What would've happened if, instead of parting ways with Crixus, Spartacus marched upon Rome together with Crixus, at the end of 73BC

  1. What would Spartacus have done if he were to successfully take Rome, would he and his rebellion be able to keep Rome & conquer more land?

  2. Could they've sacked Rome & left fort he north to flee Rome's influence?

or perhaps would something else have happened to Spartacus' faith?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "What would have happened if...?" -- Please, at least state a specific time period and aspect of society that answerers can focus on. Otherwise, IMO this is way too broad. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jun 22, 2016 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ done @MichaelKjörling $\endgroup$
    – Gerwin
    Jun 22, 2016 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what you mean by the reference to "Spatracus's faith". What was his faith? I always assumed he worshipped Jupiter et al. I don't recall ever reading about his religion being an important factor. Or are you not talking about religion? $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Jun 22, 2016 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ At the time you specified, Spartacus "did not consider himself ready as yet for that kind of a fight, as his whole force was not suitably armed, for no city had joined him, but only slaves, deserters, and riff-raff" according to the historian Appian. That is not the type of army that could siege a major city with two legions bearing down on them. $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    Jun 22, 2016 at 14:26

2 Answers 2


I've always thought Spartacus made a huge mistake by not crossing the Alps and fleeing Italy. After they defeated the Romans in ... I forget the name of the battle, but the big battle they fought in northern Italy ... they could have crossed into Gaul, maybe gone on to Germany or Spain or wherever, and been free. Instead they turned south to fight the Romans some more. If they had fled Italy would the Romans have followed them? Maybe, but they could have disappeared into foreign countries, linked up with some other nation, etc. I think they would have had a much better chance at survival.

Anyway, if they had attacked the city of Rome itself and won, they could have massacred the inhabitants and looted the place. What happens next?

If they managed to trap the leaders in the city when they captured it and killed them all, conceivably they could have destroyed the Roman Republic and Italy would have descended into a period of anarchy and dissolution. At that point the "Spartacans" could conceivably have taken over a block of land and started their own nation. Or they could have become a permanent bandit gang raiding the peninsula indefinitely.

But frankly I think the more likely scenario would be that they would have to then promptly evacuate the city, or they would be trapped there by the Roman legions -- as they were ultimately trapped at Rhegium. With no real economic base, they could be easily starved out. So if they loot the city and then leave, sure, they cause a lot of destruction, but unless we assume other changes to the history, in the end they are still defeated. Rome would be rebuilt, and history would be little different.

Maybe, possibly, once in control of Rome, instead of demolishing the city they could hold it hostage, negotiate and dictate terms. But what terms would they demand and realistically get? Once an agreement was made and they left the city, how long would it last? When they defeated the first legions sent against them and the Romans were afraid they would march on Rome, they were in an excellent position to dictate terms, almost as good as this hypothetical. But nothing came of it.

So in the end, I think it would have made little difference.


Spartacus would not have gotten as far as he did if the bulk of the Roman legions hadn't been off fighting other wars. As soon as these experienced, battle-hardened troops came home, it was all over. In the beginning, his revolt was treated like civil unrest (think riots). The soldiers that were sent after him in the early battles were pretty green. While they had training, many of them had never seen real battle. They were stationed at home, which was a lot different than fighting at the borders. It would have been different if the full might of the Roman legions had descended upon Spartacus and his army. He probably could have sacked the city, but he would have lost a lot of soldiers in the attack and I do not think he could have held Rome for long.

Spartacus is portrayed as a romantic figure in pop culture but historical accounts don't say anything about him fighting to end slavery. In fact, his soldiers did a lot of raping and pillaging. I don't think his revolt would have ended because of a crisis of faith.

  • $\begingroup$ "fighting to end slavery" His obvious motive was to free himself and his friends from slavery. Sure, there's no evidence he planned some great social reform. It's not at all clear how he could have done that in his wildest dreams. Conquer the Roman Republic? Run for consul? In the end he didn't have the power to free himself, never mind all the slaves in the world. $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Jun 22, 2016 at 19:03

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