Catching Fire

Catching Fire Spartacus

In a New York Times interview, Suzanne Collins discusses several influences for her Hunger Games trilogy. Among them, she mentions the Roman hero Spartacus. She explains, “Katniss follows the same arc from slave to gladiator to rebel to face of a war” (Dominus). According to Plutarch, the Greek philosopher and biographer, Spartacus "not only had a great spirit and great physical strength, but was, much more than one would expect from his condition, most intelligent and cultured". His skill and intelligence were underrated because of his position as a slave, just like Katniss, who hails from the poorest District, was underestimated in the arena. The end of Catching Fire mirrors the birth of Spartacus's army as the rebels break the tributes out of the arena so they can join the revolution - of which Katniss has become the symbol.

Roman history and mythology figures prominently in all three books, including Catching Fire. For example, Panem is a reference to "panem et circenses" (bread and circuses), tools used by the government to distract a populace from the harsh reality of their lives. The historical context that gave rise to Spartacus has parallels in Panem. Agriculture and war were the primary ways of life for ancient Rome and slaves - who could not be recruited by the military - worked land owned by the elite. The number of slaves grew unchecked, which meant the rich got richer. Gladiator contests were popular entertainment for a population bred on bloodlust. The strongest slaves were selected to fight in these tournaments.

Spartacus was forced to live in a school that trained gladiators. In 73 BCE, seventy-eight gladiators, including Spartacus, escaped the school, gathering weapons from the facility. They were now a heavily-armed band of rebels. Spartacus was elected as one of three leaders of the rebels. Runaway slaves and shepherds joined the revolt and the increase in number allowed them to overtake militias sent to defeat them. Expeditions of 2,000-3,000 soldiers were sent to defeat them, but the slaves prevailed. Within a year, it was rumored that Spartacus led an army of 70,000 men. The Senate appraised this threat and reasoned that their own slaves could revolt if Spartacus continued to ravage his way through Italy. This incited the Third Servile War (73 BCE - 71 BCE).

Spartacus's objective was to reach the Alps so his men could then depart to their places of birth. But when the reached the mountains, the troops headed south once more. Spartacus decided that a base on Sicily would help maintain their power and he made a deal with Cilician pirates to take them across the sea. However, the pirates did not appear. Spartacus and his men were trapped. Ultimately, the rebels were defeated by the Romans and Spartacus was killed in battle. Despite his defeat, Spartacus has since been a symbol of freedom and of the repressed.