The politician, general, and real estate mogul Marcus Licinius Crassus was one of the major players in Roman history in the turbulent first century BCE. He became the richest man in Rome through ruthless business tactics, including the strategy of having a private fire brigade that would put out fires provided that the building’s owner sell it to Crassus at literal fire-sale prices.
But in Rome, large amounts of wealth was not everything. One needed military glory to rise to the top of the political ladder and achieving a day’s worth of godhood by riding into the city in a triumphal parade. Crassus would spend his whole career in pursuit of this form of glory traditionally won. But he would be eclipsed more than once by the preeminent generals of his age, first Pompey the Great, then Julius Caesar.
Crassus had a golden opportunity to be honored a hero by crushing the slave revolt of Spartacus, which raged from 73-71 BCE throughout Italy. The gladiator had broken out of his ludus with his comrades and incited up to 70,000 fellow slaves throughout Italy to rebel from their masters and ravage the countryside. Forming a disciplined army they thrashed a couple Roman legions before Crassus used his immense wealth to levy a new army that finally put down the revolt. However, after the decisive battle, a band of about 5,000 escaped and was captured by Pompey as he was returning from a campaign in Spain. Pompey reported to the Senate that he himself had put down the revolt. This would help propel Pompey to the height of his fame in the coming decade of the 60s BCE. Crassus seethed with rage for this, but decided to play the long game.
By the 50s BCE, Crassus had by then joined forces with Pompey, and a rising politician/general named Julius Caesar, in a trifecta that together dominated the Roman state. Caesar had conquered Gaul by then, and Crassus in 53 BCE tried to finally match his rival triumvirs’ fame by conquering the Parthian Empire to the east. The campaign was a miserable failure, as his army marching through the Iraqi desert parched with thirst was ambushed and annihilated. The story goes that Crassus, in requital for his career of crony capitalism, was executed by having molten gold poured down his throat.
In Pompey and Caesar’s shadow till the end, Crassus on his own is a rare theme for a metal song. But his connection to the legend of Spartacus is his surest ticket into heavy metal lyrics. Songs, and even whole albums that relate the Third Servile War are some of the more popular forms of metal classicism. This includes the debut EP “War of the Colossus” by the Mexican death/thrash metal band Remoria. The EP narrates the Third Servile War in its successive stages, up through its final battle at the Siler River. The band even has a song focused on Crassus himself. It is reasonable to suppose it’s no coincidence that this EP was released not long after the conclusion of the “Spartacus” drama series on Starz, in which Crassus is a major character who (casting historical accuracy to the winds) fights Spartacus almost to the death in single combat in the final minutes of the series. Even then, the arch-villain of the series has his thunder stolen by Pompey. With this song, Crassus gets the credit he deserved.