Spartacus was a citizen of Rome, which means he was a free male. He joined the Roman legion when he was a teenager, but he really didn't like life in the legion, so he deserted. Like most deserters, he was caught. The punishment for deserting the legion was to be sold into slavery. Spartacus was sold as a slave to a gladiator school to learn how to be a gladiator. Spartacus didn't want to be a gladiator or a slave, so he planned and executed an escape.
Spartacus got the rest of the gladiators in the school to help him and to escape with him. They took the weapons from the school and the knives from the kitchen and went to Mt. Vesuvius (a volcano near Naples Italy) where they set up a camp. They also gathered in other escaped slaves. The Romans were terrified. At the time, there were more slaves then freemen living in and near Rome. The Romans were afraid that Spartacus would try to free all the slaves, so they sent an army after him.
Spartacus and the other gladiators defeated the first Roman army. So the Romans sent a second army. Spartacus beat this one as well. While Rome was getting together a much larger army to send after Spartacus, Spartacus was gathering up runaway slaves and freeing other slaves from farms and villas. Spartacus gathered together about 100,000 slaves in just a couple of years. The Romans knew that they had to defeat Spartacus or they were doomed. They needed slaves to do much of the work in ancient Rome. They gathered together all the legions that they could from all over the empire and sent them after Spartacus.
Four years after he had escaped, Spartacus and his army of free slaves were finally cornered and defeated by the Roman legions. The Romans sent a message to every slave in the empire by killing every slave who had joined Spartacus.