The story begins with an unnamed Thracian's involvement in a campaign against the Getae (Dacian tribes, in what today is Romania) under the command of the legatus, Claudius Glaber. In 72–71 BC, Roman general Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, proconsul of the Roman province of Macedonia, marched against the Getae, allies of Rome's enemy, Mithridates VI of Pontus. The Getae frequently raid the Thracians' lands to the south, so the Thracians are persuaded by Glaber to enlist in the Romans' service as auxiliaries. Glaber, persuaded by his wife Ilithyia to seek greater glory, decides to break off the Getae campaign in order to confront the forces of Mithridates in Asia Minor. The Thracian preferring to protect his homeland as promised, feels betrayed and leads a mutiny against Glaber, but returns to find his village in flames. The Thracian finds his wife Sura, but they are captured by a vengeful Glaber the next day; the Thracian is condemned to die in the gladiator arena, while Sura is condemned to slavery.