In the first century BC, the Roman Republic has slid into corruption, its menial work done by armies of slaves. One of these, a proud and gifted Thracian named Spartacus, is so unco-operative in his position in a mining pit that he is sentenced to death by starvation. By chance, he is displayed to unctuous Roman businessman Lentulus Batiatus, who – impressed by his ferocity – purchases Spartacus for his gladiatorial school, where he instructs trainer Marcellus to not overdo his indoctrination because he thinks "he has quality". Amid the abuse, Spartacus forms a quiet relationship with a serving woman named Varinia, whom he refuses to rape when she is sent to "entertain" him in his cell. Spartacus and Varinia are subsequently forced to endure numerous humiliations for defying the conditions of servitude.