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“I am Spartacus” – The History of Spartacus in Film and TV

By on March 16, 2020

Liam McIntyre in Starz' Spartacus. © Starz

Having first emerged onto our screens back in the 1960s, Spartacus has gone on to have a significant impact on contemporary media productions. From mini-series to three-year-long television shows and video games, the Roman themes that have been displayed over the years have certainly captured the hearts of film, gaming, and television fans.  

Because of that, we’re going to look at the history of Spartacus in film and television. Additionally, we’ll also consider its broader impact on other forms of media.

The Past and the Future

In 1960, Spartacus, a film based around an earlier novel written by Howard Fast and produced by Edward Lewis, was released. The historical drama movie was the first big-screen development that was centered around the Roman Republic in the first century BC, and due to its star-studded cast, which included Kirk Douglas and Peter Ustinov, it won four academy awards. Furthermore, at the time, it was the best-selling film of its era, before it was eventually knocked off its record-holding perch in 1970 by Airport.

Following the 1970s release, the theme has since been recreated in the form of multiple different television series, beginning with a miniseries that almost mirrored the plot and setting of Edward Lewis’ box office film was released in 2004 and featured Croatian actor, Goran Visnjic.

Perhaps more popular was the three-year series, the most contemporary television release to focus on the rebellion against the Roman. Created by Steven S. DeKnight in 2010, the production was developed by a New Zealand-based company, and the series made its television debut on Starz. However, after 34 episodes, the final of which focused on Spartacus’ last battle for freedom, there were to be no more releases, with Starz declaring that series three would be the show’s final installment despite it averaging more than six million viewers each week

After finishing seven years ago back in 2013, it doesn’t appear that a fourth season of the popular gladiator television show will be making an appearance on our screens any time soon. However, in relation to a potential remake of the ever-popular 1960s film, there was a suggestion in 2016 that filming would begin the following year of The Champion, a film inspired by the original Spartacus movie. Little more has come of that since. That said, with demand for a remake so high among film fans, it’s undoubtedly a possibility in the future that a modern-day version of the award-winning title could come to fruition.

The Theme’s Wider Popularity

It’s clear from the successes of releases under this topic that the themes within Spartacus are held in high regard within contemporary society. As a result of that popularity, the gladiator-focused approach has grown immensely popular in other forms of media following the continuous rise of digitalization.

In 2013, Spartacus Legends, a free-to-play title, was released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as the video game sector sought to explore the potentials of the highly-popular Roman theme. The Ubisoft development was based on the Starz television show, which is a prime example of the theme’s widescale impact on various forms of media. Within the title, the premise of the game was to defeat your opponents in one-on-one battles using moves that were explored within the television show.

Aside from the traditional gaming sector, the theme itself has also had a significant impact on the development strategies of operators within the iGaming industry. For example, Spartacus Gladiator of Rome is a slot-based title that captures the action-packed nature of the earlier film and television releases within either a 5×4 or 5×12 reel format. The in-game symbols, which offer the chance to win heightened rewards, all follow a similar theme with fellow gladiators, shields, swords, and more being utilized, in addition to Coliseums triggering free spin features and multipliers.  

A Theme of Undeniable Popularity with Future Possibilities  

There can be no doubt that the ever-present themes within the many different adaptations of Spartacus since the 1960s have had a significant impact on the developments within modern-day society across various media platforms. While the nostalgic themes are unlikely to lose their significance, the undeniable popularity of the gladiator genre means that the door will never truly be closed on further Spartacus-focused film and television releases.  

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