- 03:22 AM, May 23
Before Spartacus struck down his first opponent in the arena, there were many gladiators who passed though the gates onto the sand. "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," the highly anticipated prequel to Starz' hit series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," tells the story of the original Champion of the House of Batiatus: Gannicus (Dustin Clare) in a more ruthless time before Spartacus' arrival where honor was just finding it's way into the arena. The new series adds to the cast Jaime Murray as Capua's sexy social climber Gaia and Marisa Ramirez as Melitta, a beautiful slave who must face the ultimate decision of the heart. Jeffrey Thomas plays Batiatus's father Titus, the traditional and cautious Lanista, head of the Ludus. They join returning cast members John Hannah (Quintus Batiatus), Lucy Lawless (Lucretia), Peter Mensah (Oenomaus, before he becomes Doctore, the gladiator trainer) and Manu Bennett (Crixus). As the prequel begins, Quintus Batiatus is the acting Lanista while his father Titus is on an extended visit to Sicilia. But Batiatus isn't satisfied with just the thought of taking over the Ludus one day; he aspires to political power and prestige in Capua, and perhaps beyond.In the class-conscious world of ancient Rome, the House of Batiatus must first earn the respect of both politicians and socialites before being granted the right for its gladiators to fight in the much-revered championship bouts called the Primus. Batiatus must not only survive the harsh politics of Capua, but also compel his hedonistic fighter, Gannicus, to embrace being a champion gladiator who will bring esteem and respect to the House of Batiatus."Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" is produced by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen and Steven S. DeKnight. Season one of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" was the highest rated show for the 18-49 demographic among all cable networks for 12 of the 13 Fridays on which it aired based on coverage rating.