Spartacus actor Andy Whitfield has died from cancer, aged 39, leaving behind a grieving wife and two children. Fans have flooded Twitter with tributes to the star.

Whitfield starred in 13 episodes of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, playing the role of a slave in the sex and violence-heavy Starz Network show. Spartacus was a soldier condemned to fight as a gladiator who eventually led a rebellion against the Romans.

The actor was born in Amlwch, Wales, but moved to Sydney in 1999. He had been battling Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for 18 months and began treatment while in New Zealand shooting Spartacus.

Andy Whitfield in costume for Spartacus.
Andy Whitfield in costume for Spartacus.

In June 2010, Whitfield was given the all-clear but the cancer returned and yesterday the actor died in his wife’s arms.

Vashti Whitfield said in a statement:

“On a beautiful sunny Sydney spring morning, surrounded by his family, in the arms of his loving wife, our beautiful young warrior Andy Whitfield lost his 18-month battle with lymphoma cancer.”

Andy Whitfield with his wife in 2008
Andy Whitfield with his wife Vashti in 2008.

In January, Starz network announced that Australian actor, Liam McIntyre, would take over the role in Spartacus after Whitfield became too ill to work.

On Sunday night, Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield. We were fortunate to have worked with Andy in ‘Spartacus’ and came to know that the man who played a champion on-screen was also a champion in his own life.”

On Twitter, Whitfield fans have poured out their sympathy.

“R.I.P Andy Whitfield. Such a young age too… GREAT Talent. He IS Spartacus,” wrote THEDeanBatch.

“Andy Whitfield died yesterday? The new season of Spartacus: Blood & Sand won’t be the same,” tweeted AngelElliott.

“RIP Andy Whitfield…Way too young…He was great in Spartacus….it puts our small struggles into perspective…May his memory live on, DVD,” said TrevDon.

Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the cancer of the lymphoid tissue which also affects the lymph nodes, spleen, and the whole immune system.