben Kane fills in the plentiful gaps in the historical record with some lively imaginings. There is much to enjoy in this saga of the downtrodden triumphing temporarily over the oppressors, and the portrait ofSpartacus as charismatic leader is a vivid one.” -Nick Rennison, Sunday Times UK

“I have read all of Ben Kane’s books and have thoroughly enjoyed them all but, I have to admit that this novel would have to be his best. Therefore I am delighted that there will be a sequel out later this year. Ben Kane does a brilliant job in bringing to life the character of Spartacus. He has inserted a considerable amount of historical information into the storyline and has tempered it with a fine balance of fictional input to produce a very enjoyable and believable novel. The novel is full of action, conflict, romance, enmity and much more . Reading it has been most rewarding.”- Aristotle Spencer, Reviewer

Guest post:
Why is Spartacus such an interesting historical figure? Why has his fame endured for so long?

Other than Julius Caesar and Hannibal, there are few names from ancient history as recognisable as Spartacus. Pretty much everyone has heard of him. At first glance, this seems unsurprising. His achievements were remarkable. Having been sold into slavery, he escaped with some seventy others from a gladiator training school in Capua, Italy. Through a combination of ingenuity and pure luck the group soon put to flight not only the first motley Roman force sent against them, but also the second. This, a unit of three thousand men, were not crack troops, but the fact is that they outnumbered the gladiators by more than forty to one. Unassailable superiority, one would have thought, but incredibly, the gladiators prevailed.

This stunning victory served to increase Spartacus’ appeal. From that day, slaves began running away from their masters to join his band. Within a few months, he had a force of over ten thousand men; within a year, it was more than forty thousand, or if some of the ancient sources are to be believed, more than one hundred thousand. Like a bushfire starting from a small spark, the gladiators’ breakout rapidly became a full-scale rebellion that saw much of southern Italy laid waste, and which sent shockwaves through the corridors of power in Rome. In the months that followed, Spartacus and his followers, the vast majority of them men who had never before fought as soldiers, won at least nine major victories over Roman armies. This unique feat makes Spartacus’ slave uprising the largest and most successful of its kind in ancient history. To comprehend the magnitude of their achievements, one only has to realise that no one had done as much harm to the Republic since Hannibal Barca had stalked the land more than a hundred years previously.

And yet these astonishing triumphs did not mean that Spartacus and his struggle were to be revered or even remembered as the centuries passed by. It may come as a surprise to learn that for thirteen hundred years after the fall of Rome, Spartacus was largely forgotten. It wasn’t until the 1760s that his memory was resurrected in France. This was in no small part because of the movement for political freedom that was sweeping Europe, and the frequent slave uprisings that were taking place in the European powers’ overseas colonies. Subsequent to this revival, Spartacus’ renown spread far and wide. His name was taken by revolutionaries all over the world from Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Haitian hero, to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian military and political figure. Karl Marx thought of him as one of his heroes. The underground Spartakusbund (Spartacus league) became famous in Germany from 1916-1919, and was immortalised when its leaders were assassinated. Lenin and later Stalin used Spartacus as the ultimate icon of the class struggle, as the model whom the proletariat should emulate.

But his appeal was not just to left-wing politicians. Spartacus crossed the partisan divide when the U.S. president Ronald Reagan mentioned him as a symbol of the fight for freedom. Yet in my mind, the most inescapable modern day image of Spartacus comes from the seminal Kubrick movie. Made in 1960, the film was a worldwide success, and has remained hugely popular in the decades since. Of recent years, that fame has perhaps dimmed a little, but the arrival in 2010 on our TV screens of the miniseries Spartacus: Blood and Sand has ensured that today’s generation will not forget the man from Thrace.

What exactly, then, were the causes of Spartacus’ slide into obscurity before the late eighteenth century? The reasons are not all clear, but the fact that not a single written word survives from Spartacus himself, or from any of his men, has to be one major reason. The dearth of historical records about him is also another significant cause. Sadly, little over four thousand words on the subject of Spartacus survive – that’s about ten pages of a typical novel. There was definitely more written about him that did not survive, but there were never lots of books recording his life and achievements as there were with heroes such as Julius Caesar. It isn’t surprising to me that Roman historians and scholars chose not to record or comment too much on this dark chapter in their history.

Today, there are few better symbols of the small man’s fight against overwhelming tyranny or brutal oppression than Spartacus. Yet most of our information about him comes not from historical records but from the recent past, from what we have seen in films, on the stage, or read in books. It is thanks to these depictions that we think of Spartacus as such a famous figure. Many, if not most, of the portrayals of the last two hundred and fifty years portray Spartacus as a warrior in the fight against evil, even someone who wanted to free all slaves. As is usually the case, the real situation was actually very different to these depictions. Spartacus was not out to end slavery, or to free all men. Such ideas did not enter ancient people’s mind-sets, where slavery was an endemic, intimate part of everyday life. It is all too easy to place modern sensibilities on people and events that happened more than two thousand years ago, when life and morals were totally different ― yet it is erroneous to do so. 

About the author: Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon from University College Dublin, and worked in Ireland and the UK for several years. After that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for seeing the world and learning more about ancient history. He drove around the USA in a camper van, trekked the Inca trail and took a ship to Antarctica. Seven continents and more than 65 countries later, he decided to settle down, for a while at least.

While working in Northumberland in 2001/2, his love of ancient history was fueled by visits to Hadrian’s Wall. He na├»vely decided to write bestselling Roman novels, a plan which came to fruition after several years of working full time at two jobs – being a vet and writing. Retrospectively, this was an unsurprising development, because since his childhood, Ben has been fascinated by Rome, and particularly, its armies. He now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family, where he has sensibly given up veterinary medicine to write full time.

To find out more about Ben and his books visit: his website
You can also find him on Twitter: @benkaneauthor and Facebook

The author is giving away one book in the choice of paper and eBook to those living in the U.S. and Canada. This contest will end at midnight on July 9.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I'm looking forward to reading Spartacus. I love History. Of course seeing the movie wasn't enough. I'd love to read about his whole life. I have it on my TRL
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  2. Thanks so much for taking part in the tour.

  3. Thanks indeed for being part of the tour!
    @Carol L.: Good luck!