An unparalleled exploration of films set in Ancient Rome, from the silent Cleopatra to the modern rendition of Ben-Hur.
No sooner had the dazzling new technology of cinema been invented near the end of the 19th century than filmmakers immediately turned to ancient history for inspiration. Nero, Cleopatra, Caesar, and more all found their way to the silver screen and would return again and again in the decades that followed. But just how accurate were these depictions of Ancient Rome?
In Ancient Rome on the Silver Screen: Myth versus Reality, Gregory S. Aldrete and Graham Sumner provide a fascinating examination of 50 films set in Ancient Rome, analyzing each for its historical accuracy of plot, characters, costumes and sets. They also divulge insights into the process of making each movie and the challenges the filmmakers faced in bringing the Roman world to vivid cinematic life. Beginning with the classics from the dawn of cinema, through the great golden age of sword-and-sandals flicks in the 1950s, to the dramatic epics of the modern day, Aldrete and Sumner test the authenticity of Hollywood’s version of history.
Featuring remarkable custom-made paintings depicting characters as they appeared in film and how they should have appeared if they were historically correct, Ancient Rome on the Silver Screen delivers an invaluable perspective of film and history. This unique collaboration between professional illustrator and award-winning Roman historian offers a deeper understanding of modern cinema and brings Roman history to life.
Gregory S. Aldrete is Professor Emeritus of History and Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Winner of numerous national fellowships and awards as both a scholar and a teacher, his books about the ancient world include The Long Shadow of Antiquity: What Have the Greeks and Romans Done For Us? and Daily Life in the Roman City. His research has been featured in several television documentaries and in New Yorker magazine, Atlantic magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Der Spiegel magazine, and more.
Graham Sumner has written and illustrated publications on Ancient Rome for almost forty years. His works include three publications on Roman military clothing and he has written the only standard work on Roman military dress. Sumner wrote a series of articles for Ancient History magazine analyzing how the Roman army has been depicted onscreen, and was recently a historical advisor for the film, Illyricum.
This is a fascinating book that expertly goes behind the scenes to show how the needs of Hollywood have often clashed with the realities of the Roman past. Entertaining and erudite, its broad sweep of cinematic history tells a story of the use and abuse of ancient realities on an epic scale.
Aldrete’s book is a triumph. Unlike the—many—other books that discuss ancient Rome and the cinema, it successfully combines historical analysis and film criticism. And it does so in an accessible writing style that does not presume prior knowledge of the bibliography of Roman history. It provides everything the reader needs to understand and appreciate these works of cinema, and to untangle fact from fiction, history from modern storytelling.
Graham Sumner is one of the finest illustrators of the ancient world living today, with a unique talent for bringing the past to life. His work animates his subjects in a very eye catching way. Graham also has an encyclopaedic knowledge of movies, which makes this work such a joy.
Includes incredibly detailed custom-made paintings showing characters as they appeared in film, and then how they should have appeared if they were historically correct