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Masses & Mainstream
July, 1951, pp 21-35


From a Novel by HOWARD FAST

AUTHORS NOTE: In January of 1950, I began to lay out in my mind and assemble material for a book on Spartacus and the servile insurrection which he led. I had always been fascinated by the story of this slave who shook great Rome to her very foundations and who became a deathless symbol of class resistance and class struggle. Not only was there, in our own time, the brave struggle against such odds of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht and their League of Spartacus; but through the centuries the name of Spartacus was always on the lips of the most oppressed, the most wretched, and yet the most militant elements of society. I read a great deal; I struggled with the material, as writers do; and then, in April of that year, I began to write.
Shortly afterwards, I was sent to prison, where I found that an American jail is not conducive to creative writing. But l continued my reading and my reconstruction of a background for the story. However, in that time, my concept of what I wanted to do changed. The storm of Korea began while I was in jail; a catalyst had come into the history of my own time and my own land, and living with the price one pays for trying to write truthfully, I decided that I would have to write what most needed to be written.
Thus, for two months after I came out of jail, I worked on a narrative account of the Peekskill incident. I finished that, but Spartacus still lived with me. He was no ghost that one could easily set aside - but rather did he more and more take on meaning and purpose for our own time.
However, the form of the story changed. It is difficult to explain the creative process only I continued because so little of it takes place in front of a typewriter. Like some old-fashioned dishes, a thoughtful book cooks for a long, long time, and the writer must live out at least some of the ingredients. Which is why the pursuit of literature has become an exceedingly nerve-wracking and dangerous profession in today's America.
I began to see a wonderful continuity between that first great class war - there were others before it, but none of such dimension - and all the times that followed. There was a ladder to the stars which man fought to climb from the beginning of civilization, and no rungs are missing. Only our knowledge has empty spots. And today, at long last, after so much pain and suffering and misery and oppression, the goal of that ladder is in sight. This concept, a concept of the interconnection of each and every blow against oppression, of each and every whiplash of oppression, became the theme of what I wanted to write. And as might be expected, its first impact was to stop me cold. It was too big and too much, and with the lack of writing facilities in the jails of Truman-democracy, I could hardly even schedule it properly.
Eventually, I decided to begin. It may take twenty years to write the whole thing, or it may never be all written. That doesn't matter. Perhaps I will write some of it and others will write the rest of it - and we are too near the top of the ladder to stop writing in deference to a little man from Missouri.
The section reprinted here is taken from the first volume of a very long book. I hope to finish this first volume soon, and I hope to publish it as a book by itself. What follows is a tale of a part of the life of Spartacus, as told by Batiatus, the lanista or owner of a school for gladiators, to Crassus, the Roman millionaire and general who finally put down the servile revolt. It is not history in a literal, mechanical sense. In those times, and more recently too, history was written by the ruling class for the purposes of the ruling class. We know almost nothing of who Spartacus was or where he came from. The men he loved and who loved him were all slain, and no one in his cause ever put down one word concerning him which survived.
The historians of patrician Rome reconstructed him according to their lights and their needs. I have tried to bring him alive in terms of that logic of history which belongs to the working class and its allies.

- H. F.

SO IT was that before there was a Christian hell in books and sermons - and perhaps afterwards too - there was a hell on earth that men saw and looked at and knew well indeed. For it is the nature of man that he can only write of the hells he has first created himself.
In the month of July, when it is dry and awful, go up the Nile from Thebes. Go up to the First Cataract. Already you are in the devil's own land. See how the ribbon of green along the riverside has shrunk and withered! See how the hills and mounds of the desert have changed to a finer and finer sand. Smoke and powder; the wind touches it and it bursts up here and it throws out tentacles there. Where the river flows slowly - and it does in the dry time - a crust of white powder lays over it. The powder is in the air too, and it is already very hot.
But at least there is a little wind in this place. Now you have passed the First Cataract, and you must strike out into the Nubian Desert, which lies southward and eastward. Go into the desert far enough to lose the little wind that survived over the river, but not far enough to catch even a breath of breeze from the Red Sea. And now go southward.
Suddenly, the air is still and the earth is dead. Only the air is alive, and the air is glazed with heat and shimmering with heat, and man's senses are no longer valid, for he sees nothing as it is, but everything bent and warped and curved by the heat. And the desert has changed too. It is a mistaken notion many people hold that desert is everywhere the same; but desert means only a lack of water, and this lack of water varies enormously in degree, and the desert varies too according to the nature of the soil or landscape where the desert is. There is rock desert and mountain desert and sand desert, and white salt desert and lava desert - and there is also the terrible desert of drifting white powder, where death is the absolute signature.
Here, there grows nothing at all. Not the dry, twisted, tough shrubbery of the rock desert; not the lonely tumbleweeds of the sand desert, but nothing at all.
Go into this desert then. Plod through the white powder and feel how wave after wave of the dreadful heat beats down upon your back. As hot as it can be and yet allow a man to live, so is it here. Make a track through this hot and terrible desert, and time and space become boundless and monstrous. But you go on and on and on and on. What is hell? Hell begins when the simple and necessary acts of life become monstrous, and this knowledge has been shared through all the ages by those who taste the hell men make on earth. Now it is frightful to walk, to breathe, to see, to think.
But this does not go on forever. Suddenly, it is delineated, and the further aspect of hell appears. Black ridges show ahead of you, strange, nightmarish black ridges. This is the black stone escarpment. You go on toward the black stone, and then you see that it is streaked through and through with veins of shining white marble. Oh, how bright this marble is! Oh, how it gleams and shines and with what heavenly lustre! But it must have a heavenly lustre, for the streets of heaven are paved with gold, and the white marble is rich with gold. That is why men came to this place, and that is why you are coming here, because the marble is rich and heavy with gold.

GO CLOSER and see. It was long ago that the Egyptians' Pharaohs discovered this black rock escarpment, and in those days they had only tools of copper and bronze. So they could chip and scratch at the surface, but little more. But after generations of scratching at the surface, the gold gave out and it was necessary to go into the black rock and cut away the white marble. This was made possible because the age of copper was past and the age of iron had come, and now men could work the marble with picks and iron wedges and eighteen-pound sledges.
But a new kind of man was needed. The heat and the dust and the physical contortions necessary to follow the twisting gold-bearing veins into the rock made it impossible to employ peasants either from Ethiopia or from Egypt, and the ordinary slave cost too much and died too quickly. So to this place were brought war-hardened soldiers taken captive and children who were koruu, bred from slaves who were bred from slaves in a process where only the toughest and the hardest could survive. And children were needed, for when the veins narrowed, deep inside the black rock escarpment, only a child could work there.
The old splendor and power of the Pharaohs passed away and the purses of the Greek kings of Egypt dwindled; the hand of Rome lay over them and the slave dealers of Rome took over the operation of the mines. In any case, no one but Romans knew how to work slaves properly.
So you come to the mines as Spartacus did, one hundred and twenty two Thracians chained neck to neck, carrying their burning hot chains across the desert all the way from the First Cataract. The twelfth man from the front of the line is Spartacus. He is almost naked, as they all are almost naked, and soon he will be entirely naked. He wears a shred of a loin cloth, and his hair is long and he is bearded, just as every man in the line is long-haired and bearded. His sandals have worn through, but he wears the little that is left of them for what protection it may offer; for though the skin of his feet is a quarter of an inch thick and as tough as leather, it is nor enough protection against the burning desert sands.
What is he like, this man Spartacus? He is twenty-three years old as he carries his chain across the desert, but it is not marked on him; for his kind, there is an agelessness of toil, no youth and no manhood and no growing old, but only the agelessness of toil. From head to foot and hair and beard and face, he is covered with the powdery white sand, but underneath the sand his skin is burned brown as his dark, intense eyes, which peer out of his cadaverous face like hateful coals.
Tall or short is hard to say, for men in chains do not walk erect, but the body is whipcord, sun-jerked meat, dry and waterless but not fleshless. For so many generations there was a process of gleaning out, winnowing out, and on the stony hill of Thrace the living was never easy, so that what survived is hard and with a tight clutch on life. The handful of wheat upon which he feeds each day, the flat, hard barley cakes are sucked dry of every shred of sustenance and the body is young enough to sustain itself. The neck is thick and muscular, but there are festering sores where the bronze collar rests. The shoulders are padded with muscle, and so equal are the proportions of the body that the man looks smaller than he is. The face is broad, and because the nose was broken once by the blow of an overseer's rod, it appears flatter than it actually is, and since the dark eyes are wide-set, it takes on a gentle, sheep-like expression. Under the beard and the dust, the mouth is large and full-lipped, sensuous and sensitive, and if the lips move back - in a grimace, not in a smile - you see that the teeth are white and even. The hands are large and square and as beautiful as some hands can be; indeed, the only thing about him that is beautiful are his hands.
This, then, is Spartacus, the Thracian slave, the son of a slave who was the son of a slave. No man knows his destiny, and the future is not a book to be read, and even the past - when the past is toil and nothing else but toil - can dissolve into a murky bed of various pain. This, then, is Spartacus, who does not know the future and has no cause to remember the past, and it has never occurred to him that those who toil shall ever do other than toil, nor has it occurred to him that there will ever be a time when men do not toil with the lash across their backs.
What does he think of as he plods across the hot sand? Well, it should be known that when men carry a chain, they think of little, of very little, and most of the time it is better not to think of more than when you will eat again, drink again, sleep again. So there are not complex thoughts in the mind of Spartacus or in the minds of any of his Thracian comrades who carry the chain with him. You make men like beasts and they do not think of angels.

BUT now it is the end of a day and the scene is changing, and men like these clutch at little bits of excitement and change. Spartacus looks up, and there is the black ribbon of the escarpment. There is a geography of slaves, and though they do not know the shape of the seas, the height of the mountains or the course of the rivers, they know well enough of the silver mines of Spain, the gold mines of Arabia, the iron mines of North Africa, the copper mines of the Caucasus and the tin mines of Gaul. There is their own lexicon of horror, their own refuge in knowledge of another place worse than where they are; but worse than the black escarpment of Nubia is nothing in the whole wide world.
Spartacus looks at it; the others look at it, and the whole line halts its plodding, painful motion, and the camels with their burden of water and wheat also hair, even as do the overseers with their whips and their pikes. Everyone looks at the black ribbon of hell. And then the line goes on.
The sun is sinking behind the black rock when they reach it, and it has become blacker, more savage, more ominous. It is the end of the day's work and the slaves are emerging from the shafts.
"What are they, what are they?" thinks Spartacus.
And the man behind him whispers, "God help me!"
But God will not help him here. God is not here; what would God be doing here? And then Spartacus realizes that these things he sees are not some strange species of the desert, but men like himself and children such as he was once. That is what they are. But the difference in them has been composed from within and from without; and to those forces which shaped them into something other than humankind, there has been an inner response, a fading away of the desire or need to be human. Just see them - see them. The heart of Spartacus, which has become in the process of years like a stone, begins to contract with fear and horror. The wells of pity in him, which he believes to be dried up, are wet again, and his dehydrated body is still capable of tears. He looks at them. The whip lays on his back for him to move on, but still he stands and looks at them.
They have been crawling in the shafts, and now when they come out, they still crawl like animals. They have not bathed since they are here, nor will they ever bathe again. Their skins are patchworks of black dust and brown dirt; their hair is long and tangled, and when they are not children, they are bearded. Some are black men and some are white men, but the difference now is so little that one hardly remarks upon it. They all have ugly callouses on knees and elbows, and they are naked, completely naked. Why not? Will clothes keep them alive longer? The mine has only one purpose, to bring profits to the Roman shareholders, and even shreds of dirty cloth cost something.
Yet they wear an article of clothing. Each has upon his neck a bronze or an iron collar, and as they come crawling down the black rock, the overseers snap each collar onto a long chain, and when there are twenty chained together, they plod to their quarters. It must be noted that no one ever escaped from the Nubian mines; no one could escape. A year in these mines, and how can one ever belong to the world of men again? The chain is a symbol more than a need.
Spartacus stares at them and seeks for his own kind, his own race, the humankind, which is race and kind when a man is a slave. "Talk," he says to himself, "talk to each other." But they do not talk. They are silent as death. "Smile," he pleads to himself. But no one smiles.
They carry their tools with them, the iron picks, crowbars and chisels. Many of them have crude lamps strapped onto their heads. The children, skinny as spiders, twitch as they walk and constantly blink at the light. These children never grow up; they are good for two years at the most, after they come to the mines, but there is no other way to follow the gold-bearing stone when the veins narrow and twist. They carry their chains by the Thracians, but they never even turn their heads to look at the newcomers. They have no curiosity. They don't care.
And Spartacus knows. "In a little while, I will not care," he says to himself. And this is more frightening than anything else.

NOW the slaves go to eat, and the Thracians are taken with them. The rock shelter, which is their barracks, is built against the base of the escarpment itself. It was built a long, long time ago. No one can remember when was built. It is built of massive slabs of rough-hewn black stone and there is no light inside, and ventilation only from the opening at each end. It has never been cleaned. The filth of decades has rotted on its floor and hardened on its floor. The overseers never enter the place. If there should be trouble inside, then food and water are withheld; when they have been long enough without food and water, the slaves become docile and crawl out like the animals they are. When someone dies inside, the slaves bring the body out. But sometimes a little child will die deep inside the long barracks, and it will not be noticed and he will not be missed until the corruption of his body reveals him. That is the kind of a place the barracks is.
The slaves go in without their chains. At the entrance, they are unchained and given a wooden bowl of food and a leathern jack of water. The jack contains a little less than a quart of water, and this is their ration twice a day. But two quarts of water a day is not enough to replace what the heat takes in so dry a place, and thus the slaves are subjected to a gradual process of progressive dehydration. If other things do not kill them, sooner or later this destroys their kidneys and when the pain is too bad for them to work, they are driven out to the desert to die.
All these things, Spartacus knows. The knowledge of slaves is his, and the community of slaves is his. He was born into it; he grew in it; he matured in it. No animal could survive this way; the pattern for survival is not simple; it is not an easy thing; it is far more complex and thoughtful and difficult than all of the problems faced by people who never confront this one. And there is a reason for it too. It is just that Spartacus does not know the reason.
Now he will survive. He is adapting, flexing, conditioning, acclimatizing, sensitizing; he is a mechanism of profound fluidity and flexibility. His body conserves strength from the freedom of release from the chain. How long he and his comrades carried that chain, across the sea, up the River Nile, across the desert! Weeks and weeks of the chain, and now he is free of it. He is light as a feather, but that found strength must not be wasted. He accepts his water - more water than he has seen in weeks. He will not gulp it and piss it out in waste. He will guard it and sip at it for hours, so that every possible drop of it may sink into the tissues of his body. He takes his food, wheat and barley gruel cooked with dry locusts. Well, there is strength and life in dry locusts, and wheat and barley are the fabric of his flesh. He has eaten worse, and all food must be honored; those who dishonor food, even in thought, become enemies of food, and soon they die. He walks into the darkness of the barracks, and the fetid wave of rotten smell claws at his senses. But no man dies of a smell, and only fools or free men can afford the luxury of vomiting. He will not waste an ounce of the contents of stomach in such a fashion. He will not fight this smell; such things cannot be fought. Instead, he will embrace this smell; he will welcome it and let it seep into him and soon it will have no terrors for him.
He walks in the dark, and his feet guide him. His feet are like eyes. He must not trip or fall, for in one hand he carries food and in the other, water. Now he guides over to the stone wall and sits down with his back against it. It is not so bad here. The stone is cool and he has support for his back. He eats and drinks. And all around him are the movements and breathing and chewing of other men and children who do exactly as he does, and within him the expert organs of his body help him and expertly extract what they need from the little food and little water. He picks the last grain of food from his bowl, drinks down what is left, and licks the inside of the wood. He is not conditioned by appetite; food is survival; every small speck and stain of food is survival.

NOW the food is eaten, and some of those who have eaten are more content and others give way to despair. Not all despair has vanished from this place; hope may go, but despair clings more stubbornly, and there are groans and tears and sighs, and somewhere there is a wavering scream. And there is even a little talk, and a broken voice which calls, "Spartacus - where are you?"
"Here, I am here, Thracian," he answers.
"Here is the Thracian," another voice says. "Thracian, Thracian." They are his people, and they gather around him. He feels their hands as they press close to him. Perhaps the other slaves listen, and in any case, they are deeply silent. It is only the due of newcomers in hell. Perhaps those who came here earlier are remembering now what mostly they fear to remember. Some understand the words of the Attic tongue and others don't. Perhaps somewhere, even, there is a memory of the snow-topped mountains of Thrace, the blessed, blessed coolness, the brooks running through the pine forests and the black goats leaping among the rocks. Who knows what memories persist among the damned people of the black escarpment?
"Thracian," they call him, and now he feels them on every side, and when he stretches out a hand he feels the face of one of them, all covered with tears. Ah, tears are a waste.
"Where are we, Spartacus, where are we?" one of them whispers.
"We are not lost. We remember how we came."
"Who will remember us?"
"We are not lost," he repeats.
"But who will remember us?"
One cannot talk in such a fashion. He is like a father to them. For men twice his years, he is a father in the old tribal way. They are all Thracians, but he is the Thracian. So he chants to them softly, like a father telling a tale to his children:

"As on the beach where churning water broke,
In close array before the western wind,
Churning finely up from the ocean deeps,
And arching as it breaks upon the land,
Its white foam spewing hard and far,
Just so in such array the Danaans moved
Unhesitating to the battle line - "

He captures them, and holds their misery, thinking to himself, "What a wonder, what a magic in the old chant!" He eases them out of this terrible darkness and they stand on the pearly beaches of Troy. There are the white towers of the city! There are the golden, bronze-girt warriors! The soft chant rises and falls and loosens the knots of terror and anxiety, and in the darkness there is shuffling and motion. The slaves do not have to know Greek, and indeed the Thracian dialect of Spartacus is little enough like the tongue of Attica; they know of the chant, where the old wisdom of a people is preserved and kept for the time of trial....
Finally, Spartacus lays himself down to sleep. He will sleep. Young as he is, he long ago met and conquered the terrible enemy of sleeplessness. Now he composes himself and explores the memories of childhood. He wants cool, clear blue sky and sunshine and soft breezes, and all of these are there. He lies among the pines, watching the goats graze, and an old, old man is beside him. The old man teaches him to read. With a stick, the old man traces letter after letter in the dirt. "Read and learn, my child," the old man tells him. "So do we who are slaves carry a weapon with us. Without it, we are like the beasts in the fields. The same god who gave fire to men gave them the power to write down his thoughts, so that they may recall the thoughts of the gods in the golden time of long ago. Then men were close to the gods and talked with them at will, and there were no slaves then. And that time will come again."
So Spartacus remembers, and presently his memory turns into a dream, and presently he sleeps....

HE is awakened in the morning by the beating of a drum. The drum is beaten at the entrance to the barracks, and its crash echoes and re-echoes through the stone cavern. He rises, and all about him he hears his fellow slaves rising. They move in the pitch darkness toward the entrance. Spartacus takes his cup and bowl with him; if he had forgotten it, there would have been no food or drink for him this day; but he is wise in the ways of slavery, and there is not such great variation in the manner of slaver that he should not anticipate. As he moves, he feels the press of bodies around him, and he lets himself move with them to the opening at the end of the stone barracks. And all the while, the drum continues its crashing beat.
It is the hour before the dawn, and now the desert is as cool as it will ever be. In this single hour of the day, the desert is a friend. A gentle breeze cools the face of the black escarpment. The sky is a wonderful fading blue-black, and the twinkling stars gently disappear, the only womanly things in this cheerless, hopeless world of men. Even slaves in the gold mines of Nubia - from which none ever returns - must have a little surcease; and thus they are given the hour before dawn, so that a poignant bitter-sweet may fill their hearts and revive their hopes.
The overseers stand to one side, grouped together, munching bread and sucking at water. Not for another four hours will the slaves be fed or watered, but it is one thing to be an overseer and another to be a slave. The overseers are wrapped in woolen cloaks, and each carries a whip, a weighted billy and a long knife. Who are these men, these overseers? What brings them to this terrible womanless place in the desert?
They are men of Alexandria, bitter, hard men, and they are here because the pay is high, and because they get a percentage of all the gold the mines produce. They are here with their own dreams of wealth and leisure, and with the promise of Roman citizenship when they have served five years. They live for the future, when they will rent an apartment in one of the tenements in Rome, when they will each of them buy three or four or five slave girls to sleep with and to serve them, and when they will spend each day at the games or at the baths, and when they will be drunk each night. They believe that in coming to this hell, they heighten their future earthly heaven; but the truth of the matter is that they, like all prison guards, require the petty lordship of the damned more than perfume and wine and women.
They are strange men, a unique product of the slums of Alexandria, and the language they talk is a jargon of Aramaic and Greek. It is two and a half centuries since the Greeks conquered Egypt, and these overseers are not Egyptians and not Greeks, but Alexandrians. Which means that they are versatile in their corruption, cynical in their outlook, and believing of no gods at all. Their lusts are warped but commonplace; they lie with men and they sleep a drugged sleep over the juice of the Khat leaves, which grow on the coast of the Red Sea.
These are the men whom Spartacus watches, there in the cool hour before the dawn, as the slaves plod from the great stone barracks, shoulder their chains and go toward the escarpment. These will be his masters; and over him they will hold the power of life and the power of death; and so he watches for small differences, habits, mannerisms and indications. In the mines, there are no good masters, but it may be that there will be some less cruel and less sadistic than others. He watches them detach themselves, one by one, to take over where the slaves are shaping up. It is still so dark that he cannot distinguish subtleties of face and feature, but his is a practiced eye in such matters, and even in the walk and heft of a man there is definition.
It is cool now, and the slaves are naked. Not even a loincloth hides their pitiful, futile organs of sex, and they stand and shiver and wind their arms around their bodies. Anger comes slowly to Spartacus, for anger is not productive in the life of a slave, but he thinks, "All things but this we can bear, but when there is not even a scrap of cloth to cover our parts, we are like animals." And then revises it in his mind, "No - less than animals. For when the Romans took the land where we were owned and the plantation where we labored, the beasts were left in the field and only we were sorted out for the mines.

NOW the drum stops its wracking sound and the overseers uncoil their whips and crack the stiffness out of the bull-hide, so that the air is full of a snapping and crackling music. They lay the whips in the air, for it is too early to lash the flesh, and the gangs move forward. It is lighter now, and Spartacus can clearly see the skinny, shivering children who will crawl down into the belly of the earth and claw at the white stone where the gold is found. The other Thracians also see, for they crowd close around Spartacus, and some of them whisper:
"Father, oh father, what kind of a hell is this!"
"It will be all right," Spartacus says; for when you are called father by those old enough to be your father, what else is there to say? So he says the words which he must say.
Now all the gangs have gone toward the escarpment, and only the huddled group of Thracians remain. A half dozen overseers are left, and led by one of their group, their whips dragging tracks through the sand, they move toward the newcomers. One of the overseers speaks and demands, in his thick jargon,
"Who is your leader, Thracians?"
No answer.
"It is too early for the whip, Thracians."
Now Spartacus says, "They call me father."
The overseer looks him up and down and takes his measure. "You are young to be called father."
"It is the custom in our land."
"We have other customs here, father. When the child sins, the father is whipped. Do you hear me?"
"I hear you."
"Then listen, all of you Thracians. This is a bad place, but it can be worse. When you live, we ask work and obedience. When you die we ask little. In other places, it is better to live than to die. But here we can make it better to die than to live. Do you understand me, Thracians?"
The sun is rising now. They are chained and they carry their chain to the escarpment. Then the chain is removed. The brief coolness of the morning is already gone. They are given tools, iron picks, sledges, and iron wedges. They are shown a streak of white in the black rock at the base of the escarpment. It may be the beginning of the vein; it may be nothing at all. They are to cut away the black rock and expose the gold-bearing stone.
Now the sun is in the sky, and the terrible heat of the day begins again. Pick and sledge and wedge. Spartacus swings a hammer. Each hour, there is a pound more of weight in the feel of the hammer. Hard he is, but never before in his life of toil did he do such work as this, and soon every muscle of his body strains and whimpers with the tension. It is simple to say that a hammer weighs eighteen pounds; but there are no words to tell the tortures of a man who swings such a hammer hour after hour. And here, where water is so precious, Spartacus begins to sweat. It oozes from his skin; it runs from his forehead down into his eyes; he wills with all the strength of his will that the sweat should stop; he knows that in this climate, to sweat is to perish. But the sweat will not stop, and thirst becomes a savage, aching, terrible animal inside of him.
Four hours are forever; four hours are eternity. Who knows better than a slave how to control the desires of a body, but four hours are forever, and when the water bags are passed through the gangs, Spartacus feels that he is dying of thirst. As do all the Thracians and they drain the leather jacks of the crawling green and blessed fluid. And then they know what they have done.
These are the gold mines of Nubia. By midday, their strength and power to work is ebbing and then the whips begin to urge them on. Oh, there is a great mastery of the whip in the hands of an overseer; it can touch any part of the body, delicately, lightly, threateningly, warningly. It can touch a man's groin or his mouth or his back or his brow. It is like an instrument, and it can play music on the body of a man. Now thirst is ten times worse than before, but the water is gone, and there will be no more water until the day's work is over. And such a day is eternity.
And yet it ends. Everything ends. There is a time of beginning and a time of ending. Once again, the drum beats, and the day's work is over.
Spartacus lets go of the hammer and looks at his bleeding hands. Some of the Thracians sit down. One, a lad of eighteen, rolls over and lies on his side, his legs drawn up in tight agony. Spartacus goes to him.
"Father - father, is that you?"
"Yes, yes," Spartacus says, and he kisses the lad on his brow.
"Then kiss me on my lips, for I am dying, my father, and what is left of my soul I want to give to you."
Then Spartacus kisses him, but he cannot weep, for he is dry and singed, like burnt leather.