Starz to end its hit 'Spartacus' after 2013 season

"Spartacus" fans are going to have to get their fix of slow-motion blood spatter somewhere else after 2013, when Starz' most popular series wraps up its third -- and final -- season with "Spartacus: War of the Damned," the premium-cable network announced Monday.

“The fans have been tremendously supportive of our show,” said "Spartacus" creator and executive producer, Steven S. DeKnight in an understatement released by Starz, which also said the series averaged more than 6 million U.S. viewers last season and aired in 150 countries in 15 languages. 

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Liam McIntyre is Starz' second "Spartacus"

“We did not come to this decision lightly.  It was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for my partners and I.  Yet, in the end, the story was best served by rolling all of the remaining action and drama of Spartacus' journey into one stunningly epic season that will be extremely satisfying for everyone who's been along for the ride."

"We are in agreement with our partners in the decision to conclude the story after ‘War of the Damned,’ as we believe it is the best way to maintain the integrity of the series and secure its legacy," said Starz CEO Chris Albrecht.  "While everyone may know the fate of Spartacus, we believe this will be a spectacular season that will startle, amaze and honor the legions of fans.”

(And if you didn't happen to know the fate of Spartacus, I'm not going to spoil it for you here. But "War of the Damned" doesn't suggest a happy ending, does it?)

Now shooting in New Zealand and scheduled to begin in January, the 10-episode third season, according to Starz, takes place after "the defeat of Roman commander Gaius Claudius Glaber. Spartacus and his men have amassed major victories against the Romans after the Battle of Vesuvius.  These victories have not only forged the legend of Spartacus, but have greatly increased the ranks of the rebellion slaves to more than 30,000. Rome is indeed beginning to tremble at the threat Spartacus now represents."

In its relatively short history, "Spartacus" helped make Starz a player in the realm of original series, though none of its other shows have so far captured the kind of viewership that the violent, highly stylized epic did.

Few shows on any network have faced the tragedy it did, in losing the actor who'd played the title character.

When Andy Whitfield, the show's first Spartacus, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma after starring in the show's successful first season, producers delayed the second while he sought treatment, producing instead a Spartacus-free prequel that focused on characters played by John Hannah and Lucy Lawless.

Sadly, Whitfield's cancer returned, and he gave up the role. He was eventually replaced by Liam McIntyre. Whitfield died last September at the age of 39.