Andy Whitfield, 39, the actor best known for the title role in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, has died. He passed away Sunday in Sydney, Australia, 18 months after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Whitfield's family issued a statement saying that the actor's death was peaceful. "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," Whitfield's wife Vashti said in a statement. "He passed peacefully surrounded by love. Thank you to all his fans whose love and support have help carry him to this point. He will be remembered as the inspiring, courageous and gentle man, father and husband he was."

A native of Wales, Whitfield moved to Australia and began appearing in television shows there, including All Saints and Packed to the Rafters. His big break came when he was cast as the lead in Starz's reboot of the classic Roman empire rebellion tale, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Whitfield was diagnosed in March 2010 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a kind of blood cancer, and because of treatment was not able to to reprise his role in a six-part prequel called Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, although he did some voice over work for that show.

The Starz network also released a statement about Whitfield's death. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Andy Whitfield," said Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht. "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. Andy was an inspiration to all of us as he faced this very personal battle with courage, strength and grace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. He will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and fans."