Graphic, adrenaline-pumping history.


A swift-moving, accessible chronicle of the insurgency against ancient Rome led by the charismatic slave leader Spartacus.

Strauss (History and Classics/Cornell Univ.; The Trojan War, 2006, etc.) demonstrates a good educator’s ability to marshal ample academic material and present it palatably to the general reader and student of history. Quoting often from early sources such as Plutarch, Appian and Cicero, he begins with the big picture. At a time when Rome was fighting wars on all fronts—against Mithridates in Greece and Thrace, against the rogue Roman general Sertorius in Spain and against the pirates off the coast of Crete—a gladiator named Spartacus engineered a prison breakout of 74 men in 73 BCE. That group grew into a rebel army within a year. Originally from Thrace, the former Roman auxiliary was revered and feared for his brutality, yet Strauss demonstrates that Spartacus was no “hothead,” but rather a disciplined, skillful tactician who had learned well from training among the Romans. Moreover, he had the prophecy of a certain “Thracian lady” on his side, a priestess of Dionysus who served as his consort and messenger. From their barracks in Capua, where they revolted against their handler Vatia, the ragtag gang consisting of warlike Thracians, Celts and Germans moved down the Campanian plain to Mount Vesuvius, then to the Ionian Sea and back to Mount Garganus, picking up recruits and raiding nearby farms. Yet instead of escaping through the Alps when they had the chance, Spartacus and his army turned back south. They were thwarted from crossing the Strait of Messina and eventually defeated at Oliveto Citra by the fierce Roman general Crassus, who celebrated by crucifying 6,000 rebels. Hubris, perhaps, proved the rebel’s downfall, yet Strauss colorfully illustrates the making of the durable Spartacus myth.

Graphic, adrenaline-pumping history.

Pub Date: March 17, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-3205-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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