The story begins with an unnamed Thracian’s involvement in the war against the Getae in Roman auxiliary under the command of the legatus, Claudius Glaber. Glaber, persuaded by his wife Ilithyia to seek greater glory, instead decides to confront the forces of Mithradates. The Thracian, feeling betrayed, leads a mutiny against Glaber, and returns to find his village destroyed. The Thracian and his wife Sura are captured by Glaber the next day; the Thracian is condemned to die in the arena for inciting mass desertion of the auxiliary, and Sura is condemned to slavery. The Thracian is sentenced to death, and is forced to fight four gladiators. However, he manages to kill the gladiators, and senator Albinius commutes the prisoner's punishment to slavery. Since the prisoner's true name is unknown, Batiatus suggests to Albinius to name him "Spartacus", because he fought like the ferocious Thracian king of that name.
Seeing the Thracian's skill and popularity with the crowd, Lentulus Batiatus purchases him for training in his ludus in Capua. Spartacus joins Batiatus’ ludus under the tutelage of Doctore, a former gladiator but fellow slave. He is befriended by Varro, a Roman who sold himself into slavery in order to pay his debts and support his family. However, he is harassed by more senior gladiators, notably Crixus, an undefeated Gaul, and Barca, a Carthaginian. Soon, Spartacus learns that Sura was sold to a Syrian slave trader. Batiatus, who has been unable to control Spartacus during his first days of training, discovers the instrument of his taming, and persuades Spartacus to fight for his and Sura's freedom.
Andy Whitfield as Spartacus – a Thracian who becomes a gladiator in the ludus of Lentulus Batiatus. Producer Rob Tapert said that crew wanted an unknown actor to portray the role; while Whitfield has appeared in Australian television and film, Spartacus marked his United States debut.
Erin Cummings as Sura – the wife of Spartacus. She is enslaved after her husband rebels against the Romans.
In the series premiere, Thracian warrior Spartacus and his fellow fighters align themselves with Rome to protect their homeland. But disenchantment with the Romans soon sets in when their allies' battle strategies leave their village unprotected from barbarian invaders. Spartacus leads a rebellion and deserts the Roman army to return to his village and his wife. Invaders attack and he and his wife escape, only to be captured by the Romans. Spartacus's wife, Sura, is forced into slavery and Spartacus and the other deserters are taken to the arena in Capua to publicly be put to death by gladiators where he proves his worth.
Enslaved warrior Spartacus enters the ludus of Batiatus to receive training to fight as a gladiator. He quickly makes an enemy of the champion of Capua, Crixus, and receives training by the whip-wielding taskmaster Doctore. He meets Varro, a fellow recruit, who becomes his ally in training. Spartacus's owner, the crafty Batiatus, makes him an offer he finds difficult to refuse. Spartacus faces the test which determines whether he is fit to be a gladiator and bests Crixus through the use of a small ribbon of cloth belonging to his wife when Crixus stops fighting to gloat. Spartacus swears to the oath of the brotherhood of the gladiator.
As the gladiators prep for an important competition that will be the highlight of a festival, Spartacus cleverly maneuvers to secure the right to battle Crixus, the unbeaten champion of Capua, in the main event. Despite Lucretia's objections, Batiatus reminds her that Spartacus' bravery and previous exploits have "struck a chord with the public's interest." Meanwhile, Crixus is desired by a number of noblewomen, but he is enamored of one of Lucretia's slaves.
"The Thing in the Pit"
Aaron Helbing & Todd Helbing
February 12, 2010 (2010-02-12)
Spartacus' disgrace at surrendering to Crixus leads Batiatus to punish him by forcing the Thracian to fight a mano in the "pits of the underworld," a hellish, vicious subterranean arena where anything goes. Meanwhile, when the slave girl Naevia rejects Crixus' gift, he misunderstands the reason for her refusal.
Bitter enemies Spartacus and Crixus are charged with learning to fight as a team in order to take on an unbeaten champion in the arena. Meanwhile, a financially strapped Batiatus receives an opportunity of a lifetime that involved his battling band of gladiators.
Lies, distrust and duplicity plague the house of Batiatus and impact the hopes of both Barca and Spartacus, who have benefited from good fortune and envision a future away from the grounds. Barca expects to buy his and his lover's way out, while Spartacus anticipates his promised reunion with his enslaved wife, part of his reward for a monumental victory in the arena. But just in case things go wrong, Spartacus dreams and schemes an escape plan.
"Great and Unfortunate Things"
Brent Fletcher & Steven S. DeKnight
March 5, 2010 (2010-03-05)
Spartacus has to find new meaning after his world is changed by the death of his wife and finds it in the arena. In the absence of Barca, Pietros struggles without a protector in the ludus and the attentions of Gnaeus. Varro is visited by his wife and receives unwelcome news. Spartacus faces the truth about those left behind by warriors when they leave through speaking with Pietros. After a tragedy occurs, Spartacus faces off with Gnaeus and earns Batiatus's displeasure. Doctore seeks the truth behind Barca's departure from the ludus.
Spartacus continues to embrace his new standing as the champion of Capua. The former champion, Crixus, recovers from his wounds and struggles to return to training to protect himself from being sold by Batiatus because he is suspected of being too damaged to be the fighter that he once was. The ludus acquires 6 new recruits that begin training, and Ilythia finances one of the recruits with her own coin. Impulsively, she makes promises of freedom to her champion in training in exchange for an act he must carry out. When he is discovered in an attempt to carry out this act, he finds himself maimed and crucified as punishment. Crixus and Spartacus find the meaning of brotherhood with one another, but still do not become great friends.
Licinia, a rich noble woman and cousin of Marcus Crassus, the senator, has asked Lucretia to taste the wares of ludus, she would have a masked encounter with Spartacus. Lucretia, having a mind that Spartacus would not satisfy the needs of "a noble Roman woman", prods a servant to prepare him for his encounter with Licina. Ilythia is of the same mind and, jealous of her rich friend's desires, also wants to have a secret masked encounter but with Crixus. Enraged, Lucretia has other plans in mind for her friend. Ilythia unknowingly has sex with Spartacus before Licinia and Lucretia arrive and discover her. In a rage, Ilythia murders Licinia after it is revealed that they both had intended to see her succumb to scandal of allowing Spartacus to sleep with his enemy's wife. Varro's wife has gone missing, and Spartacus arranges for one of the female house slaves to search for her. Ashur, slighted, makes a deal with the enemy of Batiatus.
Spartacus and Crixus are set up to fight in an exhibition match for Numerius' coming of age party, when he will don the toga virilis, but Crixus is intent on blood. Ilythia seduces Numerius to get Spartacus to fight, and then kill, Varro instead.
Dan Filie & Patricia Wells (Story)
Daniel Knauf (Teleplay)
April 2, 2010 (2010-04-02)
Spartacus wrestles with the death of Varro and admits to Varro's wife Aurelia that his best friend died by his hands. A festering wound from the fight with Varro weakens Spartacus. While he recuperates with the help of the medicus and Mira, visions of Varro and Sura haunt his feverish dreams, urging him to "tend the wound". As Crixus reclaims some of his lost glory, Spartacus discovers Batiatus' hand in Sura's death. Batiatus kidnaps senator Calavius and Ashur aids in setting up Solonius for Calavius' murder.
Lucretia and Batiatus anticipate the arrival of Glaber, the husband of Ilythia; Spartacus has a plan for revenge against Batiatus for the death of his wife Sura.Spartacus is warned by Mira that if he plans to such, he is risking not only his life but the life of all slaves due to the Roman Laws. He is also put to fight against Glaber's men.
"Kill Them All"
April 16, 2010 (2010-04-16)
In order to get his revenge, Spartacus enlists the help of an accomplice.
The series airs in Canada on TMN beginning on January 25, 2010.RTL 5 announced in their January newsletter that Spartacus: Blood and Sand will come to the Netherlands in March 2010. In Australia the Seven Network has bought the rights and will likely air it on the 7th too. In the United Kingdom, Bravo will air it sometime in their Summer season.
Netflix is also airing the series. The episodes are released as streaming content within hours after airing in the United States.
The premiere episode of the series set a record for Starz, with 553,000 viewers on their network, and another 460,000 on Encore, where the show was available only that weekend. Critical reception of the first episode was varied; the review aggregate website Metacritic gave the show a score of 54 out of 100. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave it the grade B+, saying it "might prove to be the not-at-all-guilty pleasure of the season." At the other end of the spectrum, Barry Garron of the Hollywood Reporter suggested that with "such thin stories...it's small wonder that sex and violence are used to take up the slack."
Barca is described as being the last prisoner left alive from the fall of Carthage. However, Carthage was destroyed by Rome in 146 BC (at the end of the Third Punic War), seven decades before the time in which the series is set.
Lentulus Batiatus' praenomen is given as "Quintus". However, the praenomen of the historical Batiatus was "Gnaeus".
Roman legionaries are portrayed wearing lorica segmentata. However, the first attested use of this type of armor dates to around 9 BC, six decades after Spartacus' revolt.
Ilythia's father is still alive, and she is depicted as able to purchase a slave. Patria potestas meant that a son or daughter could only own property once their father had died. Also, Ilythia has an allowance from her husband. Historically, the law prevented gifts from a man to his wife, including allowances. Regardless, anything in the possession of a woman with a living father would have belonged to him.
In the show, husbands have the right to kill their wives. Historically, husbands had no rights at all over their wives in marriages sine manu (almost all marriages at this point in time) and lacked the right of life over death in marriages cum manu (which at this time was very rare and soon to disappear).