The basic premis of this historical novel is of a slave who leads a revolt against the Roman Empire, battling for freedom. The narrator is a slave called Kleon, whose background of being sold into slavery and the abuses he suffered are narrated to the reader. Another character who is important to the book is Elpinice, who is a female slave that helps Spartacus and his fellow gladiators escape from Capua, and later on becomes his lover and bears him a child, even though she eventually dies whilst Spartacus is fighing elsewhere. This historical novel therefore concerns itself with the historical rebellion of a gladiator who successfully led an uprising against the Romans who enslaved him. The central theme of the text is freedom, and this is shown through the following quote uttered by Spartacus:
And maybe there's no peace in this world, for us or for anyone else, I don't know. But I do know that, as long as we live, we must remain true to ourselves.
This novel is therefore an immensely inspiring historical tale, which, in spite of some liberties, remains remarkably accurate to the historical sources on which it is based. Of course, this novel is now more famous because of the film version that captured the imagination of audiences when it was released in 1960.