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slappy3500

"Spartacus"

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I know this post belongs under a previous topic but it taking AGES to get the back pages for some reason. Anyway, I noticed in the new version that one of Spartacus' "Brilliant" battle plans is that his troops attack, then retreat thus luring the Romans into an ambush and destruction...ho hum. This "plan" has been used in umteen sword & sandal films and it always works. But having read about many ancient battles, I have never seen this battle plan. Guys like Caesar, Pompey , Alexander the Great, etc,lacking the military genius of movie directors, apparently felt that since it is nearly imposible to defend yourself with a spear or sword while running away, realized that such a plan would lead to wholesale slaughter of the retreating force. Another pet peeve is that a lot of these films, (Esp. Hercules movies) show the peasent farmers rebelling against armed troops. They use pitchforks, rakes, and clubs and invariably over come the soldiers. Apparently, training, armor and actual weapons are no match for a bumpkin armed with a farm implement.

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Well, the barbarians did overwhelm the Romans. Couple their sheer numbers with their will (heart?) to win and you've basically got a formula that has led to success against a "superior" opponent time and time again through history. That, and time. Basically, the fall of the entire British Empire played out this way.

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So Slappy, what did you think of the Spartacus miniseries? I was wondering if I should try to catch up with it on cable, (Lawd knows it'll be shown at least 12 times in the near future). I'd love to know your take on both versions. Does it compare with the star power and mock serious gravitas of the Stanley Kubrick version? I love that movie--especially in the scenes with Woody Strode, the late, great Peter Ustinov and Tony Curtis reciting "...Long ago, long ago, in the land of my father..." except that with his NY accent, it always sounds like "...Lung ugo, lung ugo, in de lamb ub my fadder...". Ah, memories.

 

Anyway, I know what you mean about the "brilliant" way that military maneuvers are depicted in most movies, and this miniseries sounds like no exception. I'm no Oxford scholar, but some cursory understanding of what was involved in this rebellion makes the real version look alot more complicated and more interesting too. Of course, the 'Barbarians' depicted as being in Spartacus' army of 73-71 B.C. in any movie and in other slave-and-sandal flicks were often mostly former Roman slaves, many of whom had been born and raised and trained in military tactics and, as we know about the gladiators among them, trained in Roman hand to hand combat. According to Tacitus' "Germania", where he gives a very imperial Roman POV of Barbarians--basically saying that these guys were more trouble than they were worth, (sure, especially after the Battle of Teutoberg Forest in 9 A.D. when they beat the tar out of the Roman army on the barbarians' own turf in what is now the Westphalia region of Germany).

 

Plutarch's "Life of Crassus" outlines the details of Spartacus' campaign and his hope that everyone involved in his army would go home. If Plutarch is to be believed the Roman view of Spartacus was one of grudging admiration for his highly effective skirmishes, rather than full dress battles. Unfortunately, Spartacus couldn't control his companions, who proceeded to pillage up and down Italy, without heeding their leader's desire to hightail it out of Italy.

 

So basically, Italy in those years was home to Roman citizens and a roaming band of Hell's Angels with swords and a bad attitude. Many of the later invaders of Rome, among them Alaric the Goth, the Barbarian who led the first sacking of Rome in 410 A.D. had also been a part of the Roman legions at one time. So, yeah, there probably weren't alot of peasants with pitchforks defeating Roman soldiers at some points during the long, slow decline of Pax Romana, but there probably were a good number of professional military types taking advantage of long supply lines, a often self indulgent imperial administration and the dissatisfaction of some homegrown and imported disgruntled slaves--many of whom probably wished for manumission and admittance into Roman society as citizens rather than a ticket "home", as depicted in Howard Fast's novel, "Spartacus", which formed the basis of the 1960 version. All in all, the power of Spartacus' story is still gripping--45 years after the movie began to be made and 2000+ after the man lived.

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Moira, I give it a rousing "ok I guess". Points in it's favor: Spartacus dies in battle just like in actual history (history over drama??!! what can they be THINKING!!!) no guy from Flatbush as a "singer of songs",and Dalton Trumbo one of the "Hollywood 10" didn't write the screen play to this novel written by avowed communist Howard fast. I'm suprised that the Roman General Crassus wasn't refered to as General Motors and that "Comrad" Spartacus' forces weren't refered to as the "People's Army" in the '60 version. Also they show the break between Crixus and Spartacus missing from the Kubrick version and thank God there was no discussion of "oysters" and "snails" in the bath tub! On the other hand, there were some lackluster performances, especially by the leads. And " Gracchus" was even less statesman-like than his actual model Cicero in this version. And in the new version there is even less logic for Crassus' silly attraction to Varinia. George.

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Hey there, George! Your knowledge about Spartacus is amazing! How do either of these movies compare to what History has documented about Spartacus? I have seen a segment on either the History or the Discovery channel about Spartacus, and as might be expected, the story unfolded much differently than what Hollywood has ever portrayed. He really was a facinating character in history! Have you been studying him very long?

 

And, Path makes a very fine point about the "heart" of the underdog in battle. So, I can resist adding that a bunch of undisciplined savages sure didn't have any problems with a guy by the name of George Armstrong Custer in the year 1876. What was learned from that battle was that the "military" knowledge the Indian tribes carried into it was far superior than Custer's, and that the "heart" of a cultural group of people to survive extinction was very strong, indeed! ML

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ML I didn't say "savages" I said "farmers" Savages would be much better armed and would have been warriors. My point was that a buncha rubes with rakes would be no match for a Greek Phalanx or Roman legion. And ANY force trying the "runaway" tatic would be slaughtered by the persuing force force because you can stop and take a shot with your rifle and run some more when you use a spear or sword. You must have good balance when using these weapons so running then stopping is not a good option. Hey, I know "savages" have suprised any number of "modern" forces. Zulus, Ethiopians, Apaches, Mongols etc... :)

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Oh now, George...don't get yourself all in a twist. I know that you weren't the one to say "savages"...I said that all on my own. ;)

 

The interesting thing about the Indians at the Custer battle was that they were the ones who were expected by Custer to "run away", and it was also thought by Custer that they were so primitive as to be lacking in the same kinds of weapons that Custer's men had. Wrong on both counts, as Custer was to soon discover. There were several different tribes represented there that day, a lot more warriors than Custer believed his scouts about being there, and they were not about to run. But, the worst of it was that not even the American Government realized at the time just how well armed various Indian tribes in these parts were by 1876. At the Custer battle, the Indians were better armed than even the soldiers!

 

I only mentioned this battle because of it's interest to me, and the similarities to other "forces" who have entered and won huge battles, quite unexpectedly. :) ML

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Hey I can't even DO the twist.:) Just wanted to make my point clear because I wasn't refering to the barbarians. I agree about the Custer. Very few people realize that the Indians were armed with Sharps repeating rifles while the US Calvary was armed with Civil War surplus muzzle loaders. An expert could get off 3 shots a minute. The Sharps could fire as fast as you pulled the trigger. Hey why buy the Army modern rifles when there are thousands of obsolete ones lying around in storage?

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You got it, George....plus this same government wasn't about to admit that their own Agents had been trading guns and whiskey for many years to any Indian tribe that wanted them. Thus was the reason that the Indians had superior fire-power...to a man...that day. Fortunately, Majors Reno and Benteen both verified in later hearings that the military was no match that day for the unknown weapons the Indians had, or much of anything else. And, to try to bring this one back "on topic" a little (I'm the guilty party, not you, George), you wouldn't believe all the errors based on pure myth about Custer that just about every movie ever made about him and that battle through the years. For example...Custer did not carry sabres into battle. He instructed that they be left behind because of the noise they made, and it being his intention to take the Indians "by surprise" so as to reduce their chances of escaping into the nearby mountains. Although there were Glatling (sp?) guns available, he didn't want them on that particular expedition either, because they would slow them down too much, and sadly, in his haste to get there he also exhausted many of the men and their horses moving too swiftly around the clock in the last two days...to the point that they were not really fit for battle. So, that classic imagine of the sabre waving Custer throws me into gales of laughter everytime I see it in a movie. And, in spite of all, my heart really goes out to those who rode with Custer. They never stood a chance riding with him. ML

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