Spartacus

Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who was the leader of  a slave uprising in the 1st century which the Romans called the 3rd Servile war.  In 73 BCE, Spartacus and his fellow inmates at a Capua gladiator school overpowered their jailers using kitchen knives and escaped.  After gathering weapons, the small band inaugurated a guerrilla campaign against Rome, freeing and recruiting slaves as they went.

Within 2 years this motley crew of slaves and gladiators (which now numbered 120,000) had defeated all the Romans could send against them.  

Mosaic depicting Gladiators
Mosaic depicting Gladiators

The situation became that bad in Rome that a state of emergency had to be declared, a dictator appointed in Marcus Licinius Crassus and Pompey and his legions recalled from Spain.  Spartacus and his followers made it to the alps and could have escaped but buoyed by easy victories against inexperienced Roman levies they turned back to loot the rich farms and towns of Italy.  It was not to be long until the final confrontation.

Slaves crucified along the Appian Way
Slaves crucified along the Appian Way

The final battle

In 71 BCE, the rebels were finally crushed at the High Sele valley by eight crack legions under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus. Spartacus is thought to have perished in the climactic battle, at which point his followers scattered. As many as 6,000 rebel slaves were recaptured and crucified all along the Appian Way between Rome and Capua, the site of the initial uprising.

The tragedy of Spartacus and his followers was that it appears that some of the escaped slaves preferred to plunder Italy, rather than escape over the Alps to their freedom and they paid the ultimate price for their folly along the Appian way..