Ancient RomearchaeologistsdiscoveriesFILMHistorianmoviesPh.D.Professor Gregory S. AldretescholarshipThe Great CoursesTrending CoursesTV


  •  Draw fascinating (and shocking) connections between movies set in historic Rome and science fiction movies.
  •  Discover two big-budget movie takes on the mysterious legend of historic Rome’s “lost legion.”
  •  Dispel the parable of full of life leisure drug use in historic Rome and Egypt offered by HBO’s Rome sequence.


When most of us consider the traditional Roman world, we don’t take into consideration the scholarship of hard-working historians or the discoveries of affected person archaeologists. We predict, at the beginning, of what we’ve seen on the films.

From the sword-and-sandal epics of the 1950s to the resurgence of grittier tales within the 21st century, cinema has exerted an simple energy over our cultural understanding of historic Rome. The iconography is all the time contemporary in our minds: gladiatorial battles and chariot races, defiant slaves and nefarious emperors, magnificent public buildings and white toga costumes. However simply because these and different sights are fashionable in films doesn’t imply they need to all the time be taken as historic reality.

What would an award-winning historian consider movies like Ben-HurSpartacusGladiator, or perhaps a satire like Monty Python’s Lifetime of Brian? How have these and different films created our fashionable perceptions of historic Roman historical past—and in what methods have they led us astray? And why, regardless of the occasional box-office flop, do films set in historic Rome nonetheless have the facility to captivate us, and to show every of us into theater-going historical past buffs?

In A Historian Goes to the Films: Historical Rome, Professor Gregory S. Aldrete makes use of his prolific scholarship to provide you a front-row have a look at the nice films which have formed historic Rome’s function in fashionable tradition and reminiscence. Full of insights into each historical past and filmmaking, these 12 lectures immerse you within the glory and grandeur (and, generally, the folly) of traditional and modern movies that includes over 50 years of cinematic expertise, together with administrators like Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, and Ridley Scott, and actors similar to Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, Elizabeth Taylor, Patrick Stewart, and Russell Crowe. You’ll examine portrayals of historic Roman life on the large display screen and small display screen; learn to tease out reality from fiction in a few of Hollywood’s most gorgeous spectacles; and deepen your appreciation for movies that, when made proper, are thrilling time machines into the previous.

Survey Landmark Movie and TV

For A Historian Goes to the Films: Historical Rome, Professor Aldrete has assembled 13 of what he and plenty of different movie buffs take into account to be an important movies set in historic Rome. These are films we bear in mind for his or her performances, their costumes and set designs, and the methods they influenced the flicks made of their wake. A few of the options you’ll discover embody:

  • Quo Vadis: This high-profile 1951 movie, starring Peter Ustinov because the tyrannical emperor Nero and Deborah Kerr as a virtuous younger Christian woman, established a profitable (and profitable) template for films about classical antiquity and the early Christian world, and sparked a cultural hearth for sword-and-sandal flicks.
  • I, Claudius: Primarily based on two novels by Robert Graves, this BBC miniseries tracks the intimate lives of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which incorporates the emperors Claudius, Caligula, and Tiberius. The present additionally captured the eye of a second group of viewers: these obsessive about England’s royal household.
  • Fellini Satyricon: Italian director Federico Fellini’s experimental movie, primarily based on the traditional novel Satyricon by Petronius, was very a lot a product of the cinematic and social revolutions of the 1960s—each of which left an indelible mark on this picaresque story of a pleasure-seeking younger Roman man.
  • Gladiator: Primarily a remake of the 1964 movie, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Ridley Scott’s blockbuster movie from 2000 was a business and cultural triumph that snagged Academy Awards, spawned memorable catchphrases, and impressed a number of latest sword-and-sandal epics within the subsequent decade, together with Troy and 300.

Some movies chances are you’ll already be a fan of; different movies you might need solely heard of in passing. However all of them are important to a well-rounded understanding of the intricate relationship between the world of historic Rome and the world of the flicks.

Stroll the Line between Fact and Fiction

A scholar who’s spent his total profession immersed within the historical past of the traditional Roman world (from historic physique armor to on a regular basis life), Professor Aldrete reveals the historic accuracies and inaccuracies of the traditional Roman world depicted in these movies. When filmmakers seemingly received sure facets of historical past unsuitable, Professor Aldrete gives a window into how and why the creators made sure selections and navigated the tenuous line between fact and leisure. For instance, you’ll uncover that:

  • Ben-Hur‘s naval battle, while a reasonable depiction of naval warfare in the ancient Roman world, nevertheless, depicts the oarsmen of the warships as slaves (they weren’t) and being despatched to the galleys as punishment (it wasn’t);
  • Spartacus misrepresents the title character’s historic legacy by depicting his revolt as a rising motion difficult slavery, when in actuality, it marked the tip of fashionable opposition to the establishment;
  • I, Claudius portrays the character of Livia as a mass assassin who kills a number of members of her circle of relatives to clear the way in which for her son, Tiberius—a notion that has been confirmed to doubtless be false, and might be traced to a selected historic historian, Cassius Dio.
  • Gladiator makes use of the acquainted “thumbs down” gesture to point a defeated gladiator ought to be killed, whereas, latest scholarship has revealed this gesture was almost definitely a approach of calling for the victor to drop his weapon and spare his enemy;
  • HBO’s Rome will get many issues proper about on a regular basis life in historic Rome, together with two traits of Roman faith—that it’s a part of practically all sides of life and that people differ of their levels of perception; and
  • Fellini Satyricon, regardless of its surreal elements, depicts a wedding ceremony precisely by dressing the bride with an orange veil and having the visitors throw nuts on the couple and shout “feliciter” in congratulations.

Go behind the Scenes of Cinematic Classics

Together with a revealing have a look at historic historical past, these lectures additionally study the artwork and craft of big-budget filmmaking. A Historian Goes to the Films: Historical Rome takes you behind the scenes to disclose how iconic movies might be made—or unmade—by all the things from clashes between administrators and actors to out-of-control budgets.

For instance, you’ll find out how:

  • Early epics like Ben-Hur couldn’t depend on the luxurious of computer-generated results and, due to this fact, needed to assemble spectacular, full-sized replicas of historic Roman websites just like the Discussion board or the Circus Maximus;
  • Fall of the Roman Empire was the true box-office bomb that tanked the sword-and-sandals style for many years (not Cleopatra, as popularly believed); and
  • Inventive variations between a historic marketing consultant and the producers of Gladiator replicate the way in which filmmakers ditch historic accuracy for the sake of drama.

Professor Aldrete additionally highlights profound connections between these movies and the broader historic tradition during which they first appeared. Quo Vadis, for instance, made only some years after the tip of World Warfare II, noticeably portrays the Romans as mirror pictures of the Nazis. And Spartacus, regardless of its message of freedom, turned the goal of McCarthy-era conservative and non secular teams who condemned it for being anti-American.

A Information for Tomorrow’s Nice Movies

In fact, the tip of this thrilling lecture sequence doesn’t imply there isn’t extra to return. Roman historical past continues to encourage new cinematic depictions, and A Historian Goes to the Films: Historical Rome is a welcome information to settings, themes, and “bread-and-circus” plots that fashionable tradition simply can’t let go of.

Professor Aldrete’s lectures depart you enthusiastic about how tomorrow’s films will depict the traditional world—and keen to find what these inventive works will reveal about each the previous and the occasions during which they’re made.

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