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Campus Author - Classics on Screen; Ancient Greece and Rome on Film

classics on screen

Alastair J.L. Blanshard & Kim Shahabudin, Study Advisor at the University of Reading Library

Bristol Classical Press, 2011

ISBN - 978 0 7156 3724 1

Rome may never have had regular orgies, saluted its emperors with raised arms, or condemned gladiators to die with a downward point of a thumb, yet thanks to cinema all of these have become absolute mainstays of popular conceptions about Roman culture.

In our modern cinematic world public understanding of the Roman and Greek classics is often based on the pervasive images of Hollywood epics. Fact becomes fiction, classics become fantasy, and the most arresting of these become blockbusters of classical antiquity.

From traditional to Disney, from epic to satire the authors move beyond simple description, to enrich the reader with an understanding of the classics from the time they were created. Attitudes of the time had impact on every film, changes in politics were reflected in the cinematography, and this book examines the representation of Greece and Rome in popular and art-house cinema.

Co-author Kim Shahabudin says: ‘The book offers a survey of ways in which the ancient world has been represented in popular cinema, from the beginning of sound in movies to the present day. The discussion is structured around ten case studies, each representing a different style of film, which gives us the opportunity to show how film genres, styles and audiences can all affect the way that antiquity is portrayed. The films cover a variety of historical and literary narratives inspired by the ancient world. The book should be of interest to those interested in Classics and in Film, as well as the more general reader who wants to know more about some of the most popular films in cinema history, including Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Gladiator (2000) and Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979).'

Arranged by genre, the plot of the narrative is discussed along with any key themes and scenes after a section on the background to enhance the reader's understanding. The historical context of each film is explained, often with striking differences to the filmmaker's adaptation. The book originates from the University of Reading's Classics Department after a popular Part 1 course, and aims to provide an introduction to how the ancient world has been portrayed in cinema.

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