Not so long ago on the site was published an article about the revolt of Spartacus. In the comments there was a dispute about the talent of Spartacus as a commander. This question has remained open, although in general it is quite interesting and, by and large, poorly lit. By stories The uprising of Spartacus has a rather extensive literature in which the Italic slave movement of the 1st century AD. BC er It is considered in many aspects, with the possible exception of analysis from the point of view of the art of war, there are very few serious literature and articles.
It is known that Spartak had a well-armed and equipped army of about 70 thousand people. It was built according to the Roman model, it had in its composition light and heavily armed infantry, cavalry, reconnaissance and messengers, it had a considerable transport and workshops for the manufacture weapons. The system of continuous education, strict adherence to the camp and camp routine, night posts and guards, a high level of discipline made the army of slaves invulnerable for a long time. The army of the rebels went through victorious battles twice throughout the Apennine peninsula, and Spartak himself lost at the same time only one major battle - the last. That is why Spartak’s strategy and tactics attract attention. That is why it is interesting to consider those events in the military-historical perspective and to try to find out, if possible, what place Spartacus occupied in the row of talented commanders of antiquity.
Spartak, as pointed out by A.G. Bokshanin, was a former mercenary of the Roman army, and, therefore, knew all its shortcomings, its sluggishness in difficult terrain conditions and slowness, stretching on a march. He mastered the tactics of combat in mountainous and rugged terrain (for which Flohr called him a mountain robber), depriving the Roman army of the ability to use throwing equipment and the power of a heavily armed infantry in open battle. After all, it was precisely by this time that the role of a ballist and catapults in a field battle had increased, machines appeared lightened up and put on wheels, which, for example, A.A. Strokov in his "History of military art." In addition, since the time of Mary, the Roman army was strongest in open field battles. Spartak imposed war on her in mountain conditions and immediately seized the strategic initiative in her own hands.
When considering this crucial element of the strategy, it is first of all necessary to touch upon the question of Spartak’s overall strategic plan. Regarding this plan in the historical literature there are several points of view. Some historians, referring to Appian, consider the main purpose of the Spartak campaigns to be the rout of Rome. Others, sticking to the version of Plutarch, believe that Spartak sought only to bring the slaves out of Italy. Still others, for example, LB Ratner, in the article “On the issue of the reasons for disagreements in the army of Spartacus,” without denying the plan to withdraw slaves from Italy, suggested that “under favorable circumstances, Spartak did not refuse to march on Rome in order to avenge the enslaving enemies and cause them as much damage as possible. ". In general, two points should be noted in the actions of Spartacus: bypassing Rome and the desire to avoid collisions with the Roman troops. Bypassing Rome at first glance is puzzling. After all, during the first march to the Alps, Spartak, having a large army, could go to Rome, but he kept away from it. In the second campaign, when he turned back to the south, his army was again separated from Rome by the Apennines, although now, after the defeat of both consuls, it could freely go to Rome.
In various articles and books, the authors often look for the answer to the question: what prevented Spartacus from moving to Rome? But none of them tried to answer the question: why did Spartak have to go to Rome? Suppose he would besiege Rome. But could he hope that the Roman citizens would not offer him enough resistance, that the victorious Pompey would not move to Rome at that very hour, and that Lucoull, who had successfully fought Mithridates, would not hurry to return from Asia? On the contrary, each of them will try to do this as quickly as possible, if only to put down the rebels and dictate their terms to the senate, which Crassus and Pompey subsequently tried to do without disbanding their armies. The capture of Rome, associated with heavy losses, essentially did not give anything, since the city of Rome is not the whole state, and Roman legionnaires could be recruited to fight runaway slaves in any of the areas not occupied by the rebels. A long siege of the city could negate all efforts to rally and organize troops and turn it from a monolithic mass into separate groups of rebels and robbers. In addition, the siege of cities was uncharacteristic for the military tactics of the time, and this was sometimes done very ineptly. Hannibal, for example, writes S.I. Kovalev in the "History of Rome," besieged Sagunt for eight months.
Most likely, Spartak from the very beginning rejected the idea of an attack on Rome. Such a conclusion is also made possible by the fact that no ancient author mentions the presence of siege weapons in his army. Their absence clearly indicates Spartak’s overall strategic plan: to withdraw as many slaves as possible from Italy. This is also indicated by the routes of his campaigns. Thus, having a well-defined task in front of him, Spartak tried to avoid collisions with the enemy and entered into battle only with the immediate threat of the enemy or if he impeded the advancement of the insurgent army.
To this end, Spartacus successfully applied maneuvering tactics. To avoid persecution, he often spoke at night. Here is one example. When, according to S. Frontin, the praetor Varini blocked the way to the rebels, intending to give a general battle, Spartak hammered pillars in front of his camp, to which he tied the corpses of armed soldiers, so that “they looked like a military guard for those watching from afar”, and in the camp ordered to kindle more bonfires. Having misled the Romans, at night he led his troops away. ”
Long transitions Spartak makes with exceptional speed, once again proving the organization of his troops. Sallust has an account of the further struggle with Varinius. Finding a good conductor from among the prisoners, Spartak, hiding with the army in the Pizentskiye, and then in the Ebureinskiye mountains, arrived at the Estuaries of Lucani, then at dawn on the Anniya forum, which was a complete surprise to the locals. The maneuver is very skillful, unexpected even for residents, not to mention the Roman troops, who on the same day tried to “restrain and keep silent” to attack the vacant camp of the rebels.
We can say that Spartak defeated the Romans by avoiding unfavorable battles. However, his tactics were not at all defensive in nature, but consisted in waiting for the right moment to attack the enemy. In the struggle with the praetor Claudius, the army of Spartacus made an unexpected descent from Vesuvius and suddenly attacked the Roman army. This episode is very vividly described by Plutarch. The researchers, speaking of the military talent of Spartacus, have often cited such a brilliant maneuver as an example. By the way, according to some historians, the rebels descended not from the outside of Vesuvius, but through internal crevices.
Spartak often used such a tactical technique as an ambush. It is believed that after the escape from the gladiator school, Spartak set up an ambush and broke the Roman squad. Plutarch writes the following about this: "First of all, the gladiators rushed to the detachment that came from Kapui." Such an attack is most likely an ambush. Plutarch reports on another ambush of Spartacus, when he lurked adviser Cossinius and "almost took him prisoner while he was swimming near Salin." When Cossinius managed to escape, Spartak immediately took possession of his carts and, chasing on his heels, after a "fierce massacre" seized the camp. Cossinius himself fell.
Curiously, Spartak immediately captures the Roman wagon train. Sources mention the same fact in the battle with Hell. Too big a carriage was a mistake of the Roman commanders: he tied the army, made it less mobile. In the stories of ancient authors one can often find messages that Spartak captured the camp of one or the other commander.
Especially it is necessary to emphasize the ability of Spartacus to beat the enemy piecemeal. The leader of the rebels applied this tactic already in the battles with Warinius. Plutarch wrote that the slaves, first of all, engaged in battle with one of the assistants of Varinius, Fury, and defeated him, and then the same fate befell another assistant, Kossinia.
Spartak achieved even greater success in battles with the consuls who opposed him in 72 BC. er When Spartak moved through the Apennine Mountains to the Alps, Appian writes, “one of the consuls was ahead of him and closed the path to progress, while the other was catching up behind.” The Roman generals undoubtedly had a plan to surround and destroy the rebel slaves. Then Spartak, having learned from the scouts that Lentull was ahead, stopped and entered into a decisive battle with Hell, who was following him. Obviously, Gellius did not have time to group his forces (it is possible that his army was too long on the march) and suffered a severe defeat. Then Spartak, concentrating all his forces on one direction of impact, smashed the legates of Lentulla and captured the entire wagon train. Cassius with a ten thousandth army rushed towards Spartak, moving to the Alps. In the ensuing battle, the army of Cassius was defeated, and he himself barely managed to escape. As we see, Spartak, successfully applying the tactics of crushing the enemy in parts and concentrating forces for delivering a decisive blow, won brilliant victories.
The Romans were so frightened by the defeats of the consuls that during the next election of the commander no one agreed to stand as a candidate. Then the command of the army took over the famous rich Mark Krass. "Many of the nobility went with him on a campaign due to his fame and friendship with him." The army this time was not composed of recruits, as in Varinius, but from soldiers who already have combat experience. In the army of consuls, Crassus disciplined such a punishment as decimation (penalty by lot of every tenth who escaped from the battlefield) and immediately took into account the difficulties caused by a large transport, filling up, apparently, the shortage of food and fodder among the local population. His army pursued Spartacus on the heels. However, Crassus was in no hurry to give Spartak a battle, fearing for the outcome of the battle, despite the eight legions entrusted to him, which, taking into account all the auxiliary troops, was 80 thousand people. Note that Pompey in Spain, in the war against Sertorius, had only six legions at his disposal. In addition, Crassus understood that in two years Spartak had managed to turn his army into a highly organized and disciplined army, always ready for battle.
As a reasonable commander, trying to achieve victory with little blood, Crassus, in such unfavorable conditions for himself, takes the right decision: to deprive Spartak of freedom of movement. He blocked the narrowest point in southern Italy, equal to 15 km, the moat, above which he erected a wall of "great height and strength", thus creating the first kind of fortified line. Caesar subsequently used such fortifications during the famous siege of Alesia, after which they took a firm place in Roman military tactics and strategy.
However, Spartak overcame these fortifications of Crassus and went deep into the Apennine peninsula. In order to better understand this success of Spartacus, we must remember that he had a rather significant cavalry. In addition, he knew not only the tactics of the Romans, but he was also familiar with the basics of fighting barbarians, because at one time he fought in the troops of the Thracian tribes against the Romans. As is known, barbarian tribes widely used cavalry. In this regard, by the middle of 1 c. BC er Roman tactics changed somewhat. M. Markov in the History of the Cavalry writes that “the Romans, like the Gauls and the Germans, mixed cavalry troops with light infantry and more often than before, each rider was attached to a lightly armed soldier, whom he, in case of need, carried on a horse for myself. Such a combination of cavalry with light infantry is particularly seen in Caesar. "
It is believed that Spartak used the same technique when breaking through the fortifications of Crassus. To this he could be compelled by the fact that he had to sacrifice part of the cavalry in order to fill the moats with the bodies of dead animals. Spartak carefully prepared for this operation, and only when "he had enough riders gathered, he broke through the trenches with the whole army." Considering the numerous information in various articles and books (T. Mommzen, who wrote about “trained cavalry units” in the Spartacus army) first drew attention to the formation of Spartak cavalry, we can safely say that in the army of the rebels it was given very great importance . And if we assume that the cavalry in the army of Spartak was used as an independent branch of the military, then the speed with which Spartak moved, and its elusiveness, which led to despair of the Roman generals, becomes quite understandable. The widespread use of cavalry allowed Spartak very long to own the initiative. By the way, in the battles of Cannes (216 BC), Hannibal successfully used his more numerous cavalry, which not only threw off the weak Roman cavalry, but also participated in the encirclement and destruction of the main forces of the Roman infantry infantry, although the number of Roman troops surpassed the army of Hannibal.
For Crassus, the breakthrough of the fortifications was a complete surprise. He rashly even wrote to the Senate to be sent to help Pompey. Prior to that, the Roman commander used cautious tactics, avoiding battles, although he spoke out against Spartacus in order to, after defeating the slaves, make himself a political career. But, realizing that, without giving a major battle, he could lose his political prestige, Krasa made the decision not to shy away from the meeting.
Spartak is now in extremely adverse conditions. On the east coast of Italy, in Brundisia, the governor of Macedonia Lucull landed with the troops, the Pompeii senator hastily approaching from the north, Crassus advancing from the south. In order to prevent the unification of the Roman troops, Spartak takes the only correct decision: to give battle to Crassus. He builds his army in battle order. All the ancient authors write about the correct structure of the Spartak army. The battle initiative belonged to Spartacus.
Very curious idea of this battle. Knowing that the chances of successful completion of the battle in the open area of the rebels are low, Spartak decides to use a psychological trick: to kill Crass during the battle and thereby cause confusion among the Romans left without a commander. To achieve this goal, Spartak, at the very beginning of the battle, led the most prepared and well-armed detachment and ran into the ranks of the Roman army and tried to break through to Crassus. That is what Plutarch tells. However, due to the huge mass of the fighting and the wounded to get to the Roman commander did not work. The detachment, while detached from its main forces and was surrounded. Spartacus died.
This case is not the only one in history. Even Cyrus the Younger tried to use this technique in the battle with Artaxerxes at Kunaks in 401 BC. h According to Xenophon, Kira managed to injure Artaxerxes, but he himself died. The largest slave uprising led by Spartacus suffered a defeat. The main reasons for the failure of the uprising were that the Roman Empire was still strong enough, the slave-owning mode of production continued to develop and did not exhaust its possibilities. One of the main reasons for the military defeat of Spartak is that it could not cut off enemy communications, since the Romans could find a base for food and fodder anywhere on the Apennine Peninsula. In addition, Spartak could not carry out a broad strategic maneuver on a limited territory of Italy and, in the end, was forced to fight Crassus in an open area so as not to be surrounded by three Roman armies. Actually, Hannibal also encountered the same difficulties in Italy.
There is no need to talk about all the reasons for the defeat of the uprising. Our task is to show how skillfully Spartak conducted the battle. Sneakiness, speed, maneuver combined with his suddenness of attack, frequent ambushes, the ability to beat the enemy piecemeal, a brilliant way out of encirclement and courage in open battle. Maneuvering large forces, by the way, for the first time after the war with Hannibal, the use of cavalry as an independent kind of troops, the desire to seize a strategic initiative - this is what characterizes Spartacus as a strategist and tactic. It can be argued that the military art of Spartacus played a certain role in the development of military affairs in ancient Rome, and Spartak anticipated Caesar’s many military reforms.
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