Battle of the Siler River

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Battle of the Siler River
Part of the Third Servile War
Date 71 BC
Location Near Siler River, Italy
Result Decisive Roman Victory
End of the Servile Wars
Belligerents
Roman Republic Army of escaped slaves
Commanders and leaders
Marcus Licinius Crassus Spartacus 
Strength
40,000
6 Legions
4 Consular Legions
30,000-40,000 soldiers
Casualties and losses
Appian claims about 1,000 killed, though maybe more 25,000-30,000 killed
6,000 taken prisoner (later crucified)
5,000 of the survivors later captured by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and crucified

The Battle of the Siler River was the final, decisive action of the Roman Servile Wars. Marcus Licinius Crassus trapped Spartacus in Bruttium by building a 40 mile long system of ditches and walls. After a failed truce, Spartacus gathered his army together for battle. He ordered his horse to be brought to him, drew his sword, and slew the animal. He proclaimed to his troops that if he should win the day, he would have many horses to choose from, but if he should lose the upcoming battle and the Romans should win the day, he would not need one. After launching several skirmishing attacks on the Romans' defenses, Spartacus and about 50,000 of his men were able to break through and escape from Crassus' legions.

Battle[edit]

On the banks of the Siler River, Spartacus' army finally met up with the Roman legions of Crassus on the open battlefield. The gladiators charged at the Roman ranks, colliding with a wall of shields and swords. Though Spartacus and his men fought hard and took down many Roman soldiers, they were slowly being slaughtered one by one. During the battle, Spartacus tried to reach Crassus, who was watching him from a distance on his horse, killing two centurions in the struggle. According to Appian, the rebel leader was crippled in one leg and was forced to drop down on his knees, but he refused to back down and continued to fight, until he was killed.

At the end of the battle, Crassus and his men were victorious, though they too had suffered some casualties. According to Appian, the numbers of dead on both sides were extremely high and impossible to count. Spartacus had also died in the battle, but his body was never recovered. Modern estimates suggest the number of gladiator casualties were as high as 36,000 killed. Six thousand survivors of the revolt were captured and crucified on Crassus' orders, while 5,000 others who escaped from Crassus' troops were captured and killed by the Spanish legions under Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, possibly in northern Italy.