Quaglietta, Italy (71 BC)
The Battle of Siler River was the final engagement of the Third Servile War, and most famous for being the site where the slave leader Spartacus and his followers met their final defeat at the hands of the Roman legions of Crassus and Pompey. The Servile Wars helped to propel these two leaders to new heights of fame and power, but also led to the increased militarization of the Italian Peninsula and ultimately the replacement of the republic by the empire. A highly romanticized version of the battle was immortaziled in the 1960 film “Spartacus”.
The Servile Wars were a series of slave uprising that took place in Sicily and Southern Italy between 135 and 71 BC. The last and most famous, the Third Servile War, began in 73 BC, when a handful of gladiators broke out of a training camp near Capua. These slaves, about seventy in all, escaped with their gladiatorial arms and armor, wiped out the local guards and fought off a relief force. As their leader they chose the gladiator Spartacus.
Because Rome’s armies were largely engaged elsewhere in the empire, the slaves had time to get organized. They began to raid throughout southern Italy, gathering arms and supplies as well as freeing many other slaves to swell their ranks. The Romans sent an expedition to stamp out the rebellion, but they greatly underestimated Spartacus and the slaves. The expedition was surprised and anhilated near Mount Vesuvius. A larger army of thirty thousand men was also soundly defeated.
In 71 BC Rome sent a massive army under Crassus to wipe out the revolt. After winning a major victory, the Romans steadily drove the slave army towards the souther tip of Italy, where they hoped to escape to Sicily, but Crassus prevented this. Spartacus and some of slaves attempted to escape the trap, but were ultimately caught near the Siler River in the province of Lucania east of Neapolis. There they turned and made their last stand.
According to some sources, Spartacus and his men made a good accounting of themselves; but the superior equipment, discipline and leadership of the Romans was simply too much for the slaves. Almost all of the slaves were killed during the battle. About six thousand survived and were taken prisoner, but were subsequently crucified along the Appian Way. While the body of Spartacus was never identified, it is believed that he was among the crucified. The battle ended the Third Servile War, the last major slave uprising to threaten Rome.
The Siler Battlefield is located along the modern Sele River. Although the location of the field is known, it is not well documented. Perhaps the more popular, and interesting, site related to the battle is the Appian Way, which runs from Capua to Rome. Thousands of captured rebel slaves were crucified along this route, including in all likelihood Spartacus himself.
The Battle of Siler took place just outside the modern day town of Quaglietta, approximately fifty miles east of Naples and 170 miles southeast of Rome. The battlefield is an open site. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.italytourism.it (official tourism website of Italy).