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Risk vs Hagiography - Research Paper Example

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Plutarch’s account of the “War of Spartacus” as it was also called is contained within his Life of Crassus, a biography of the noted Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus. Crassus was the one primarily responsible for the defeat of Spartacus’s uprising, and Plutarch’s account is primarily concerned with fitting the episode into the context of Crassus’s life and career. There are some minor differences on matters of fact between the two accounts, but on the whole they represent two very different readings of the same events.Appian’s account begins with an impartiality that might well be taken as sympathy for Spartacus and his cause. He speaks of the desire for freedom that initially motivated Spartacus and seventy fellow slaves to rebel against the gladiatorial school at which they were kept, and adds that Spartacus’s habit of dividing plunder equally among his followers led to him having a great many followers (Appian 217). Much of the focus is on the official response, which Appian criticizes. He states that the government of Rome did not consider this a war in any real sense, but something more akin to robbery or public disruption (Appian 218). The implication seems to be that this was a short-sighted and ill-considered attitude.Plutarch also offers something resembling sympathy to Spartacus, placing the blame for the uprising on Lentulus Batiatus, the owner of the gladiatorial school, implying that his inhumane management of the school and poor treatment of the gladiators was responsible for the uprising....
Much of the focus is on the official response, which Appian criticizes. He states that the government of Rome did not consider this a war in any real sense, but something more akin to robbery or public disruption (Appian 218). The implication seems to be that this was a short-sighted and ill-considered attitude. Plutarch also offers something resembling sympathy to Spartacus, placing the blame for the uprising on Lentulus Batiatus, the owner of the gladiatorial school, implying that his inhumane management of the school and poor treatment of the gladiators was responsible for the uprising (Plutarch 337). Plutarch’s account, being specifically a military biography, concerns itself with the weapons and tactics employed by the slaves, and how the initial Roman forays against them, led by Clodius and Publius Varinus, were emphatically repulsed (Plutarch 340). Both accounts agree that Spartacus was attempting to reach and cross the Alps, so that he and the other foreign slaves could disperse to their countries of origin, escaping the Roman yoke. The fear, however, was that he might change his mind and march on Rome with an army that, at its peak, numbered 70,000. Plutarch’s account focuses much more on Crassus’s maneuvering and decisions regarding the war, including his decimation of a legion that had, in his estimation, shown cowardice (Plutarch 343). Appian deals in broader strokes during this middle portion of the war, and keeps more of the focus on Spartacus’s army and their defensive positioning. The two authors also differ in which parts of Spartacus’s campaign they emphasize. Appian mentions the town of Thurii, which Spartacus took and held (Appian 220), but Plutarch glosses over that part, focusing more on the ...Show more
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Summary

In the paper “Risk vs Hagiography” the author analyzes an instructive example of Appian’s style. A close examination of both texts provides useful insights into the differences between two contemporary views of what was, at that time, recent history…
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