Samnite-style gladiators relied on their swords. Other gladiator styles evolved from the national themes of the lands conquered by Rome. Thracian-style gladiators, for instance, carried a Sica–a curved, short-bladed scimitar–and a round buckler. Gaul-style gladiators wielded long swords and rectangular or oval shields. Another gladiator type, more exotically accoutered and called retiarius, fought with a trident, a dagger and a fishing net strung to the wrist by a thong and designed to ensnare an opponent and draw him into harpooning range.
Slaves were drawn from different places, spoke different languages and shared different cultures. The punishment for revolt was death, and slaves had no legal means or the right to organize. They therefore had to plot in complete secrecy--for detection at any time before the revolt meant certain failure.
Masterminding the revolt, according to the sources, was Spartacus, a Thracian by birth who may even have once served as an auxiliary in the Roman army before being sold into slavery. Sharing command were two Gauls: Crixus and Oenamus. The triumvirate raided the countryside, terrorizing landowners in the lush Campania farming district. Field hands and house slaves, many armed with farm tools and kitchen utensils, declared their own freedom by joining the gladiators.
At first, the Romans did not take the revolt seriously--it was derided as an army of slaves, no match for Roman legions. So they first sent underlings leading smaller forces, who were easily defeated and only provided more arms to the insurgents.
He trained and fought as a gladiator for an unknown period of time before leading a rebellion of 70-80 gladiators in 73 BCE. As metal weapons were forbidden from the gladiators until game days, the rebels used kitchen knives to overpower the guards. Once they were free of the ludus, however, they overran a wagon full of gladiatorial weapons and armor. They proceeded to ransack and plunder the region surrounding Capua, growing in number as more and more slaves rallied to their cause.
After the battle, legionaries found and rescued 3,000 unharmed Roman prisoners in their camp. 6,600 of Spartacus's followers were crucified along the via Appia (or the Appian Way) from Brundisium to Rome. Crassus never gave orders for the bodies to be taken down, thus travelers were forced to see the bodies for years after the final battle. Around 5,000 slaves, however, escaped the capture. They fled north and were later destroyed by Pompey, who was coming back from Roman Iberia. This enabled him also to claim credit for ending this war. Pompey was greeted as a hero in Rome while Crassus received little credit or celebration.
It was when Marcus Crassus took on the task of battling Spartacus did the rebellion truly begin to suffer losses. Many Romans made the mistake of not only underestimating the slaves, but considered themselves so high above them that they separated them too much. Marcus Crassus was said to have admired Spartacus and studied his tactics.
But while Spartacus was the stuff of legend, he was no myth. He is, however, an enigma to us. Spartacus left no writings. His followers scratched out no manuscripts. Surviving ancient narratives come from Roman or Greek writers who wrote from the point of view of the victors. To make things worse, few of their writings survive. Still, they leave absolutely no doubt about it: Spartacus was real.
Spartacus was trained at the gladiatorial school (ludus) near Capua, belonging to Lentulus Batiatus. In 73 BC, Spartacus and some seventy followers escaped from the gladiator school of Lentulus Batiatus. Seizing the knives in the cook's shop and a wagon full of weapons, the slaves fled to the caldera of Mount Vesuvius, near modern day Naples. There they were joined by other rural slaves.
The former owners of the slaves suffered great financial loss by the mass killings in battle or executions after capture. But the safety of the Roman slave state system over-rode the individual property rights of the slave owner, in that it was judged that the slave class needed a totally unforgettable lesson. The revolt had come after a period of great disturbance, the republic had floundered, civil war became a periodic experience and ruthless leaders, seeking dictatorship, had come and gone ceaselessly.