An epic film, which follows the Slave revolt tracing the rise and fall of the leaders. Spartacus is rescued from working in an brutally run Libyan mine to be trained as a gladiator by Lentulus Batiatus. The gladiator school is tough but fair - the men are taught to fight, but in the interests of morale as well as profit they are not allowed to kill. As a reward for their hard work, they are sometimes even allowed access to a woman. This is how Spartacus meets Varinia. He treats her kindly, and so a relationship between them begins to develop which later results in marriage.
The routine of the school is disturbed when the very rich and powerful Marcus Licinius Crassus decides to break his journey there. He brings with him two ladies who demand that four gladiators to fight to the death for their amusement. Spartacus is one of those chosen, but although he is defeated in the fight, his opponent refuses to kill him, instead he attempts an attack on Crassus and is killed and hanged by his feet till he rots. Spartacus then finds out that Varinia has been sold to Crassus, Spartacus kills the overseer in a pot of soup. Then the gladiators break out.
As the gladiators sweep through the southern part of Italy, looting villages and freeing slaves. Spartacus, the leader, hopes that they will be able to escape to freedom, and to be able to return home. They are under the command of young Glabrus, who respects Crassus as a role-model. Spartacus has his force in respectable shape as the Romans approach. He also negotiated an escape from Italy with the cooperation of the Mediterranean pirates, which fails. Spartacus learns that the Roman army has camped nearby without the normal defense. They raid the camp that night. It's a disaster for the Romans. Their force is wiped out and the camp destroyed. Glabrus is taken prisoner and returned to Rome in disgrace. Glabrus is defeated in the fight to an outraged Senate....