What if certain events in ancient Rome had happened a little differently?
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An alternate history of ancient Rome.
What if certain events in ancient Rome had happened a little differently?
A young Julius Caesar, desperate to avenge a personal tragedy for which he blames Sulla, the blood-thirsty dictator of Rome, amasses a small army while serving as a military tribune in Asia Minor. He knows his army is not large enough or powerful enough to defeat Rome but he has an idea where he can get more soldiers. A lot more.
Spartacus, seeking vengeance on Rome for years of slavery, degradation and humiliation as a gladiator, escapes his enslavement and begins to build his own army. The slave army cuts a bloody swath across Italy, defeating multiple Roman armies. Spartacus knows that Rome will never give up, no matter how many Roman soldiers he kills, and sets his sights on the city of Rome itself.
And what if Spartacus and Caesar, perhaps two of the most brilliant military commanders of their time, joined forces and marched together on Rome?
This is that story.
June 4, 81 BC
Spartacus awoke with an erection. It was the same every morning after the dream. And the dream was always the same: Spartacus surrounded by Roman soldiers, a gladius in each hand. A Roman officer sat on a horse watching as the gladiator stabbed and slashed his way toward him, climbing over the bodies of dead and dying legionaries, but no matter how many he killed more came. The officer was Titus Galerius Canus, legate of the 18th legion; the man who had murdered Spartacus’ pregnant wife and the man Spartacus had sworn to kill to avenge her death.
It disturbed him in a small way that the dream frenzy of killing resulted in an erection, but he had long ago given up worrying about it or trying to figure out what it meant. The men he was killing were enemies, after all.
The various kingdoms of Thrace had been vassals of Rome since the battle of Pydna almost a century ago. King Kotys II and his Macedonian allies had lost the battle and the resulting truce placed all of Thrace under the iron-nailed boot of Rome as client-kingdoms. As part of their vassalage responsibilities Thrace provided soldiers to fight for Rome as auxiliary soldiers; soldiers who were paid far less than Roman soldiers and regarded as little better than barbarians.
Spartacus had been one of those auxiliary soldiers serving in the cavalry until the day a group of drunken Roman officers had decided that they did not want to pay prostitutes for their pleasure but take it from the village women instead. Spartacus and a number of his fellow auxiliaries had watched, trembling with rage as innocent women were ravaged, sometimes repeatedly, until one of the Roman officers pulled a girl, not yet ten years old, from the arms of her mother. The frantic mother attacked the officer and was quickly dispatched by a sword thrust to her throat. While her mother’s body twitched and bled in the mud the girl was thrown to the ground beside her and held down.
Spartacus could take no more, and before the officer was able to violate the child he rushed up and killed the man, thrusting his spatha, the cavalry sword carried by the auxiliaries, through his back and into the heart. Pandemonium broke out as the Romans and Thracians joined in battle. The drunken Romans were easily defeated to a man; fifteen Roman officers lay dead. Fearing the retribution they knew would come, the Thracians deserted and fled toward Macedonia.
After weeks of running and hiding in the bleak mountains, always trying to stay one step ahead of the Romans, they were finally captured and brought back in chains. All were to be sold into slavery for their punishment. Spartacus was deemed the ring-leader and was forced to watch as his wife was executed for his crimes. Spartacus swore that he would avenge her death.
The pain in his bladder forced Spartacus out of his cot to the chamber pot. Someone would be along soon to empty and replace it, followed by breakfast. As he urinated he looked around at his cell; it would be the last time he would see it. Tomorrow would see him free or dead. His days as a slave were over, one way or another. As cells went it was not a bad one; it was cleaned daily and fairly spacious. The bed was comfortable and the food plentiful. This was not out of any sense of generosity or kindness on the part of Batiatus, the owner of the ludus and the master of the gladiator slaves. It was simple economics: sick, underfed gladiators did not perform well, or survive very long. Healthy gladiators brought more money into Batiatus coffers. Batiatus was a greedy, ambitious man, yearning for high political office and acceptance into the upper classes of Rome. Ambition cost a lot of money in Rome.
Spartacus was the best gladiator the ludus had seen for many years. He didn’t just fight and kill; he entertained the screaming, blood-thirsty ticket paying mob. He gave them what they asked for, and then he gave them more. When they wanted blood, he gave them a blood bath. When they wanted mercy, he gave them mercy. But most of all they wanted to be entertained and he gave them a show unlike any other outside the gladiator games of Rome.
And when they wanted his body, he gave that too. The high born women of Capua paid Batiatus dearly for the privilege, and discretion, to fulfil their sexual fantasies with the great gladiators of the arena. Spartacus gave himself to the mob, and Batiatus. And as Batiatus’ coffers and prestige grew, so did his trust of and dependence upon the Thracian gladiator. That trust and greater freedom of movement had enabled Spartacus to enlist two hundred of his fellow gladiators in his plan to escape their slavery. Escape and wreak revenge on the Romans who had chained proud warriors like dogs, forcing them to fight and die for the entertainment of Romans.
The escape would happen that evening, during the dying minutes of the last bout. The crowds would be hoarse from screaming, the men guarding the weapons room bored, tired, lethargic from the heat of a dry Capuan summer, and hungry. The timing was crucial; Spartacus planned to escape the ludus just before the crowds began streaming out into the streets to return to their homes and businesses. This would make pursuit difficult and give Spartacus the time he needed to put some distance between the gladiator school and his pursuers.
Their destination was Mount Vesuvius. The wooded slopes would provide food and cover, and any attackers would have to approach the slaves uphill; always a disadvantage when attacking. The country around Vesuvius was dotted with farms, shops and merchants. Spartacus planned to recruit more slaves to his cause from those farms and loot the shops for weapons and food. Weapons were his main concern; Rome would respond, and their soldiers would be armed and armored. The slave army would have no armor, and few swords or javelins. Spartacus’ only hope of winning the coming battles would be overwhelming numbers, surprise and guerrilla tactics using the weapons, tools and terrain available. Meeting the Romans in a set piece battle on ground of their choosing would be suicide; Vesuvius would provide him the environment that would be most advantageous to an irregular army.
Breakfast arrived and brought Spartacus back to the stone walls of his cell. He ate heartily, enjoying food for the first time since becoming a slave.