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Spartacus vs Rome

Updated on September 14, 2014

Starz vs HBO...

A wise man once said, if you put Rome, 300, and Caligula in a blender you would get the hit Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. It stands to reason, therefore, that if you took Spartacus, 300, and Caligula and strained them through cheese-cloth, you would get the glorious albeit tragically short-lived HBO series Rome. Or something. Metaphor isn't exactly our strong suit (we're still trying to figure out how a raven is like a writing desk).

The question is, of course, which is better?

Let us decide this as we do all things in life: by soliciting anonymous internet strangers.

Oh, by the way: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Spartacus: Blood and Sand vs Rome

Rome follows the exploits of legionaries Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo as they are swept up in events surrounding the usurpring of the Republic by the dastardly Julius Caesar, his assassination on the Senate floor, and the rise of Octavian to become Emperor Augustus. All the while, polecats Atia of the influential Julii family and Servilia, mother of noble Brutus, trade icy pleasantries and warm daggers as they fondle puppet strings behind the scenes, accumulating closets full of skeletons as easily as they do broken hearts.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand follows the exploits of the slave/gladiator/revolt-leader Spartacus in the gladiatorial ludus of Lentulus Batiatus, the latter maneuvering to gain riches and political favor in the city of Capua. He is assisted in his cause by wife Lucretia who uses her feminine jowls and her husband's hunk buffet to ingratiate herself into high society. Their efforts are stifled at every turn by the gods, by Ilithyia, wife of the local legatus whose patronage they seek, and by the young Numerius, freshly-scrubbed son of the local magistrate whose clueless callousness will have stabby ramifications.

How do the shows compare?

The HBO™ outing is certainly the more scholarly of the two: Blood and Sand includes a fair share of historical detail but we dare say the show is primarily interested in the spectacle that was the gladiator business. There's enough flesh to make Mr. Skin blush and enough computer-generated blood to keep ILM wonks in hip-waders from now 'till the Ides of March. That being said, Rome is hardly shy about slouching towards Gomorrah when the opportunity arises - consider that it had to be censored in order to be broadcast on Italian TV; that is to say the ROMANS found Rome too decadent.

In any event, they are nee pluribus impar compared to previous treatments of the source material, be it Stanley Kubrick's 1960 academy-award winning epic, or a long list of insulting Hays code throwbacks that came before, which have about as much connection to flesh-and-blood Romans as Dorris Day did to the real-life Calamity Jane (ooooh, look how depraved it was: they had grapes! GRAPES!). Russel Crowe's more recent Gladiator may have captured the grit and lust more compellingly, but a comparison is hardly fair: Starz™ and HBO™ had dozens of episodes to present what a feature film must accomplish in a scant few hours.

Anyhoo, what say we examine a match-up of the principals from the two shows. There's some MAJOR SPOILERS here, so if you aren't aware that, say, Julius Caesar was assassinated or that Spartacus led a major slave revolt, you may want to run along to Amazon or Netflix and come back to this later (right after you pen a strongly-worded letter to your alma mater asking them to explain why they left you so tragically unprepared for life).


Category: Protagonist - Lentulus Batiatus vs Lucius Vorenus


  • Batiatus: ludus owner, something of a cross between a butcher and a pimp.
  • Vorenus: soldier of the legendary 13th Legion, later: local magistrate and senator.
  • Advantage: Vorenus


  • Batiatus: killed competitors, magistrate, local businessman.
  • Vorenus: blew whistle in army.
  • Advantage: Batiatus


  • Batiatus: orchestrated death of local magistrate, used murder to frame his main competitor.
  • Vorenus: couldn't figure out wife cuckolded him while he was out playing soldier.
  • Advantage: Batiatus


  • Batiatus: wife = Zena, Warrior Princess. 'Nuff said.
  • Vorenus: required instruction from Pullo regarding girl parts.
  • Advantage: Batiatus

Category: Bad Girl - Lucretia vs Atia


  • Lucretia: wife of a Ludus owner.
  • Atia: niece of Julius Caesar.
  • Advantage: Atia


  • Lucretia: had various slaves bumped-off and/or whipped.
  • Atia: had rival Servilia tortured while she munched on figs.
  • Advantage: Atia


  • Lucretia: played practical joke on rival Ilithyia by sneaking Spartacus into her sexytime.
  • Atia: managed to get Servilia to stab herself to death.
  • Advantage: Atia


  • Lucretia: bedded generic gladiator beeftot.
  • Atia: bedded Mark Antony.
  • Advantage: Atia

Category: Bad Girl Foil - Ilithyia vs Servilia


  • Ilithyia: wife of Roman DMV schlub.
  • Servilia: mistress of Julius Caesar, mother of noble Brutus.
  • Advantage: Servilia


  • Ilithyia: arranges for Lucretia to invent the caesarian section.
  • Servilia: stabs self to death to shame Atia (didn't work).
  • Advantage: Ilithyia


  • Ilithyia: orchestrated death of Spartacus' best friend.
  • Servilia: orchestrated death of Julius freakin' Caesar.
  • Advantage: Servilia


  • Ilithyia: seduced local magistrate's jailbait son. Hubba, hubba.
  • Servilia: seduced Atia's daughter. Oh, did we mention: mistress of Julius Caesar.
  • Advantage: Servilia

Category: Juvenile Delinquent - Numerius vs Octavian


  • Numerius: son of a Roman DMV schlub.
  • Octavian: great nephew to Julius Caesar
  • Advantage: Octavian


  • Numerius: had a gladiator killed for fun.
  • Octavian: read books, got spanked by Mark Antony.
  • Advantage: Numerius


  • Numerius: witnessed murders in the sewers.
  • Octavian: orchestrated murders in the sewers.
  • Advantage: Octavian


  • Numerius: deflowered by the lithe and sultry Ilithyia.
  • Octavian: deflowered by his sister reluctant professional (thanks, Nathan!).
  • Advantage: Numerius

Category: Main Badass - Spartacus vs Titus Pullo


  • Spartacus: captured Thracian slave.
  • Pullo: late of the legendary 13th Legion.
  • Advantage: Pullo


  • Spartacus: Thracian wildman, legendary gladiator, professional killer.
  • Pullo: soldier, murder-for-hire, one semi-professional arena fight.
  • Advantage: Spartacus


  • Spartacus: managed largest slave uprising in the history of Rome.
  • Pullo: managed a bar.
  • Advantage: Spartacus.


  • Spartacus: buffet of gorgeous slave girls and horny proper Roman women.
  • Pullo: anything with a pulse. Also: Cleopatra.
  • Advantage: Spartacus

Learn more on Amazon - Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic

Something you don't really get from HBO's Rome is that by the time of Caesar's murder, violence had become a way of life in Roman politics. Caesar was not the first to get the point: in 133 B.C., Tiberius Gracchus was murdered during his bid for consul by his opponents. When his brother Gaius tried to carry on for Tiberius, agents of the Roman senate murdered him and hundreds of his supporters. Things quickly went downhill from there. Read all about the descent of the Republic into anarchy and chaos, then dictatorship (then, alas, more chaos) in Tim Holland's riveting account.

Learn more on Amazon - The Great Big Book of Horrible Things

It's been estimated that over 3 million (!) people were killed in the arena. This from Matthew White, who created a fascinating/horrific atlas of the 100 greatest atrocities in history, ranked according to body count (you can probably guess #1, but #2 will surprise you). Along the way, White crunches the numbers and offers mind-blowing observations, such the 3 million arena deaths, or the fact that it is safer to be a soldier than a civillian during wartime, or that Ghengis Khan (which was his title not his name) was such a prolific rapist that he has over 16 million living descendants. Not for the squeamish.

Image Credits

Stills from Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Rome copyright Starz, L.L.C. and Home Box Office, Inc. respectively, and claimed as fair use under United States copyright law as these accompany a review of the original work and do not in a reasonable person's mind constitute an infringement of the owner's rights to receive compensation for the copyrighted work.


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Guestbook - Siste Viator!

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    • Charito1962 profile image

      Charito Maranan-Montecillo 4 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I like watching films about Ancient Rome. I like the 1960 "Spartacus" version with Kirk Douglas in the title role. I also love the 1951 version of "Quo Vadis" which I watch every Lenten season.

    • profile image

      RomeFan 4 years ago

      I like your idea of comparing Spartacus and Rome. I have seen the 300 movie and it was really great! Very interesting and entertaining post to read especially for the avid fans of Spartacus and Rome.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Very interesting comparison. I am not familiar with the series but enjoyed the presentation. Thanks!

    • GreatGazoo profile image

      GreatGazoo 5 years ago

      My favorite movie was 300 :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How can Batiatus be a protagonist. This is a hasty article with no knowledge about the series or an ignorance of story and plot. Also, many facts in this article are wrong, such as octavion being deflowered by his sister (first time was at a brothel).

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      OMG, this is my favorite TV series.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 6 years ago

      Nice Lens!

    • sudokunut profile image

      Mark Falco 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      I love both these shows, Rome for an enthralling glimpse into the past and Spartacus just for the sheer viscious depravity of it all! I keep hearing tales about a Rome movie or two in the pipeline with the original cast but I'm still waiting!!

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 6 years ago

      @sousababy: Hi Sous,

      Good idea - we moved it before the Guestbook. If that helps get them a few more clicks/donations, it's all good.



    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Oh, you should put 'LabKitty is donating 100% of the revenue generated by this lens to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society' up higher in this lens (I saw it after I left a comment).

      Endears me all the more to you . . .


    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Interesting and entertaining. Sorry I cannot help with historical facts about this topic . . it's just that I am better at other special wonkings. Would love to see more from you LabKitty. Smooooch,


    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 7 years ago

      You have presented both shows very well in this lens. I think that going back in time to those days will definitely give you the right answer. Try that. :)

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 7 years ago

      I know neither show - I don't watch TV - but I loved the way you presented this lens - gripping (and funny).