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Personal details
Died72 BC
Military service
AllegianceSpartacus' Rebel Army
CommandsRebel Army
Battles/warsThird Servile War

Crixus was a Gallic gladiator and military leader in the Third Servile War between the Roman Republic and rebel slaves. Born in Gaul, he was enslaved by the Romans under unknown circumstances and trained as a gladiator in Capua.[1] His name means "one with curly hair" in Gaulish.[2][3]


In 73, Crixus was part of what started as a small slave revolt in the gladiatorial training school of Lentulus Batiatus in Capua, in which about 70 gladiators escaped. The escaped slaves defeated a small force sent to recapture them, then made camp on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Word of the escaped gladiators' revolt spread, and other escaped slaves started to join their ranks. At this time, the band of former slaves chose Crixus—with the Thracian Spartacus, and the Gaul Oenomaus—as one of their leaders. Later in the rebellion, another Gaul, Castus, and Celtic former Gladiator Gannicus also served as generals under Spartacus.

The movement, in the course of what would come to be known as the Third Servile War, witnessed numerous military successes for the escaped slaves. They routed the militia forces the Roman Senate sent to put down the insurrection by rappelling down the cliffs of Mount Vesuvius and attacking the Roman camp from behind. With these early successes, thousands of fellow slaves swarmed to their ranks, until their numbers swelled to perhaps as many as 150,000.

For reasons that are unclear, Crixus and about 30,000 followers appear to have separated from Spartacus and the main body of escaped slaves toward the end of 73 BC. Contemporary historians have theorized two possible reasons for the split. One theory proposes that Crixus and his followers were intent on plundering the Roman countryside and, perhaps, marching on Rome, while Spartacus and his followers wanted to cross the Alps to reach Gaul and freedom. A second theory is that the split had strategic value and was planned by Spartacus and Crixus as a way to further their strategic goals. However, Spartacus's actions raise more questions about their intentions. Both accounts by Appian and Plutarch state that after Spartacus defeated Lentulus, he turned back and attacked an army behind him. In one account, it was Gellius' army, in the other, it was an unnamed Roman force. If he wanted to escape Italy to the North, why would he turn back for unnecessary bloodshed? This fact seems to tip history in favor of the second theory.[4]

Whatever the reason for the split, Crixus' contingent encountered a Roman army under the command of the Roman consul Lucius Gellius Publicola near Mount Gargano in 72 BC. The two consular legions under the command of Publicola were deployed defensively along the crest of a hill, while the slaves led by Crixus made three unsuccessful assaults up a steep slope.[5] Crixus, who is said to have fought bravely in a losing effort, was killed in the conflict.

Spartacus, on hearing of the defeat of Crixus and his forces, held mock gladiatorial games, in which he forced captured Roman soldiers to fight to the death. Either 300 or 400 Romans were sacrificed in Crixus' honor.[6][7]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ McLynn, Frank (2009). Heroes & Villains: Inside the minds of the greatest warriors in history. Random House. p. 8. ISBN 9781605980294. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
  2. ^ Breeze, Andrew (2008). "Cricklade and the Britons". Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine. Vol. 101. pp. 315–317. ...the Gaulish name Crixus, cognate with Latin Crispus 'curly-headed one'...
  3. ^ Rhŷs, John (1905). Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. II: Celtae and Galli. London: The British Academy. p. 49.
  4. ^ "Appian on Spartacus". Appian on Spartacus. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  5. ^ Fields, Nic (21 July 2009). Spartacus and the Slave War 73-71BC. pp. 55 & 60–61. ISBN 978-1-84603-353-7.
  6. ^ Strauss (2009, UK edition) "Spartacus added a bitter twist by reversing roles: he made the slaves spectators and the Romans gladiators. The occasion was Cnixus's funeral games. ... Spartacus called up 300 (or 400 according to another source) Roman prisoners and had them fight to the death around a pyre - a symbol, at least, of Crixus, assuming his body had not been recovered."
  7. ^ Futrell, Alison (2010). Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power. University of Texas Press. p. 183. ISBN 9780292792401. After the defeat of Crixus by a consular army, Spartacus sacrificed 300 Roman prisoners to the spirit of his deceased colleague.[61] Here a distinction in treatment is clearly drawn between the 300 Romans whom he sacrificed and the totality of the remaining prisoner group, whom he simply destroyed.
  8. ^ Starz. "Manu Bennett in Spartacus: Blood and Sand". Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2010.

Ancient sources[edit]

Modern sources[edit]