Spartacus is an American television series produced in New Zealand that premiered on Starz on 22 January 2010, and concluded on 12 April 2013.
The fiction series was inspired by the historical figure of Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator who from 73 to 71 BC led a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic departing from Capua.
Executive producers Steven S. DeKnight and Robert Tapert focused on structuring the events of Spartacus’ obscure early life leading up to the beginning of historical records.
After the completion of the first season titled Spartacus: Blood and Sand, production for another season was delayed because lead actor Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with early-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma so Starz produced a six-episode prequel mini-series entitled Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.
When the actor’s cancer recurred and he later died on 11 September 2011, Starz had actor Liam McIntyre take on the role of Spartacus in the second season titled Spartacus: Vengeance.
On 04 June 2012, Starz announced the third and final season, titled Spartacus: War of the Damned.
Gods of the Arena (Prequel Season, 2011)
The mini-series features the history of the House of Batiatus and the city of Capua before the arrival of Spartacus. The main story opens not long after Quintus Lentulus Batiatus becomes lanista, manager of the House’s slaves and gladiators, when he takes over his father’s ludus.
Batiatus is quickly discovered to have grand ambitions, beginning with the stepping out from his father’s shadow. As the story progresses, Batiatus continues to seek greatness for the House under his leadership, as well as recognition for his own name. By his side stands his devoted wife, Lucretia, who is willing to help her husband achieve his goals regardless of the cost. Batiatus soon places all of his fortunes on one man whom he believes will bring fame and glory to the House of Batiatus, his best gladiator, the Celt Gannicus. Gannicus is a skilled warrior almost without equal, who wields his dual swords in the arena with great prowess. However, Batiatus’ opponents would not sit idly and allow his ascent to greatness without challenge.
Purchased as an undisciplined and disheveled recruit in the first episode, Crixus the Gaul initially endures mockery and threats of death, before eventually rising to become a gladiator of skill and fame second only to Gannicus. As Batiatus fends off repeated attempts by his professional rival Tullius to obtain Gannicus, his relationships with his father Titus and friend Solonius begin to suffer the strain of Quintus’ relentless ambition. Former champion gladiator Oenomaus reluctantly retires from combat to become Doctore, while Syrian recruits Ashur and Dagan become fierce enemies as Ashur tries to prove himself worthy of being a gladiator. Veteran gladiators Barca and Gannicus accept the rising star of Crixus but fear that their own careers will suffer, as the machinations of Batiatus and Lucretia to court Capua’s elite end in tragedy for several members of the household. Against all of this, the city’s splendid new arena nears completion and with it the opening games that will make men into gods. When the arena opens Solonius’ and Batiatus’ gladiators compete with each other, Batiatus’ gladiators prevailing in the contest. Gannicus again proves himself to be the champion of Capua and the god of the arena and by virtue of his win against Solonius’ gladiators, becomes the champion of Capua and gains his freedom.
Blood and Sand (Season 01, 2010)
The story begins with an unnamed Thracian’s involvement in a unit of Roman auxiliary in a campaign against the Getae (Thracian tribes that occupied the regions of the Lower Danube, in what today is Bulgaria and Romania, ancestors of Romanians) under the command of the legatus, Claudius Glaber. In 72-71 BC, Roman general Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, proconsul of the Roman province of Macedonia, marched against the Getae, who were allies of Rome’s enemy, Mithridates VI of Pontus. The Getae frequently raid the Thracians’ lands, so the Thracians are persuaded by Glaber to enlist in the Romans’ service as auxiliaries. Glaber is persuaded by his wife Ilithyia to seek greater glory, decides to break off attacking the Getae and directly confront the forces of Mithridates in Asia Minor. The Thracian, feeling betrayed, leads a mutiny against Glaber, and returns to find his village destroyed. The Thracian and his wife Sura are captured by Glaber the next day; the Thracian is condemned to die in the gladiator arena for his crime, while Sura is taken away, condemned to slavery. The Thracian is shipped to Capua in Italy, a center of gladiator training. Against all odds in the arena he slays the four gladiators appointed to execute him and becomes an instant sensation with the crowd. Senator Albinius commutes the punishment from death to slavery. The prisoner’s true name unknown, Lentulus Batiatus, the owner of a ludus in Capua, suggests to name him “Spartacus”, because he fought like the ferocious Thracian king of that name.
Noting well the Thracian’s fierce raw talent and popularity with the masses, Batiatus purchases him for training within the walls of his ludus under the tutelage of Oenomaus, a former gladiator and fellow slave who is known to the gladiators as ‘Doctore’, meaning instructor. He is befriended by Varro, a Roman who sold himself into slavery in order to pay his debts and support his family. He is harassed by more senior gladiators, notably Crixus, an undefeated Gaul, and Barca, a Carthaginian. Spartacus soon learns that Sura was sold to a Syrian slave trader. Batiatus, who has been unable to control Spartacus during his first days of training, promises to find Sura and reunite them in exchange for the promising neophyte’s cooperation in the arena.
After many near-fatal ordeals and much further training Spartacus attains the status of a living legend and is named the “Champion of Capua”. Batiatus arranges the purchase of Sura, but she is delivered mortally wounded, supposedly having been waylaid by bandits en route. Her murder was secretly ordered by Batiatus to keep Spartacus loyal and focused. Spartacus casts off his heritage as a Thracian and forgets his dream of freedom, becoming content with life as champion. Meanwhile, Barca, wishing to buy his freedom, was slain by Batiatus with the help of slave and former gladiator, Ashur. Batiatus’ wife, Lucretia, is conducting an affair with Crixus. She and Batiatus have been unable to conceive a child, though she later falls pregnant with Crixus’ child.
The turning point comes when Spartacus is set to fight his only friend in the ludus, Varro, in an exhibition match celebrating the coming to manhood of the Capuan magistrate’s son, Numerius. Ilithyia, who has hated Spartacus since he embarrassed her husband Glaber by his mutiny, seduces the young man and convinces him to demand death for the loser of the match. Spartacus wins (as expected), and when the young man gives the “thumbs down”, Batiatus, wishing to ingratiate himself with the boy’s powerful father, forces Spartacus to comply and kill Varro. While suffering from both his wound in this match and his remorse and sorrow over having to kill his friend, Spartacus has fever dreams that lead him to suspect that Batiatus arranged Sura’s death. He is able to confirm this by forcing Batiatus’ man, Aulus, to confess the act. Knowing that it is all or nothing when it comes to resistance of his enslavement, he resolves to “kill them all” and lead a revolt against the ruling house he once fought for.
In order to get his revenge, Spartacus enlists the help of Crixus and the rest of the gladiators to defeat the house of Batiatus once and for all. A battle to the death between Crixus and Spartacus is arranged for the Capuan elite at the ludus. Doctore (whom Batiatus refers to by his real name, Oenomaus) confronts Batiatus about Barca’s death and Ashur’s hand in it. Spartacus gains support from Mira, Batiatus’ wife’s slave, who is tasked with opening the gate to the villa from the training area. Crixus resists aiding Spartacus in hopes of reuniting with his lover Naevia; however, after learning he was weakened to ensure Spartacus’ victory, at the last moment he joins with Spartacus. Doctore initially stops Spartacus from killing Batiatus. In the ensuing chaos of the gladiators’ killing of the guards and some guests, Crixus persuades Doctore to join him with Spartacus, while Illithyia escapes and has her guards seal the door to the ludus from the outside. Doctore, making good on his word, tries to kill Ashur but his intended victim eludes him. Crixus grievously wounds Lucretia with a sword stab to her abdomen, piercing her womb and killing their unborn child. Varro’s wife kills Numerius after revealing to him that Varro was her husband, and Spartacus finally kills Batiatus in front of the seriously wounded Lucretia. After the massacre, Spartacus vows to make “Rome tremble”.
Vengeance (Season 02, 2012)
After the bloody escape from the House of Batiatus that concluded Spartacus: Blood and Sand, the gladiator rebellion begins to strike fear into the heart of the Roman Republic in Spartacus: Vengeance. Praetor Claudius Glaber and his Roman troops are sent to Capua to crush Spartacus’ growing band of freed slaves before they can inflict further damage. Spartacus is given a choice between satisfying his personal need for vengeance against the man who condemned his wife to slavery and eventual death, or making the larger sacrifices necessary to keep his budding army from breaking.
War of the Damned (Season 03, 2013)
This season follows the final struggle between Spartacus and Marcus Licinius Crassus. Crassus pursues Spartacus as he struggles to feed his ever-growing army of former slaves. Spartacus wins several victories against Crassus’ forces and continues to frustrate the Romans. The series culminates in a direct all-out battle between Spartacus and Crassus.
- Gladiators and Slaves:
- Andy Whitfield (season 1 and prequel) and Liam McIntyre (seasons 2–3) as Spartacus – a Thracian slave who becomes a gladiator in the ludus of Lentulus Batiatus before leading a slave uprising.
- Manu Bennett (seasons 1–3 and prequel) as Crixus – a Gaul, he was Batiatus’ top gladiator prior to Spartacus. Love interest of Naevia, and secondary leader of the rebellion.
- Lesley-Ann Brandt (season 1 and prequel) and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (seasons 2–3) as Naevia – Lucretia’s personal and loyal slave. Love interest of Crixus.
- Peter Mensah (seasons 1–2 and prequel) as Oenomaus – Batiatus’ Numidian doctore (trainer) of gladiators, and reluctant advisor to the rebels. The historical Oenomaus was a Gaul.
- Nick E. Tarabay (seasons 1–2 and prequel) as Ashur – a Syrian former gladiator whose leg was crippled in the arena by Crixus; later served Batiatus as a bookkeeper and henchman.
- Jai Courtney (season 1) as Varro – a Roman citizen who sold himself to the ludus to support his family.
- Antonio Te Maioha (season 1 and prequel) as Barca – nicknamed the “Beast of Carthage”, is one of Batiatus’ most successful gladiators, serves as a bodyguard for his master.
- Erin Cummings (season 1) as Sura – the wife of Spartacus.
- Dan Feuerriegel (seasons 1–3) as Agron – a German gladiator who was sold to Batiatus’ ludus, he was the first to join Spartacus in his revolt.
- Katrina Law (seasons 1–2) as Mira – a slave girl sent under threat of death to seduce Spartacus and become his lover. She takes charge of logistical matters as a leader of the rebellion.
- Brooke Williams (season 1 and season 2 premiere) as Aurelia – the wife of Varro.
- Dustin Clare (prequel, seasons 2–3) as Gannicus – champion gladiator of the Batiatus’ ludus before the arrival of Spartacus. Later, as a free man, he joins old friends in the revolt.
- Marisa Ramirez (prequel) as Melitta – Lucretia’s personal slave and the wife of Oenomaus.
- Pana Hema Taylor (seasons 2–3) as Nasir – a young slave liberated from a villa by Spartacus and his army of rebels.
- Ellen Hollman (seasons 2–3) as Saxa – a German slave rescued by the rebels. She later joins the rebels.
- Heath Jones (seasons 2–3) as Donar – a prominent German rebel and former gladiator from the House of Batiatus.
- Jenna Lind (season 3) as Kore – a loyal slave to Marcus Crassus the Roman tasked to bring an end to Spartacus and his rebellion. Her deep feelings for her master will be sorely tested by spiraling events.
- Gwendoline Taylor (season 3) as Sibyl – a young slave rescued from Roman cruelty. Now free, she will embark on a journey.
- Anna Hutchison (season 3) as Laeta – a privileged wife of a Roman dignitary who becomes entangled in the struggle against Spartacus. Her life and those of the ones she loves are forever changed by the conflict.
- John Hannah (season 1 and prequel) as Quintus Lentulus Batiatus – a lanista and Spartacus’ master.
- Lucy Lawless (seasons 1–2 and prequel) as Lucretia – Batiatus’ wife.
- Viva Bianca (seasons 1–2) as Ilithyia – the daughter of senator Albinius and wife of Glaber.
- Craig Parker (seasons 1–2) as Gaius Claudius Glaber – a Roman army legatus who is responsible for Spartacus’ enslavement as a gladiator.
- Craig Walsh Wrightson (season 1 and prequel) as Solonius – a rival lanista and former friend to the House of Batiatus.
- Stephen Lovatt (prequel) as Tullius – Batiatus’ business rival.
- Jaime Murray (prequel) as Gaia – a social climber and Lucretia’s friend.
- Jeffrey Thomas (prequel and season 2) as Titus Lentulus Batiatus – Quintus Batiatus’ father and owner of the family’s ludus.
- Gareth Williams (prequel) as Vettius – Tullius’ young henchman and owner of a rival ludus.
- Tom Hobbs (season 2) as Seppius – a young Capua citizen of note. He wishes to strip the honor of capturing Spartacus from Glaber.
- Hanna Mangan-Lawrence (season 2) as Seppia – younger sister to Seppius.
- Brett Tucker (season 2) as Publius Varinius – Glaber’s chief political rival and fellow praetor.
- Simon Merrells (season 3) as Marcus Licinius Crassus – the richest man in the Roman Republic. Envied and despised by the highborn among the senate, he craves the power and respect that defeating Spartacus and his rebel army would bring.
- Christian Antidormi (season 3) as Tiberius Licinius Crassus – the eldest son of Marcus Licinius Crassus, and his father’s “word, and will” in Crassus’ army.
- Todd Lasance (season 3) as Gaius Julius Caesar – a handsome young rogue from an esteemed lineage and his deadly intelligence and skill with a sword will be brought to bear against the rebellion as he begins his ascent towards the all-powerful ruler he will one day become.
After filming in early 2009 and promoting for some time, it was announced that Starz would premiere Spartacus: Blood and Sand on 22 January 2010. On 22 December 2009, a month before it premiered, it was announced that the show was renewed by Starz for a second season.
On 09 March 2010, IGN.com reported that production of Season 2 had been delayed due to star Whitfield being diagnosed with early-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Due to the delay, Starz announced in May 2010 that it would be developing a six-episode prequel series, entitled Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, to allow star actor Whitfield to seek medical treatment. The prequel featured both new and returning stars, headlined by John Hannah as Batiatus and Lucy Lawless as Lucretia. Star Andy Whitfield also briefly appeared in a voice-over role. Production began in New Zealand in the summer of 2010 and the prequel aired beginning January 2011.
In September 2010, Starz announced that Whitfield’s cancer had returned and that he had decided not to return for the production of Season 2, then tentatively scheduled for September 2011. Starz announced that the show would nevertheless continue, and planned on recasting the role of Spartacus in the wake of Whitfield’s exit. Whitfield gave his blessing for Starz to recast the role when he announced he would not return.
Spartacus series creator Steven S. DeKnight said in an interview, “There are a ‘couple of very strong candidates’ for the role of Spartacus, and season two should begin production in New Zealand in April 2011.” DeKnight added that the Spartacus producers and Starz executives were not always sure they would go forward without Andy Whitfield, who they said had brought ‘gravity and heart’ to the role of the famous warrior. “It’s unheard of to recast your titular character in a television show, and we did a lot of soul searching about whether we even wanted to try,” DeKnight said. “And then Andy [Whitfield] said, ‘I really think the show should go forward without me. I give you the blessing. I want this story told.'” On 17 January 2011, it was announced that Australian film and TV actor Liam McIntyre had been selected to replace Whitfield.
On 26 February, 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly, DeKnight revealed that the second season was set to air “the end of January” 2012. Additionally, he revealed that Lesley-Ann Brandt, the actress who portrayed the slave Naevia, would also not be able to return for season 2 due to the delay in production. On 01 August 2011, Starz released a trailer indicating that the long-delayed second season would premiere in January 2012, under the new subtitle, Spartacus: Vengeance.
Andy Whitfield died on 11 September 2011, from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was 39 years old.
Over two months before the premiere, on 07 November 2011, Starz announced that it was renewing Spartacus for a third season – a second year with Liam McIntyre in the titular role; and fourth year on the air overall.
The second season eventually premiered on 27 January 2012.
On 01 June 2012 Starz released a teaser video of the next season on YouTube.
On 04 June 2012, Starz announced that the 4th season of Spartacus: War of the Damned would be the final one for the series.
Starz released the first full trailer for Spartacus: War of the Damned on 13 July 2012.
In 2012 Gale Force Nine announced the creation of licensed board game based on the Spartacus series. The English language release of the game Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery had a limited release at Gen Con 2012 and a general release to game and hobby stores on 28 September 2012.
In 2009, Devil’s Due published a four-part prequel comic series, titled Spartacus – Blood And Sand. Each issue spotlighted a character from the upcoming television series, mostly the minor gladiator rivals of the main cast.
The series was adapted as a 4-part motion comic adaptation called Spartacus – Blood and Sand – Motion Comic. Ray Park and Heath Freeman were cast. Kyle Newman was the director, and the producers were Andy Collen and Jeff Krelitz.
In 2012, Titan Books announced the publication of a series of novels based on Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The first one, titled Spartacus: Swords & Ashes, was written by J.M. Clements and released on 03 January 2012.
The second book in the series, Spartacus: Morituri by Mark Morris, was released in August 2012.
In 2012, Ubisoft announced that they would be publishing a video game based on the series. The game, titled Spartacus Legends, has been developed by Kung Fu Factory and was released on 26 June 2013 on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.
The premiere episode of the series set a record for Starz, with 553,000 viewers on their network, and another 460,000 on Encore, where the show was available only that weekend. For the rest of the season the show had an average of 1.285 million viewers.
- The Late Andy Whitfield died at the age of 39; roughly the same age as his on screen character Spartacus at the time of his death.
- Some historians have dated Spartacus to have been between the ages of 37 and 40 at the time of his death in 71. B.C.
- The most commonly agreed age, was 38 years old.
- For the orgy scenes, the producers hired a New Zealand company that works on sexual gatherings professionally and instructed them to do whatever they wanted on camera.
- Then they would edit what was too much for Starz.
- Oenomaeus, Gannicus, Crixus, and Spartacus were each Champions at one point, but came to it differently.
- Crixus and Gannicus were both Champions of the House of Batiatus before becoming Champion of Capua.
- Oenomaeus was solely Champion of the House, never becoming Champion of Capua, and Spartacus was never Champion of the House.
- According to historians, two out of every three gladiators survived their matches.
- Spartacus’ true name is never revealed throughout the entire show.
- Prominent Gladiators in the series had names describing either their victories or their fighting prowess.
- Arkadios was “The Scourge of Athens.”
- Barca was “The Beast of Carthage.”
- Crixus was “The Undefeated Gaul.”
- Theokoles was “The Shadow of Death.”
- Spartacus had a few names: “The Bringer of Rain” (the most frequently used) “Slayer of Theokoles,” “Slayer of the Shadow,” and “Bringer of Death.”
- Viva Bianca and Andy Whitfield kept getting in trouble while filming their sex scene because they could not stop laughing.
- Andy Whitfield never has a full frontal nude scene; he has on a false penis during his sex scene with Viva Bianca.
- The wooden training swords used by the gladiators appeared to be very light and easy to handle.
- Historically speaking, wooden training swords for Gladiators were actually made to be heavier than steel swords in order for their handling of a Gladius to be more efficient.
- According to ‘Steven DeKnight’, the network wanted more of a 300 (2006) style of direction.
- This is why the pilot episode feels so out of place and the earlier episodes are uneven.
- DeKnight had to fight for control over the show.
- Toward the end of production for the series prequel “Gods of the Arena”, Andy Whitfield’s cancer resurfaced and he was unable to continue filming.
- On the last day of filming in the training square, many of the male cast lead by Manu Bennet and Antonio Te Maioha (both of the Maori tribe of New Zealand) performed the “Haka” in honour of Andy.
- The Haka is the legendary Maori war chant.
- A feature-length movie was planned, it was to take place between season 2 and 3, but the writers realized that too much would need to be cut in order to avoid an NC-17 rating in the US, so the idea was scrapped.
- Lucy Lawless stated that when a character is close to being killed off, their death is foreshadowed in the clothing, hair, and jewellry.
- Liam McIntyre was severely underweight from another role when he went into the “gladiator boot camp” for the series.
- While the men had their own gladiator boot camp, the women also had a strict diet and light workouts to maintain their own physiques.
- Stephen Amell was considered to replace Andy Whitfield as Spartacus.
- Lucretia never speaks directly to Oenomaeus.
- She once agreed with his suggestion for him to fight Theokoles in “Shadow Games” but she was speaking to her husband.
Production & Filming Details
- Creator(s): Steven S. DeKnight.
- Producer(s): Steven S. DeNight, Robert Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen, Chloe Smith, Charles Knight, and Aaron Lam.
- Music: Joseph LoDuca.
- Cinematography: Aaron Morton.
- Editor(s): Gary Hunt and Jonathan Woodford-Robinson.
- Production: DeKnight Productions and Starz Originals.
- Distributor(s): Starz Media.
- Original Network: Starz.
- Release Date: 22 January 2010 to 12 April 2013.
- Running Time: 53-60 minutes (per episode).
- Rating: 18.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.