While the Wikipedia article on the Third Servile War has a few details on the effects of the slave revolt (e.g. less harsh treatment, reduction of the number of slaves on the latifundia), it says nothing about what Romans, prominent or otherwise, thought about the crucifixion of 6,000 slaves along the Appian Way. Nor is it totally clear (after checking several sources) who authorized the mass crucifixion, or whether Crassus actually needed anyone's authorization.

Although I do not doubt that many Romans approved of his actions in crucifying and then leaving them to hang on the crosses for several months, Crassus was more ruthless (and unscrupulus) than most so can we just assume that no one voiced concerns about the gruesome spectacle along the Appian Way?

With reference to sempaiscuba's comment on why slave-owners would care, some slave-owners' children were brought up with slave children. Thus, some slaves

were the confidantes and even friends of their masters and might receive educations, have their own families, and live nearly as well as the free members of the family

Source: Gregory S. Aldrete, 'Daily Life in the Roman City'

One potential source of dissent or disagreement might be stoics. Although most stoics did not oppose slavery, there were clearly concerns about the brutal treatment of slaves prior to the Third Servile War.

Stoics certainly offered a view of slavery that was more liberal than the contemporary views of the rest of society, and were united by the belief that masters should treat their slaves in a more humane way than they seem to have generally been treated. In Diodorus Siculus' account of the Sicilian slave-rising of 135-132 BC, much of what he wrote was heavily drawn from the Stoic philosopher Posidonius. Crucially, the depraved natures of the rich slave-owners such as Damophilus are blamed for the behaviour of the slaves rather than the slave's innate savagery.

(my highlighting)


1. Who authorized the mass crucifixion, or did Crassus not need anyone's authorization?

2. Were there any dissenting voices in the senate or among other prominent Romans concerning Crassus' actions? There were a number of senators in the late republic who were not afraid to speak their minds (at least on matters other than slavery), even at the risk of their lives (e.g. Cato the Younger, Cicero).

3. Is there any evidence of Romans complaining about the corpses lining the Appian Way? Presumably, at least some Roman travellers, including prominent ones, would have found the scenery rather displeasing to the eye. Is there any evidence to be found in, for example, poetry or plays?

Note. Other sources checked include:

The Cambridge Ancient History




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    Anyone whose opinion was likely to be recorded was, presumably, also a slave-owner. Why would they complain about an object-lesson against slave rebellion? Nov 9, 2017 at 12:31
  • 3
    Did people question it, or the Massacre of Verden, or the Massacre at Ayyadieh, or any one of many other such "just kill them all" sprees conducted by victors? Probably. Were there dissenting voices? Probably not, because no-one wants to end up in the same mass grave. Did dissenting voices get recorded and preserved for generations to come? Not if the ruler at the time had anything to say about it...
    – DevSolar
    Nov 9, 2017 at 12:57
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    @sempaiscuba. Good question. I'll edit my question to explain that. Nov 9, 2017 at 13:00
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    I suspect that the Spartacus revolt so scared the wits out of the ruling elite that no measure pour encourager les autres would have been considered too harsh.
    – TheHonRose
    Nov 9, 2017 at 22:20
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    @TheHonRose That's an understatement. I'm pretty sure people were looking for worse punishments than crucifixion, but that is kind of hard. Crucifixion is (arguably) the worst punishment there is.
    – Jos
    Nov 10, 2017 at 4:02

1 Answer 1


I doubt very much if any prominent Roman would complain. The line of poverty was not being able to own and keep a single slave in Rome. Prominent Romans owned many thousands. About 1/3 of the population of Italy was slave. If anything gave the Romans nightmares, it was a slave rebellion. This was by far the biggest and the worst they experienced.

Slave owners would bring recalcitrant slaves to the Via Appia to admire the view. So they would understand what was in store, just in case.

Especially prominent Romans lost a lot of property because of that revolt. They would rack their brains if a worse punishment would be possible. Leniency would be the last thing on their minds.

Slave owners could do whatever they wanted with their slaves. Up to crucifying them on their property, if they so desired. Rebellious slaves could be killed, the legal punishment was crucification. As far as I know the idea of crucifying them en masse along the Via Appia was Crassus's own idea.

I think a better question would be: were there any prominent Romans who objected to the destruction of so much property? Crucifying 6000 slaves is destroying an awful lot of money.

  • 1
    I just modified the question a little so you may want to do likewise for your answer. Even a partial answer (i.e. one or two of the three questions) would be appreciated :) Nov 10, 2017 at 1:35
  • 1
    I'm not sure that there was any destruction of wealth alongside the destruction of property. A rebellious slave is a very special kind of asset in that it isn't just costing you to maintain it, it is also leveraging your other assets towards trying to murder you.
    – Racheet
    Feb 23, 2018 at 16:41

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