Spartacus, (died 71 B.C.), in Roman history, the leader of a revolt of gladiators and slaves. Spartacus, a Thracian, was at first a soldier, then a bandit chief. He was captured by the Romans and sold into slavery to be trained as a gladiator. In 73 B.C., after leading 70 men in an escape from the school for gladiators at Capua, he issued a call to all slaves to revolt and soon commanded an army of more than 70,000.
Spartacus intended to march his men across the Alps to freedom, but the Senate, fearing a slave uprising throughout Italy, sent troops to subdue him. He defeated one force but was blocked by another and turned south in an attempt to cross to Sicily or Africa. Along the way, discipline largely collapsed; several thousand men deserted and turned to ravaging the countryside. In 71 B.C., a Roman army under Marcus Licinius Crassus surrounded Spartacus' army in southern Italy. In the ensuing battle, Spartacus and most of his followers were killed. Those captured were put to death.