Tuesday, February 23, 2016


image from withelwyn.com 


“When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life--a slave
loses its pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows--
that’s why he’s not afraid of it--Dalton Trumbo 

Many of us know who Spartacus was,
          or think we do, having seen the films,
          or read his name in history texts.
Yes, he lived, & was the primary leader
of a slave army during the Third Servile Wars
in 72 A.D.                            
                                         There is a rumor that he had been recruited
                                  in Thrace, in his teens, & had served in the
                         Roman Army, giving him knowledge of battle
         tactics & mindsets--that he deserted, was captured
& sentenced to living death as a slave in the
         mines of Libya. But as the fates would have it, he was
                          recruited yet again, for his ferocity, to be
                                   trained as a gladiator at a school in Capua.
                                           He excelled, & became a Champion

in the bloody sands of Roman arenas;
but like a tethered tiger, like a wing-clipped
eagle he dared to dream of freedom...
                             One bright dawn, he & his fellows erupted,
                             killed the guards, sacked & burned the school
                             & Spartacus escaped, taking 70 lethal gladiators
                             with him.

Their encampment was on Mt. Vesuvius, & within a week they were
joined by a thousand escaped slaves; word spread like a viral pandemic
--”Rise up, break your chains, join Spartacus & be free at last.” Spartacus
shared command with Crixius, the leader of the Gauls; berserk barbarians.

They were underestimated by Rome--We take five years to train a legion-
aire, & this rabble is made up of mere slaves.  Spartacus came down from
the mountain, & wiped out the army sent against him. The Slave Army 
swelled to 120,000 souls, complete with families; women & elders fought 
beside the young men. He moved north, defeating three more legions,
while heading for the Alps.

Crixius was a warrior, not a statesman, & he felt unstoppable 
                     after winning 4 battles, so he took the 30,000 Gauls, broke off
                            from the main army, & marched on Rome. Spartacus sadly
                                           headed north, toward the mountains. Soon
                                           word got to them that Crixius, a poor tactician,
                                           was caught between two legions & was 

            Spartacus defeated three more armies sent
            to stop him, reaching the foothills of the Alps,
            but  he was not sure his rag-tag band could
            make it over the mountains. Mysteriously, he

turned his followers back to the south, 
fighting his way magnificently for the full 
length of Italy, bypassing Rome & stopping 
in the toe, arranging for ships that his people
could escape on.

The wealthiest Patrician, turned General, Marcus Crassus, pursued
them, pushing their backs to the sea. In late 73 A.D.. near the
headwaters of the Siller River, Spartacus was trapped between
three legions, & his army of freed slaves was finally beaten,
butchered by the tens of thousands, families clinging to each other
and to their hard fought freedom. The body of Spartacus was never 
found. 6,000 slaves were crucified along the Appian Way.

“I am Spartacus!”,
a thousand men cried to save
their hearts from breaking.


Blood flowed, people died,
history repeating as
mockingbirds grow mute.

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at <a href="http://dversepoets.com"> DVerse Poets Pub for Poetics


De said...

Interesting stuff.
I love this:
"a thousand men cried to save
their hearts from breaking."

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Inspired -

mrs mediocrity said...

Oh, I just watched the movie "Trumbo" this past weekend.... This is a wonderful telling of the story of Spartacus, I really love your ending lines that tie all the emotions together with a powerful punch!

Victoria said...

Of course you are going to thrive when faced with narrative poetry. I especially loved that second haiku, the silencing of the mockingbird.

brudberg said...

This is such an interesting story, such a wonderful way to describe how much it means if you are fighting for yourself and not for silver. A sad end with the muting of songs.

Kathy Reed said...

History is full of great warrior men (and women),and I appreciate being brought up to snuff on Spartacus' life and times. Always ready with a story to tell, I am glad to see you are in excellent form this evening. Slavery, the biggest thorn in our side as a nation, yet look what it did to millions of others. Trumbo's quote tops this off mightily!

Marilyn B said...

You are a brilliant storyteller, Glenn.

Marina Sofia said...

You end on such an elegiac note! And what a wondersome tale you have to tell, with many elements completely new to me. Thank you for educating as well as entertaining with your poetry!

Brendan MacOdrum said...

Great resurrection of the tale from all those buried crucifixes. I read that at the time of Christ half the world was enslaved -- living dead, what a phrase for it, and doesn't it make you wonder who forms the ranks of our present zombie apocalypse. A rebellion of the living dead must have terrified the Romans as signature of the fall of Rome itself ... which was coming, coming, coming, with every next man and woman and child enslaved. Magnificent telling.

lillianthehomepoet.wordpress.com said...

The living death of slavery. Your telling is magnificent. The two haiku -- the notes of finality. Excellent. Haiku --- so few words -- so much meaning.

Bekkie Sanchez said...

Interesting read I enjoyed learning some new things in a poetry format.

Kate Mia said...

Lesson of Spartacus..
iN slaves..:)