The series opens on the orgy of blood and violence that is the gladiator arena. An unnamed Thracian prisoner watches, another prisoner get torn to pieces. The Thracian’s gaze takes us from the dry, desiccated sands of Capua to the lush hills of Thrace several months before where he is saying good-bye to his wife, Sura. She tries to convince him to stay with her, but he has pledged his sword to the Roman Auxiliary. That same sword is soon embedded in a Getaen Barbarian, but it is the Roman Legate, Claudius Glaber, who rides up to claim victory at the battle’s end. Showing his authority, Glaber orders the Thracian and one of his comrades to scout the enemy lines, then dismisses them when they return with the news that the barbarians are heading west to threaten Thracian villages. That night, Glaber’s spoiled, pampered wife Ilithyia urges him to seek greater glory and the next morning when he rouses the auxiliaries, he announces they march east towards the better battle. The Thracian protests, violently, and since he knows his life is now worthless, he flees.

Returning just in time, the Thracian saves Sura from a group of barbarians. Their reunion is short-lived, however, as Glaber and the Roman soldiers catch up with them the next day. Glaber condemns Sura to a life of slavery and the Thracian to execution at the gladiatorial games.

At a feast before the games, hosted by Ilithyia’s powerful father, Senator Albinius, we meet Batiatus and his wife Lucretia, who own a ludus, the school where gladiators are trained. Batiatus is upset because only two of his gladiators were hired to fight, while his rival Solonius has eight gladiators in the games.    The next day, in the arena, Glaber sends four of Solonius’s gladiators against the Thracian. Despite the uneven odds, the Thracian bravely kills them all. Though Glaber is humiliated, the crowd cheers for his release. Sensing a business opportunity, Batiatus steps forward and offers to purchase him and make him a gladiator within his ludus. Albinius consents and Batiatus names the Thracian prisoner Spartacus. As the crowd cheers for him, Spartacus is carried out, into his new life.

Spartacus awakes in the darkness, bloodied and bruised.    He reaches out to find Sura and pulls her towards him, but her cries of ecstasy turn into screams of pain as Spartacus is jolted awake to find himself instead beside a gladiator writhing in agony. Spartacus is hustled from the infirmary and thrown into the baths where he is taunted by the veteran gladiators, who explain he is in Batiatus’s ludus, a school to train gladiators. If he is lucky, he will join them in their training. If not, he will be condemned to the mines.

The next day, as Lucretia prepares for a visit from Glaber, Spartacus is initiated into his brutal new life. Doctore, the head trainer, forces Spartacus to fight Crixus, a match that ends with Spartacus face down in the sand. The training continues in the hot sun, a drought scorching all of Capua. Spartacus’ ordeal has only begun and he is yanked out of the mess hall and chained up in a detention cell. Glaber enters and tells Spartacus he raped Sura and shared her with his men before selling her to an unpleasant Syrian. He tosses a love token Spartacus gave Sura at Spartacus’s feet. Having achieved his purpose of tormenting Spartacus, Glaber sweeps out past Batiatus. Upstairs, he retrieves Ilithyia, who is intrigued by gladiators and the life of a ludus.

Spurred by his hatred and anger, Spartacus brutally attacks another recruit, prompting Doctore to complain that Spartacus is untrainable. Batiatus believes he could become a great gladiator, given the proper impetus. Having discovered that Spartacus has a wife, Batiatus promises to find her in exchange for Spartacus accepting his new life. With Batiatus’s words ringing in his head, Spartacus steps up to his final test, a training fight with Crixus. It is a close battle, but in the end, Spartacus gains the advantage. He has passed the test. He is now a gladiator and one step closer to his love.

Excitement ripples through the gladiators when a new festival of games is announced at the end of training. In the Villa above, it is not excitement Batiatus feels, but anger that his gladiators are only in the lesser matches. Lucretia calms his rage, stating that their party the night before will bring in more business. To that end, she holds out her hand for money, stating both she and their ludus must be dressed to impress. Begrudgingly, debt still heavy on his mind, Batiatus hands over the coins.

A few days later, when the fight card is announced, Spartacus is dismayed to find himself fighting in the lowest match against Varro, earning a mere pittance. Spartacus’ rival at the ludus, Crixus, however, fights in the primus- the best match of the day. Ashur warns him against underestimating Crixus’ ability in the ring and tells him about Crixus’ greatest fight against the twin gladiators rumored to be born of a jackal.    Desperate to get into the premiere fight, Spartacus provokes Gnaeus, the gladiator slated to fight Crixus, into attacking him, unsuccessfully.

Crixus, uninterested in Spartacus’s machinations, is focused on Lucretia’s beautiful body slave Naevia, but when he attempts to speak with her, he fails miserably. He has no idea how to charm this quiet, shy girl. She takes him to Lucretia’s bedchamber where he finds his mistress anything but shy. She stands barely clothed, her largest adornment the necklace she purchased earlier. Crixus flatters her mercilessly, then satisfies her the way she demands.

At the party the night before the fight, Ilithyia wanders through the crowd with Lucretia at her side, expressing disappointment at seeing the men to be only flesh and blood, not the gods of the arena. For his part, Spartacus is still angry he has still not moved up the fight card, and so attacks Crixus in full view of the assembled guests who call for the fight to be continued in the arena the next day. Left without options, Batiatus acts as though this was his intention all along. While Varro worries for Spartacus and tells him a legend from the arena, of Theocles, the Shadow of Death, Crixus finds Naevia in the corridor. He promises that his victory the next day is for her. True to his word, Crixus easily defeats Spartacus. Battered and bruised, Spartacus promises he will train harder. Doctore tells him it is too late.

After Spartacus’s dismal fight against Crixus, Batiatus tells him no one wants to see him fight in the arena. There is, however, an option for the man who doesn’t follow rules: the place where there are none. Spartacus is hauled away, his hair shaved, his body covered in ash, sent to the fight pits. As Batiatus gets ready to leave for the pits, Lucretia frets about his safety. Batiatus assures her that though these are dangerous places, he is taking Barca as protection. Besides, the money he will make can buy water in this time of drought.

Once Batiatus is gone, Lucretia sends Naevia to fetch Crixus. On the walk up, Crixus notices that Naevia is not wearing the necklace he gave her. Before she can explain her reasons, Crixus cuts her off. Later she explains to Crixus she isn’t allowed possessions of any kind and to keep it would put them both in grave danger. Crixus, realizing his mistake and the extent of her feelings, kisses her.

Meanwhile, at the pits, Spartacus steps into the ring for a bloody battle whose only rule is to fight to the death. Spartacus wins and upon returning to the ludus tells Doctore that he will fight his way back to being a gladiator. Too late, Doctore tells him; the best Spartacus can hope for is a quick death. An ostracized Spartacus continues to win fights, but with the realization he will not survive much longer. Spartacus goes to Batiatus and offers to lose his next fight and accept certain death. In exchange, Batiatus agrees to bet heavily against him and use the money won to find Sura and bring her to the Ludus.

Spartacus steps into the ring, determined to make a good show of his death. Just as the other fighter is about to finish him off, Spartacus sees two assassins approach Batiatus. Knowing that Sura will be lost forever if Batiatus dies, Spartacus kills his opponent then the second assassin. Though Spartacus saved Batiatus’s life, he has just made his financial problems infinitely worse. Nevertheless, in gratitude for saving his life, Batiatus reinstates Spartacus as a gladiator.

With renewed hope towards finding his wife, Spartacus dedicates himself anew to training. He’ll need it, since Batiatus, desperate for patronage from Magistrate Calavius, has reluctantly agreed to pair Spartacus and his bitter enemy Crixus in a gladiatorial fight to the death with the legendary gladiator Theokoles, “The Shadow of Death.” against whom only one fighter has survived. Doctore is that man, and he tells the two fighters they must put their differences aside and fight together if they have any hope of prevailing. Crixus and Spartacus somehow have to learn to work together.

As if the prospect of losing his two best fighters isn’t enough for Batiatus to worry about, he also learns his great rival was behind the assassination attempt on his life – and so he takes steps to avenge himself. And his wife, Lucretia, is fretful that her illicit lover, Crixus, might perish in the arena, a fear shared by slave girl Naevia, who shares her own secret passion for Crixus. For her part, Lucretia must continue to face the humiliation of being childless.

The games have commenced and as the Magistrate tells the crowd about this attempt to appease the gods, to bring rain to their parched lands, underneath the spectator stands, Doctore wishes Spartacus and Crixus luck. The two fighters step out onto the sands of the arena as they are introduced, Crixus shouting out his trademark call to the crowd: “Capua, shall I begin?” The Magistrate introduces the undefeated Theokoles just as the sky darkens with clouds and the seven foot tall fighter emerges, covered in the scars of a thousand battles, holding two swords and no shield, no armor.

The fight is brutal, intense and unpredictable and by the end, only one gladiator stands.


The rain continues to stream down, the drought a memory, and Batiatus stands before his gladiators, heralding the new day that’s come. He calls forth the Bringer of Rain, the Slayer of the Shadow of Death and the new Champion of Capua: Spartacus. The gladiators cheer wildly. The cheers carry into the infirmary, where a bloody Crixus lies on a slab, barely conscious. Batiatus strolls through his villa with Spartacus and Lucretia, making grandiose claims of theempire he aims to build. He reveals to Spartacus the stunning news that Sura has been found, recently sold to a merchant. Batiatus asserts that his promise is kept, that she is on her way to the Ludus. Spartacus is astonished, remarking on what an honorable man Batiatus is.

Even so, he tells his only friend Varro that once he is reunited with Sura, he plans for both of them to escape the Ludus, and he spells out an elaborate scheme to overcome the guards and to take advantage of the distraction at the Ludus caused by the celebration of Spartacus’ victory. For his part, Barca has his own thoughts of freedom, for himself and for his lover Pietros. As Spartacus, in full armor stands ready to implement his plans for escape and prepares to welcome Sura, his scheme painfully unravels.

Spartacus is suffering, but Batiatus says that despite his grief they must turn their attention to the future. Batiatus declares that he can proceed to mold Spartacus into a great gladiator.

Doctore checks in on the still injured Crixus and asks the Medicus to keep him informed of his feverish condition.    Lucretia tells Crixus that she unfortunately won’t be able to visit him privately down in the Ludus but will send Naevia to attend to his needs. Crixus catches Naevia’s eye at the mention of this good news.

Batiatus receives Mercato, a rich patron who comes to procure gladiators for the games he’s putting on. He’d planned to purchase the services of Crixus but seeing how his injuries have taken him out of action, his thought turns to Spartacus. With the addition of a substantial extra sum, Batiatus sees no problem with this.

Varro is shocked at seeing his wife Aurelia and son Janus. She informs him that she is with child; a child that is not Varro’s. He exits, leaving her in tears.

Spartacus informs Batiatus that he will play in the games with one condition: he will fight alone. Spartacus declares that if the gods are with him he will not fall. Batiatus reluctantly agrees to the deal but with his own condition, that if he is victorious the Thracian inside of him has to die and he must then embrace his new identity.

Spartacus waits in the chutes in the arena, dressed in Roman battle dress, clutching two swords, as six prisoners are led into the arena. The prisoners fan out to attack and Spartacus remains motionless, eyes closed, feeling the sun on his face, a man putting his fate in the gods’ hands.

Mercato is pleased with Batiatus for having put on such a good show. Batiatus enjoys the moment, shares a happy look with Lucretia. Spartacus, blood soaked and exhausted, absorbs the cheers that rain down from the stands. He throws his arms up and declares, “I Am Spartacus!” Batiatus grins from above, in triumphant satisfaction.

Spartacus is now fully the Champion of Capua, clearly in favor with Batiatus, held in awe by some – but still hated by those who can’t forgive Spartacus for living this long when he was clearly supposed to die. One of those is Crixus, the one-t
ime Champion of Capua, who is still healing from the contest with Theokoles. He is none too happy to be supplanted as the top gladiator, or to hear that Batiatus is considering selling him before word gets out that he has fallen so far.

Elsewhere in the Ludus, Varro, who sold himself into the gladiator life to pay off gambling debts, has fallen back on old habits, which pains Spartacus. Upstairs, Lucretia stokes Ilythia’s growing passion for gladiatorial arts, even encouraging her friend to buy one of the newcomers, the well-endowed Segovax. Showing her appreciation, Ilythia introduces the always scheming Lucretia to her circle of friends, which includes Licinia, cousin of the richest man in Rome.

Ilithyia visits a shackled Segovax and promises her new possession that if he will attend to an errand that she requires she will see him free. This sets in motion a series of conflicts that put the very future of the House of Batiatus in question and concludes with a very public humiliation.

Sex, intrigue and betrayal permeate life at Batiatus’ Ludus, as the triumphant Spartacus upsets the old balance of power while scheming by some behind-the-scenes players leads to tragedy.

Lucretia and her new friend Licinia make plans for Licinia’s upcoming visit to the Ludus to engage in carnal pleasure with a gladiator. Licinia chooses Spartacus, drawn by his illustrious status as champion. For her part, Lucretia’s patron Ilythia reveals her own desire for sex with a gladiator, sending Lucretia into a rage when Ilythia makes it known she wants Crixus. The injured gladiator, newly recovered from his wounds, returns to the training square, urged by Doctore to reclaim his position as the Champion of Capua, the title Spartacus now holds. His return is the subject of fascination within the gladiator ranks and in the household.

But it’s the sexual betrayals that cause the most uproar. Rich women seeking thrills, on the ready gladiators doing their duty – all of them disguised by masks – engaging in spirited Roman custom. When identities are revealed, death follows and spoiled rich girl Ilythia finds herself in a precarious, horrifying position for a woman of her status.

Varro and Spartacus begin this episode, fighting side by side in the arena, but the spirit of brotherhood is otherwise nowhere to be found in the Ludus. Batiatus continues to torment his rival Solonius while simultaneously maneuvering to gain power and prestige in Capua, a desire thwarted at every turn by Solonius. Lucretia counsels a distraught Ilythia back to health – she’s still wracked with guilt over the death of Licinia – in exchange for having Ilythia promise to invite her rich and powerful friends to attend the upcoming exhibition.

Crixus and Naevia continue their illicit and dangerous liaisons, even as the former champion plots his return to glory. And young Numerius, son of the magistrate who is celebrating his 15th birthday by staying at the Ludus, is manipulated into doing Ilythia’s tragic bidding.

Spartacus is haunted by a recent event that has taken place at the house of Batiatus. No one can console him; not words from Doctore, or efforts by Mira. Spartacus is soon felled by a fever which brings on strange and revealing dreams that end up guiding him to make some startling discoveries.

As Spartacus recovers, Ashur schemes, showing beyond a doubt that he is a man who serves only one master, himself, and Batiatus goes to ever greater and more perilous lengths to humiliate the powerful Magistrate.

The games begin with the crowd eagerly anticipating Spartacus, and they scream with disappointment when Crixus takes his place in the Primus battle with Pericles. Before long, Crixus proves he’s not done yet.

As the episode ends, the balance of power in Capua has been upended, and the order in the house of Batiatus has been disrupted, perhaps permanently.

Batiatus’ fortunes rise as Glaber returns to Capua to discuss patronage. Spartacus’ allegiance to the House of Batiatus is increasingly strained by revelations of dishonor and betrayal.

Passions and deceptions ignite as Spartacus fights Crixus in a match celebrating Batiatus’ political rise. The fates of Spartacus, his gladiator brethren, and their Roman masters hang in the balance.