Thomas Gordon compares the Greatness of Spartacus with that of Julius Caesar (1721)

Thomas Gordon

Found in Cato’s Letters, vol. 2 June 24, 1721 to March 3, 1722 (LF ed.)

The USA cable channel made a remake (first done brilliantly by Stanley Kubrick over 40 years ago) of the story of “Spartacus” who led a slave revolt against the Roman Empire. Here is what one of our authors (Thomas Gordon from Cato’s Letters (1721)) has to say about Spartacus, in comparison with Julius Caesar:

But there is an instance in the Roman history, that will set this matter yet in a fuller light; it is the story of Spartacus, a Thracian slave and gladiator, who bid fair for being lord of the Roman world. He seems to me to have had personal qualifications and abilities, as great as those of Caesar, without Caesar’s birth and education, and without the measure of Caesar’s guilt. For I hope all mankind will allow it a less crime in any man to attempt to recover his own liberty, than wantonly and cruelly to destroy the liberty of his country.

The idea of having a quote of the month or quote of the week was to highlight some recently added text which had something particularly apt to say about mankind’s struggle for Liberty and against the intrusions on that liberty by Power - hence the title of this collection “Quotations about Liberty and Power”. It was also hoped that the quote would inspire readers to delve more deeply into the online collection, to follow the links provided to other books by the author or related subject matter, and to generally explore the website and its resources.

What should be the first Quote for a project of the scope of the Online Library of Liberty? The OLL website went live to the public in March 2004 with nearly 300 titles so the possibilities for selection were quite large. It was decided to choose Cato’s Letters by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon because it was a book published by Liberty Fund and because the two authors had had a profound effect on bringing to the attention of the American colonists the threat posed to their liberties by the British Empire and its corrupt government. A secondary factor was the recent showing on cable television of a movie about the Roman slave Spartacus who lead one of the more significant slave revolts against the Roman Empire in 73 BC. Not surprisingly, this symbolic event was discussed by Trenchard and Gordon in their attacks on the British Empire in the 1720s. In fact, Trenchard and Gordon were not alone in using the example of “Cato” to symbolize the struggle for liberty against power. For many people in the 18th century Shakespeare’s play about Julius Caesar still carried a powerful message. A good example of this is Joseph Addison’s play Cato: A Tragedy (1710), which was published by Liberty Fund in 2004.