We start with a loincloth-clad and fairly miserable Thracian man shackled in a cell. Above is a gladiator match and the roar of a cheering crowd. As he awaits his fate, he flashes back...
In Thrace, a small Roman army lead by Gaius Claudius Glaber march into a village. The Thracians protest and order them to leave, but the Elder decides to hear them out. Glaber requests that Thrace and Rome ally against the conqueror Mithridates and his men. The Elder replies that Mithridates is of no concern to them (he is attacking Rome, not Thrace). Glaber compromises and promises that if they join forces, Rome will help Thrace against the barbarian invaders known as the Getae. Our protagonist speaks up and asks Glaber to promise that all the Getae will be dead by the end of the campaign. Glaber gives his word.
The Thracian returns to his home and tells his wife Sura the news. He and his comrades leave at first light. He solemnly promises that after this war, he will give up the sword and raise crops, goats, and children with her. They make love.
The next morning, Sura worriedly paces outside. The Thracian walks up and asks what is wrong. She had a dream that he was kneeling before a red serpent, his life draining away. She is afraid this means he will die in the war. He assures her that it was just a dream; the Getae worship wolves, not snakes. Sura begs him not to leave. He declares that he gave his word that he would fight. As a token to remember him by, he ties a ribbon around her right thigh. Sura declares, "Kill them all." He joins the rest of the Thracian army.
The Thracian army furiously battles the Getae in the snowy mountains. One warrior demands to know where the Romans are. The Elder is eventually killed after slaying several Getae. The Roman army finally arrives. A Getae warrior attempts to fire an arrow at our protagonist, but he throws his sword at him just in time. The Getae retreat, disappearing into the night. A Thracian named Drenis complains about the Romans being late.
Both armies set up camp for the night. Food is passed out, and Drenis complains that the Romans keep the good meat for themselves while giving the Thracians bones and guts. He proposes that they abandon this campaign, but our protagonist reminds everyone that they promised to work together, and he has no intention of breaking his word. Drenis mocks his outdated sense of honor. Drenis continues to complain and mock him until words come to blows and they brawl. Some Roman soldiers break up the fight and order the two to scout ahead and determine the enemy's movements. They reluctantly agree.
In his tent, Glaber studies a map, using figurines to represent his and the enemy troops. A figure in a fur coat enters and grabs him from behind. It turns out to be his wife, Ilithyia. She jokingly scolds him for how easy it was to sneak up on him, saying that if she had been an assassin, he would be dead. Glaber asks if she's gone crazy as women are forbidden on the battlefield and her father would be furious. She retorts that her father is too busy in the Senate to realize that she has left Capua. She adds that she dislikes living in Capua because it is too hot and it hasn't rained in ages. She offers him some Sesti Wine and asks how his campaign is going. He complains that he just found out that Mithridates has been spotted near the Black Sea and Legatus Cotta was assigned to take him down, while he's stuck in Thrace battling insignificant barbarians. Ilithyia suggests that Glaber and his army beat Cotta to the Black Sea and defeat Mithridates himself. That way, Glaber will get the glory, a promotion, and her father will be proud of him. She asks that he hurry back so he can watch the gladiator games with her. Ilithyia lets her fur coat drop and reveals that she's wearing absolutely nothing underneath (and is a natural blonde). They have sex.
Drenis and our protagonist crawl along the mountains and spot the Getae. In horror, they discover that the Getae are heading west, in the direction of their villages.
The pair return and report their findings to Glaber, urging him to take their troops to intercept the barbarians, as the Thracian villages' food, supplies, women, and children are at risk. Glaber rolls his eyes and declares that they are obviously incompetent at scouting, and he will send Roman scouts in the morning to properly assess the situation. He says they are dismissed. Our protagonist urges him to listen, but Glaber angrily roars that they are dismissed and they reluctantly leave. Glaber tells Ilithyia that he couldn't care less about the Getae, and if he wastes time protecting the Thracian villages, he will be too late to defeat Mithridates before Cotta can. He orders her to return to Capua and boasts that when she next sees him, he will be a colossus towering above the enemies of Rome.
As the pair return to their part of the camp, our protagonist complains about Glaber mocking their report. He remarks that Glaber is dangerous because he's a fool with a title; people listen to him and doom themselves. Drenis says to relax, and reveals that he stole the Sesti Wine while no one was looking.
The next morning, Drenis has a hangover as everyone wakes up. The Thracians discuss how they can still catch up to the Getae if they leave now. The Romans ride up and declare that everyone head to the Black Sea to fight Mithridates. Our protagonist stands his ground and reminds the Romans that they promised to help them defeat the Getae. Glaber angrily yells to obey him and tries to strike the Thracian, but he grabs the horse's reins, causing it to throw Glaber. The Thracians fall upon the Romans and slaughter them. One tries to escape, and our protagonist throws a spear through his head. A Thracian named Byzo asks if everyone has gone crazy as they've just made Rome their enemy. Drenis retorts that they had no choice as they need to get back to their villages ASAP. They decide to humiliate Glaber by leaving him unconscious and facedown in the mud.
In the foggy forest, Sura is picking fruit when she sees Getae approaching. She tries to run, but is knocked down and surrounded. They prepare to rape her when she bashes one's skull in with a rock. She steals his sword and fights the others off. Suddenly, a sword flies out of the fog and kills another one. It's our protagonist to the rescue. They continue to slay Getae until the last one knocks him over and begins to strangle him. Sura kills the barbarian just in time. They kiss. They return to their village, but find that it has been burned to the ground and they have no choice but to leave.
The two set up camp and he apologizes for trusting the Romans, remarking that if he had never left, none of this would have happened. Sura tells him not to be so hard on himself and patches up a wound on his back. Sura wonders if everyone in their village is dead, but he assures her that the survivors of every village will regroup in the south. Sura thanks him for saving her and they have sex.
The next morning, the two sigh contentedly in each other's arms, then in horror find that they are completely surrounded by Roman soldiers. Some grab Sura and drag her (still completely naked) away. The others grab our protagonist (again, still completely naked) and beat the crap out of him. Glaber walks up and angrily explains that because of his betrayal, half of his men were killed and his campaign now has no choice but to return to Rome. The Thracian says that he accepts his punishment, but begs them to let Sura go. Glaber declares that Sura has been sentenced to slavery. Glaber boasts that the Thracian will die under Rome's vast shadow, then knocks him out cold with a punch.
The Thracian wakes up on a ship. He, Drenis, Byzo, and their comrades are chained up and wearing only loincloths. Drenis remarks that they weren't sure he would make it, he's been unconscious for days. The ship is headed for Capua. Our protagonist asks where Sura is. They don't know.
In Capua, Glaber surprises Ilithyia at her balcony, mimicking her joke about assassins. He tries to disrobe her, but she scolds him and says that now is not the time for that. Everyone is mad at him for failing his campaign, so it was a bad idea for him to come back to Capua so soon. He shrugs this off, claiming that the upcoming gladiator games will cheer everyone up, especially since he brought Thracian blood to be spilled. Senator Albinus, aka Ilithyia's father arrives and immediately begins yelling at the slaves to work harder. Glaber hopes Albinus will accept his suggestion to bring the Thracian prisoners to the arena. She says not to worry, her father always listens to her when she pleads with teary eyes.
Senator Albinus throws a huge party, which includes slavegirls dancing naked in pools of wine. Albinus and Ilithyia welcome the guests and present gifts of imported water from Rome. They then promise gifts of blood in the arena tomorrow. The guests cheer.
Quintus Lentulus Batiatus and his wife Lucretia present two of their finest gladiators: Crixus, the Undefeated Gaul and Champion of Capua, and Barca, the Beast of Carthage, for tomorrow's games. Albinus accepts and thanks them. Marcus Decius Solonius presents six of his gladiators. This is also accepted. Batiatus whispers to Lucretia in disgust that Solonius makes a mockery of the entire sport of gladiatorial combat and he can't stand him. Glaber presents the Thracian prisoners and declares they will be executed in the arena by the gladiators for the crime of betraying Rome. The guests cheer. Ilithyia whispers to her father that Glaber's suggestion worked. He replies not to ask him for anything again, her tears will fail her.
Batiatus whispers to Lucretia that the execution of prisoners is also a mockery of gladiatorial combat. Solonius walks up and explains that his gladiators have been assigned against the Thracians. Solonius mocks Crixus and Barca and leaves. Batiatus swears to one day kill him.
Byzo stares mesmerized at all the lovely women around them. Drenis chuckles and tells him to enjoy while he can, as this is their last day on Earth. Two of Solonius' gladiators are training with wooden swords, when one points his weapon at our protagonist, indicating that he is his opponent.
We cut back to the present. Guards remove the Thracian's shackles and bring him to the arena's side gate. Drenis is fighting a gladiator, and is outmatched. Drenis and our protagonist lock eyes. Drenis smiles before he is finished off. We see that Byzo and the others have already been killed.
Our protagonist is handed a sword and ordered into the arena. He is faced against the gladiator who pointed at him earlier. Before the match can begin, three more gladiators enter. The crowd boos, screaming that four against one is unfair. Senator Albinus demands an explanation. Glaber and Ilithyia explain that this man led the Thracian betrayal. It is not enough to kill him, he must be humiliated for his defiance as an example for all. The crowd continues to boo, but Albinus reluctantly orders the match to begin.
Our protagonist fights well at first, but is surrounded and takes massive damage. He falls to his knees. The shield of one of the gladiators has a red serpent design on it. Upon seeing it, he realizes that Sura's dream has come true. He suddenly hears Sura's voice, "Kill them all." With renewed strength, he fights back and kills one gladiator. The crowd cheers. He grabs one and uses him as a shield against another, then slices the third one's legs off. After killing the fourth one, the crowd calls for him to finish off the legless gladiator who is trying to crawl away, so he does. The crowd is ecstatic and chants for him to live.
Glaber is furious and demands that he die, but Albinus states that disobeying the crowd is a very bad idea. Batiatus says he has an idea. He will purchase the Thracian and train him to be a gladiator. This will please the crowd, and he will die eventually, which should satisfy Glaber. Batiatus asks what the Thracian's name is, but Glaber replies that he never bothered to learn his name. Batiatus shrugs and says he will name him Spartacus after the legendary Thracian king.
Albinus declares that they will let Spartacus live, and the crowd goes wild, chanting "Spartacus" over and over again. Glaber glares at Spartacus, and Spartacus glares back, determined to live so he can one day get his hands on him.
Tropes appearing in this episode:
* ArcSymbol: The red serpent.
* CondemnedContestant: Spartacus and the other Thracians.
* ContinuitySnarl: When Sura was carried by the Romans, her breasts are exposed. However, when this is flash backed in future seasons, she's donning a ModestyBedsheet ''differently'' depending on season.
* NakedInMink: Ilithyia.
* NamedAfterSomebodyFamous: Spartacus came from the legendary Thracian king of the same name.