When I was writing Dinah of Seneca, one of the reasons I decided to use the Romans, Vikings and Northeastern Native Americans in the same universe was to compare and contrast their societies.

The Native Americans of the Northeast were built on a matriarchal base. The women choose the war leaders, they arranged the marriages between their different clans and their word was basically the final say. It’s a fascinating dynamic because it wasn’t a dictatorship either. Most of the time, the women consulted each other and the rest of their tribe on important decisions. For example, caucus is a Native American word.

The Vikings were led my men but the women had more of an equal role than is generally thought. I had my Viking colonists intermarry with a Lenape clan, so I was able to set up a village that was more or less equally run by men and women.

Rome, of course, had a very patriarchal society. Men were in charge. Women had some rights but they were clearly in second-place.

And while Spartacus has some issues with historical accuracy (heh), they did get this right. In fact, they had all sorts of wonderful moments that showcase just how little power women had and I’m not talking about just the slaves.

Major SPOILERS below the cut!


I started watching this show because I pay attention to all things Romans these days. That’s because my book coming out next month, Dinah of Seneca, deals with alternate history Romans and I’m working on its sequel.  My world is not that close to the world of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, as Dinah is set in a world where Romans and Vikings have settled North America, but it does deal with similar elements of slavery, destiny and free will.

So to watch the first season of Spartacus was a real treat. And, yes, I’ve watched the finale  twice now.

The first time because I was on the edge of my seat to see what happened.

The second time to appreciate the smaller moments and the cleverness of the writers.


Overall, this was an *excellent* way to complete the plot and character arcs that have built over the season. It’s so good, it’s almost textbook and I’m going to have to remember it when I write the climax of Dinah’s sequel.

The parallels between Spartacus and Crixus were made crystal clear in the conversation between the two men. Both men were sold into slavery against their will. Both men drank the kool-aid about the glory of being a gladiator, both men lost the women they loved tragically. Both want to right this wrong.

Their conversation is just a wonderful end to the story arc about their rivalry. And I just loved the moment where Crixus helps Spartacus leap to his target. Beautiful choreography.

I also loved that Mira was allowed the choice of whether to take destiny into her own hands or not. Why does she love Spartacus? He’s someone honorable who actually sees her as a person. He saved her from rape. He didn’t want to use her as a prize for good behavior or to practice his sexual technique. When Spartacus finally made love to her, he did it because he liked her and wanted to please her.

He may not love her but it’s easy to see why Mira thought Spartacus worthy of her concern. And she’s had enough of being used like a toy by the Romans.

Spartacus himself seems to have regained his dignity and feeling of self-worth. He no longer believes because his wife is dead, he should be dead. He’s found purpose. Of course, his purpose is in killing them all…but still. 🙂

The brother gladiators had such a nice, tragic moment.

Asher and Doctore were a long-time coming. The writers let two of our villains live. I completely agree with one but I really wanted to see Asher dead, dead, dead.  Doctore deserved some satisfaction.

And other nice bit of writing: Batiatus suffers exactly the same loss as Spartacus did at the beginning of the series. Batiatus has lost his community, he’s lost his home, he’s lost his wife, and all his efforts to save them are to no avail against a superior foe. And I LOVE that the writers took Batiatus’ own words to Spartacus about fighting in the arena and had Spartacus say them to Batiatus before he killed him.

Just beautiful.

However, I heard through the grapevine that Lucy Lawless will be back next season–if there is a next season. Now, that’s a surprise. I thought her ending nicely done, especially with how Crixus finally stood up for himself against her. He has been repeatedly raped by this women. She’s taken away the person he loves most in the world. And she expected Crixus to love her?

I love the gender reversal in this.

Still, if Lucretia lives, she’ll get to take revenge on her former BFF. 🙂

I want more of this story. I don’t know when I’ll get it as Andy Whitfield, who plays Spartacus, is still being treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I am guessing it is very serious. Get well, sir. You deserve to enjoy your success.

Note: I wrote this after the first season of Spartacus. All of the show is now available on Netflix. Go. Watch.

For those who’ve seen it already, I wrote a few more articles: Spartacus, Rome & Patriarchal Society, “Kill Them All, The Spartacus Finale,” and Six Ways Dinah of Seneca is Like Spartacus. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

In the case of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, I want to explain to people who scoff about it being bloody porn why I love the show.

Oh, it has flaws. There’s dialogue that goes over the top–Jupiter’s cock!–scenery chewing acting, and bloody special effects that are so stylized that they’ve become silly. Oh, look! Entrails again!

I also have doubts of historical accuracy.

Yet I am incredibly hooked.

I am far more hooked on this show than on the Emmy-nominated True Blood, which shares more than few elements in common with Spartacus–especially the blood and sex part. But I find True Blood absolutely dumb–that includes both the characters and the plot. The premise is good. The writers just don’t do anything interesting with it.

Ostensibly, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is the tale of the gladiator who led a famous slave rebellion against the Roman Republic. The show begins before our hero becomes that guy. He’s an unnamed Thracian warrior who joins the Roman legions and then rebels against his commander because, well, the Roman commander is an ass.

This is ends badly for our hero, as not only is he captured and sold into slavery, so is his beloved wife. The first two episodes are basically set up to Spartacus’ entering gladiator training.

But by episode three, interesting things start to happen with the writing.

Be warned, minor spoilers below. I’ve tried to be general but…

Plots and character arcs are put in motion, arcs that pay off magnificently by season’s end. Nothing at first is what is seems.

I think that’s the ultimate difference between True Blood and Spartacus.

They both have unpredictable plotting and “WTF?? happened” elements. But in True Blood, no one ever learns anything. It’s all character shuffling around. They never seem to grow. Or, as a friend put it, “stay tuned for next week, when Sookie does something stupid!”

In Spartacus, the characters change and grow. In some cases, they just end too. No one is safe and that adds to the unpredictability of the show.

For example: Batiatus, the Roman gladiator owner who buys Spartacus seems a decent enough sort for a Roman and I initially sympathized with him because of his obvious love for his wife and his burning desire to be recognized above his class.  He also seems honorable, giving Spartacus his word to reunite him with his wife.

Batiatus and Lucretia: Not the Perfect Roman Couple. Oh, did I mention Lucy Lawless is awesome in this?

By the next-to-last episode, it becomes clear that all the initial impressions about Batiatus are just plain wrong. He’s sneaky,  more than a little batshit crazy and gives us at least two “oh, no, I cannot believe he did that!” moments.

Crixus, who first appeared to be no more than a fellow gladiator determined to bully Spartacus, has turned into the most fascinating character on the show. He’s a brute, true, but he’s totally drunk the Kool-Aid about how honorable it is to be a gladiator, even the part about how his eventual death with bring glory to him.

That is, until it’s made clear that his life and the lives of those he loves are pawns in a game to entertain those lucky enough not to be slaves.

This point of being a plaything is driven home to Spartacus himself in the most heart-wrenching episode of the season. This death was pure tragedy and worked brilliantly. It was clear that this character was probably not destined for a good end but the way it happened was shocking.

In short, unpredictable plot turns plus awesome character arcs equals a show that I absolutely cannot miss.

I will, however, not deny that all the incredibly well-built handsome gladiators who strut around with little clothing doesn’t hurt its appeal. Neither does the occasional (but brief) full frontal nudity.

The husband says that all the naked women doesn’t hurt either. Lucy Lawless’ breasts, he says, are quite magnificent. I note that most of the naked women have breasts that lack implants. Perhaps because this isn’t a show produced in Hollywood.

There are also the orgies featuring simulated sex. (Well, I think it’s simulated…) But, the fascinating part for me is that the sex isn’t, well, sexy. It’s background noise.

It’s world-building.

Sex, especially with slaves, means little to any of the free Romans. It’s a commodity, just live the lives of the gladiators.

There are only five characters having sex on the show for love. And one of them is having sex with someone they love who doesn’t love them but has no choice in the matter. In other words, rape. The others, well, I doubt it’s going to end well.

What’s truly sexy on this show is the longing. The longing to matter. The longing for freedom. The longing for love without conditions.

The finale is on Friday night. I foresee a lot of blood being spilled. Or, as Spartacus said, there’s only one good plan left:

“Kill them all.”