Trivia: When he was president, John F. Kennedy wanted to see this film so much he went to it in a local cinema wearing a disguise.


Trivia: Marcus Publius Glabrus is accused of neglecting to erect moats and stockades for his camp - a fatal mistake no Roman commander would have normally committed. The standard procedure was to build a camp with these defense measures at any stop, even if no enemy contact was expected. In order to forestall lack of wood for the stockade, each legionary carried two stockade poles with him.

Trivia: There were some battle scenes which were filmed with real amputees and maimed extras, as Kubrick was keen to give them authenticity and convey the brutality of war, but these were removed when preview audiences were disgusted by them.

Trivia: The infamous "seduction" scene between Crassus and his servant Antoninus was deleted in original prints because of objections by censors who felt it showed a homosexual scene. It was finally restored in 1991, but Anthony Hopkins had to dub Crassus' lines (the soundtrack was lost) because Laurence Olivier (Crassus) died in 1989.


Trivia: A crucial point occurs quite early on in the fight between Draba and Spartacus, being staged for the entertainment of Crassus. Spartacus is defeated, and lies at Draba's mercy. Crassus smugly points to Draba with a downturned thumb. In the film the gesture is meant to signal 'kill him'. Classical historians are generally agreed that the Romans used the gesture called, in Latin 'pollice verso' (which translates as 'turned thumb') as a signal to gladiators, but nobody is sure which gestures applied. Some argue that a downturned thumb meant 'drive your sword into him' (kill him), which is the case here: had Crassus felt merciful he would have displayed an upturned up thumb, meaning 'raise your weapon' (spare him). However, many experts argue that an upturned thumb meant 'raise your weapon to kill him', while a downturned thumb meant 'drop your weapon and spare him'. It has also been suggested that both schools of thought were wrong: instead Romans who wanted a gladiator to dispatch a defeated foe pointed sideways, meaning 'run your sword into him', but if they wanted to spare a fallen gladiator they displayed a fist with the thumb tucked inside, meaning 'sheath your sword' (or put your sword back into the scabbard). Unfortunately since the greatest classical historians and archaeologists have been debating this for over a century, and never resolved the point, any film director wishing to stage a classical epic film will probably have to use his or her discretion and chose whichever version they think best.

Rob Halliday

Factual error: The weaponry of the Romans and their use is wrong (as they are in all Hollywood movies playing in the Ancient Mediterranean that I know): Instead of one spear, each legionary would carry two weighted javelins, called Pila (singular: Pilum), which had a long narrow iron head. The purpose of these were to throw them at the enemy before melee; if they did not kill their targets, the pila would get stuck in their shields. The head shaft would bend, making the pila useless for 'return' to their original owners, and with the added weight of the javelin, the enemies' shields were rendered useless as well. Following this, the Romans attacked with short swords (the Gladii; singular Gladius).

More mistakes in Spartacus

Gracchus: This republic of ours is something like a rich widow. Most Romans love her as their mother but Crassus dreams of marrying the old girl to put it politely.

More quotes from Spartacus

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