Before Spartacus: Second Servile War against the Roman Republic


Previously, we covered the First Servile war
and the leaders Eunus and Cleon’s fight against their Roman masters. Although the
revolt had little tangible effect on the Republic, they did become an inspiration for later slaves
seeking to overthrow their masters. In 104BC, just thirty years after the First Servile
War, Sicily would once again be plunged into the chaos of a slave uprising. The Roman Republic had spent the last few
years in long and difficult wars: the Jugurthine War of 112-106BC, and the ongoing Cimbrian
War, which started in 113BC. Following the conclusion of the Jugurthine War, its victor
and one of Rome’s best generals, Gaius Marius, had been given command of the Cimbrian War.
The war had already cost Rome and her allies almost 60,000 men, forcing Marius to conduct
a mass recruitment campaign in order to bolster his numbers.
As a result, he had asked Nicomedes III of Bithynia for soldiers, however, Nicomedes
replied saying that he would be unable to do so, as the majority of Bithynians suitable
for military service had been seized as slaves by Romans for not being able to pay their
taxes. The Senate responded by issuing a decree that no citizen of an allied state could be
held as a slave in a Roman province. This decision was made in the hopes that it would
provide Marius the manpower he would need to defeat the Cimbri, but would also cost
the Republic dearly. In 104 BC Publius Licinius Nerva, the Propraetor
of Sicily, wanting to quickly carry out the Senate’s decree in his province, immediately
set around 800 slaves of allied nations free. This decision not only alienated slaves of
other nations, but also angered the nobles who owned large amounts of slaves, worried
that they were going to lose their workforce. Through bribes and political pressure, Nerva
quickly caved to the nobles, refusing to free any more slaves, and sending those that appealed
back to their masters. As a result of this, 180 slaves outside of
Syracuse revolted, killing their masters, taking up arms, and fortifying a hilltop location.
Nerva quickly mustered together a force of soldiers and marched on the slaves. However,
he did not have enough men to fully conduct a siege of their fortifications. Instead,
he used loyal slaves to pretend to defect, enter the fortifications, and then betray
the rebels, allowing the Romans to storm the fortifications. Some of the slaves were killed
in the fighting, whilst others, fearing capture, took their own lives. Nerva disbanded his
troops shortly after. However, a much larger rebellion had taken
place almost simultaneously. 80 slaves had risen up and killed Publius Clonius, an equites,
and, having been left to their own devices, had managed to gather 800 slaves on Mount
Caprianus outside Heracleia in just one week. As Nerva had not been aware of this uprising,
and so had not taken any action against them, rumours spread that he was a coward, and by
the time Nerva did find out, the force outside Heracleia numbered almost 2,000.
The Propraetor quickly headed to Heracleia, but hearing of the size of the enemy force,
he ordered the garrison commander of Enna, Marcus Titinius, to take 600 of his men to
confront the rebels. Titinius responded quickly and marched to Mount Caprianus, drawing his
men up for battle. The mountainous terrain, however, did not lend itself to the formation
focused style of battle the Romans were accustomed to. Moreover, alongside their superior numbers,
many of the slaves were armed with slings, and the higher terrain gave them a distinct
advantage. The battle was short, as the Romans were quickly
broken, many being killed and others abandoning their weapons and fleeing the battlefield
along with Titinius. This was a great victory for the slaves; not only were they able to
collect hundreds of arms and pieces of armour from the battlefield, their triumph also inspired
others to join their cause. In just a few days their numbers swelled to over 6,000. With their numbers growing, the slaves decided
to elect a king, and still inspired by Eunus, they elected a man named Salvius, who, like
Eunus, was famed for his divinations and prophecies. As his predecessor had, Salvius took the name
of a Seleucid king, dubbing himself Tryphon , after Diodotus Tryphon.
He immediately sent his force to pillage the countryside, seeking to attack the large estates
and gather more slaves to his banner. Soon, he was able to amass a force of 20,000 men,
and even 2,000 horses that had been taken from the estates. He now felt confident enough
to attack the cities of Sicily. He marched and besieged Morgantina. Nerva had not been idle. He too had been gathering
together an army, amassing 10,000 allied Italian and Sicilian troops. This force assembled,
he marched to Morgantina in order to relieve the city. Salvius had not expected such a
quick reaction, and had focused the majority of his forces on the siege, leaving only a
handful of slaves to guard the camp. Nerva was able to quickly seize the camp, killing
the guards and seizing the booty and women that Salvius had left there, before heading
to confront Salvius outside Morgantina. Not wanting to be caught between Nerva’s
army and the cities defenders, Salvius abandoned the siege, preferring to defeat Nerva first.
His army took up position on a small hill en route from Nerva’s location to the city
and prepared for battle. Nerva’s force soon also arrived and formed up. Salvius was quick
to seize the initiative however, charging down the hill with his cavalry flanking the
Roman force. It was a disaster for Nerva; his army, being taken aback by the impetus
and ferocity of the charge, and with the slave cavalry bearing down on their flank, put up
little resistance. When Salvius announced across the battlefield that any man who dropped
his weapons would be spared, Nerva’s army broke completely, many throwing down their
arms and running. Only 600 of the Italians and Sicilians had been killed in the battle,
but more than 4,000 had been taken prisoner, others fleeing with Nerva. This was an astounding victory for Salvius;
not only had he won the field, but his promise to spare any man who abandoned his weapons
allowed him to fully arm his army. He once again turned to besieging Morgantina. The
slaves inside in the city had been promised their freedom if they would assist in the
defence. However, Nerva once again made a disastrous decision, announcing that no more
slaves would be freed until the revolt was contained. As a result, the slaves inside
the city quickly betrayed the defenders, opening the gates and allowing Salvius to capture
the city. Salvius was now effectively in control of the East of Sicily. Meanwhile in the western part of the island,
yet another revolt had started. A slave called Athenion had been inspired by both the First
Servile War and Salvius’ uprising, and had managed to build an army of over 10,000. Athenion
was a man noted for his courage, and also professed to have prophetic powers, endearing
slaves to his cause as Eunus had previously. He too was crowned a king, but unlike his
predecessors and Salvius, Athenion did not accept every slave who wished to revolt into
his army. Instead, he picked those who had experience of warfare, whilst using the others
as workers in order to keep his force well fed and supplied. By doing this he was able
to create an almost paramilitary force, with which he began besieging the city of Lilybaeum.
This proved too big a task however, as Lilybaeum was a well-fortified city, and was easily
able to resist the slaves until a relief force of Mauretanian auxiliaries relieved the city,
forcing Athenion to retreat. Despite this setback for the slaves, the entire
island was effectively now in chaos. The wealthy Roman citizens were forced to remain in cities
for their own safety, whilst the slaves and lower class citizens rampaged across the countryside.
Amongst this chaos, Salvius strengthened his position. He gathered his force, now totalling
30,000, outside of the city of Triocala and, paralleling Eunus and Cleon, summoned Athenion.
Athenion answered the summons, bringing 3,000 of his more experienced slaves with him.
Possibly out of a desire to mimic Cleon, or simply intimidated by the size of Salvius’
force, Athenion pledged loyalty, acting as his military advisor and general. Together,
they captured Triocala, once again through the help of disgruntled slaves inside, and
began fortifying the city. Salvius declared the city his royal capital, established a
cabinet of advisors, and even wore a purple toga with lictors preceding him; in effect
making himself into the thing the Republic feared most: a Roman king. Nerva had proved himself incapable of handling
the situation and, as a result, at the end of his term as Praetor at the start of 103BC,
Lucius Licinius Lucullus, father of the famous Roman general of the same name, was sent to
replace him. The Senate had assigned Lucullus a sizeable force of 14,000 Roman and 3,000
allied soldiers. Salvius wanted to wait in Triocala to fight from the city walls, but
Athenion instead advised to fight the Romans in the open, rather than risk being forced
into the same disastrous situation as those in Tauromenium 30 years earlier. Salvius accepted
this advice and gathered still more slaves to his banner before marching to Scirthea
with a force of 40,000. The slave force made camp just over a mile
from the Roman camp and the two armies began slowly closing the gap between them. Fierce
skirmishes broke out between the two forces, each harassing the other with cavalry and
lighter missile troops. When the two main lines met, the fighting was furious, both
sides suffering heavy casualties, and neither being able to gain the upper hand. However,
on the flanks, Athenion was having much more success, winning his side of the battle and
threatening the Roman centre. Just as it seemed as the Romans would be surrounded
though, Athenion was wounded and dragged from his horse. Believing that their general had
been killed, the slaves broke and fled the battlefield. Salvius was unable to stop the
rout, and knowing the battle was lost, also retreated. In this rout, many slaves were
cut down by the Romans, and a total of 20,000 lay dead at the end of the day. However, Lucullus
failed to pursue them any further, and the other 20,000, including Salvius, were able
to retreat to Triocala. Perhaps more importantly, Athenion too was
able to escape the battlefield. After being wounded, he had pretended to lie dead and
had then fled during the night to Triocala. It wasn’t until nine days later that Lucullus
marched on and besieged Triocala. Though the slaves were disheartened by their defeat at
Scirthea, they resolved to fight until the end. Lucullus attempted numerous assaults
on the city, hoping to take it by force and so cut the head off the revolt, but the city’s
strong fortifications allowed the slaves to fend off every attempt, inflicting heavy casualties
on the Romans. These victories only emboldened the slaves and eventually Lucullus was forced
to make camp outside the city, preparing for a siege. The Senate was not pleased. Seeing Lucullus’
failure to capitalise on his initial victory at Scirthea, and his failure to take Triocala,
as either the result of incompetence or corruption, they decided to replace him as Praetor at
the end of the year with Gaius Servilius. Lucullus was enraged by this decision, seeing
it as an unfair betrayal by the Senate. As a result, when Servilius landed at the start
of 102BC to take command, Lucullus ordered his army to burn their camp, supplies and
siege constructions and then disbanded them. By doing this, he hoped to humiliate his successor
by making sure he would not be able to make any significant advances in the war and so
dispel the charges of incompetency made against himself. The plan worked. Salvius died at some point
during 102BC of unknown causes, and Athenion succeeded him as overall leader of the revolt.
Despite this set back, thanks to Lucullus’ actions, Servilius unable to coordinate a
concentrated effort against him and Athenion was able to rampage across Sicily, besieging
and taking even more cities. At one point, Servilius did manage to collect a large enough
force to try and face Athenion, but Athenion was able to catch the Praetor’s army by
surprise in camp, taking the camp and forcing Servilius to retreat. Despite Lucullus’
initial success the year previously, by the end of 102BC the revolt was as strong as ever.
Lucullus and Servilius were both charged by the Senate for incompetency and were exiled
as a result. In 101BC Gaius Marius was once again elected
consul, with Manius Aquillius as his colleague. Gaius Marius was Rome’s greatest general
at the time, and Manius Aquillius had fought alongside him in the Cimbrian Wars and was
a trusted and veteran leader. The revolt in Sicily had now got the point of threatening
a famine in Rome, thus jeopardising the ongoing war with the Cimbri. As a result, it was decided
that Aquillius be sent with a full consular army, around 20,000 men including 2,500 cavalry,
most likely diverted from the Cimbrian front, to crush the revolt once and for all. Aquillius immediately forced Athenion into
a pitched battle. Perhaps due to his success the year before, Athenion was confident that
his army, numbering between 20,000-30,000, would again prove victorious. However, confronted
by an experienced army led by a skilled and veteran general, the slaves stood little chance.
The battle was short and bloody, with only 10,000 slaves managing to escape.
During this battle, Aquillius and Athenion found themselves fighting each other face
to face, and though Athenion was able to wound the consul, Aquillius finally killed the slave
king. The remaining slaves fled leaderless to numerous strongholds and fortifications
throughout Sicily. Aquillius was relentless in his pursuit. Each stronghold was besieged
and the slaves inside starved into defeat. When the last stronghold of just 1,000 slaves
was left, Aquillius sent envoys to them, requesting that they surrender and take their chances
fighting animals in the arena. Rather than face this humiliating fate, the slaves did
as their predecessors in the First Servile War had done and took their own lives, each
man killing another, the last falling on his sword. Both Sicilian revolts achieved little. However,
they would act as an inspiration for a much larger, terrifying and dangerous revolt; the
Third Servile War under the leadership of the gladiator Spartacus. Our video on him
is next, so make sure you are subscribed to our channel and pressed the bell button. We
would like to express our gratitude to our Patreon supporters and channel members, who
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we will catch you on the next one.

100 thoughts on “Before Spartacus: Second Servile War against the Roman Republic”

  1. Previous video in this series: https://youtu.be/T4IS2MAGgAY If you guys think that we deserve your help, nothing is more helpful than liking and sharing the video 🙂

  2. Had to come back and watch this again just because it's so good. Will probably end up watching this countless times.

  3. Considering the brutality of slavery in Sicily at the time, and their probable very short lifespan as a result, I reckon the slaves thought 3 years of freedom was well worth it even though the price was death in the end.

  4. Man, watching these slave wars completely wipe out any positive feeling for Rome. That empire really deserved to be tear apart.

  5. Were Roman slaves primarily of Greek origin around this time? All the slave leaders names, and the fact that they tended to adopt Seleucid regal names, seems to suggest that they were both of Greek origin, and trying to appeal to Greeks

  6. we re still slaves , we work for riches to make them richer , they gave us a small shelter and enough food just to survive and we work till the end . history always repeated it self .

  7. Kings and Generals:
    After finishing the video about the third servile war, I guess it would be interesting to make some separate videos focusing on specific battles ( the most important ones ) from the third servile war: such as the Battle of the Silarius river, the battle of mount Vesuvius, etc

  8. These animations for the character introduction or eg. the duels are just glorious! Especially the one for Gaius Marius and Manius Aquillius at 14:10.

  9. You'm see…, THEY LIVE keep their statues with their own people trapped in them, and when these statues do finally break and fall they continue the cycle of Racka on us all!!! Moreover, these Golem in these FLESH and Blood and Bones bodies continue to eat that White Crap and become more Immaterial immortals, so we will hide it once and for all… Pak-Toe~

  10. If Latin v is actually a w sound then we have been saying all their names wrong.

    It’s wini widi wiki

    Vini vidi vechi is how it’s spelt but the top one is correct pronunciation

  11. You have to wonder, when in history has slavery ever been anything but a liability. Sure it offers the opportunity for easy wealth, but it comes with constant setbacks and risk of revolt. The economic aspect is also noteworthy. Slavery in Rome always resulted in disenfranchisement of Romans, with the exception of the very wealthy. For this reason much of the social unrest Rome experienced in her history was exacerbated by large influxes of a slave workforce.

  12. I really wonder why Aquilius was not allowed a Spolia Opima in the temple of Mars in Rome for Killing Athenion in battle!

  13. Can't go wrong with documentarys on the Roman Republic, ( or empire for that matter).
    Tactics and psychology are similar to today's battle fields.
    GREAT VIDEO.
    #IMNOTSPARTICUS.

  14. It took almost 2 1/2 months for the next video to this series. It's happened several times where I look forward to the sequel and then you don't post it for a long time and I stop looking for it. Maybe something to consider.

  15. The quality of this video is breathtakingly outstanding. You all do such excellent work. Thank you for doing what you do, it's one of few remaining joys in my life. Cheers.

  16. Was the Seleucid Empire really still thought of as representing Hellenic power at this point? Naming your leaders after Seleucid kings is quite telling.

  17. Thats the same exact method is being used today.
    We work and pay taxes for our masters who own everything …
    This could make a fantastic movie. Seems they dont want people to know…

  18. People think we are desensitized today from tv and games, they was a letter written by a Roman watching the " games" . I think he was watching Christians getting eaten alive and to made the point to write how boring the games were and other revealing things just how little it bothered him. Those screams if anyone heard a death shriek pierce fight or flight instinct.

  19. I still think s showing few Total War scenes make videos more dynamic than just pure animation and arts. Not much but few scenes

  20. Watched the videos about the "modern wars" on Israel and now these great videos about Rome, I am curious with my subscriptions to History and War channels this channel or videos was never suggested viewing to me until this day October 26, 2019. I am glad it was, though it is late. Thank you for the good content. I am gladly a subscriber to this channel during this video.

  21. I don't know why but I feel like this was one of the best videos you all have done, well rounded with grand strategy, smaller scale battle tactics and beautiful and varied art complemented by the always superb narration by Officially Devin, well done team! Inspirational work!

  22. Can someone explain to me on the reason why the Senate was so kind-hearted to the traitorous Licinius (and his troops by the way)? There was some sort of legal procedure, or they another thing into consideration?

  23. Notice the constant reliance on claiming to be a prophet, divine, on a sacred mission, etc. It makes people more successful! Homo sapiens have evolved in concurrence with the Opiate of The People for more generations than it'd take to have a significant effect – many need it. Dmitri K. Belyaev's foxes show how rapidly and significantly populations can evolve with little pressure.

  24. Hello everyone.
    Im looking for. Any manuscripts containing information on. Training slaves. Im looking for. Any book's, Scfolls engraving on Slavery.. All aspects of slavery, from acquiring slaves best races for. slavery. Caring for slaves. Raising, breeding training in all job field's .making eunuch training them. Breaking the will of difficult slaves. How ro correct and punish unruly slaves to acquired desired results fast. Im looking for this information feom the 1950's to before Babylon. Please so S&M porn information or Fantasy aex slavery. Only real sex alave texts. Thanka for the help. I hope we can. Find some real tomes.

  25. The Cimbrian Wars intrigue me, as, being Danish, I know the Slesvig region is still sometimes called the Cimbri Peninsula. Have you already covered the nation or the wars?

  26. Kings and Generals, Bazz Blattles etc. are often great inspiration for me.
    Currently writing Lore for my Fantasy, one country based on Romans and including "servile wars" seems to be good idea…
    Do you think its "okay" to have a "succesfull" Servile war?

    I mean, this fictional serville war occured after few failed ones. The leaders, instead of "destroying the Rome" or founding their own kingdom within the empire just decided for an Exodus and found their own kindgdom far away. (Called it "Mercia" cuz that land was a mercy from the Gods)

    The reason why they succeeded was, because "Romans" had to face barbarian invasion and civil war at the same time, so they were weakened. (I combine events from differend periods)
    Do you thinks its "realistic" like that?

  27. Spartacus: ( Makes it to the Alps, few steps from freedom ) Naaaah I will march all Italy back and try to conquer Sicily instead. Romans will surely surrender once I cut them from their food source.

    Cleon/Athenius/Eunus/Salvius ghosts: Facepalm

  28. Could you make a video of king David and Solomon's campaigns as they brought back apes and peacocks which are indigenous to South America?

  29. It shows how universal was the acceptance of slavery in the ancient world. Seemingly nobody asked the question after two servile wars, "Is there something about slavery that is causing these rebellions?" And, after the third Servile War, slavery continued in the Roman World….

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