Tag Archives: history

The Classical World on Film

 Movies transport us to faraway times and exotic locales. They can provide intimate portraits of great figures and a front row view of major events. On the other hand, they can present biased or inaccurate histories and exaggerate human traits. Many films have been made about Classical civilizations. In this assignment, we will wrestle with the question:

Do historical films help or hinder our understanding of Classical civilizations?

Watch a movie that features Ancient Greece or Rome and consider the following questions:

  1. Were there inaccuracies in the movie compared to the material in our course?
  2. What did you learn from the movie that you did not already know?
  3. Were there any underlying values or opinions being presented by the director in the way (s)he depicted the main theme of the film or the way (s)he portrayed the heroes and villains of the story?
  4. How did the depiction of this event or person compare to reading about the same topic?
  5. Did you have an emotional reaction to the film, why or why not? How do your own history and experiences affect how you perceive the film?
  6. Did the film have an impact at the time of release on society’s perspective of the event and people involved? Did the film change your perspective about the people or event?

Write a review of the film (2 – 3 pages) based on your answers to the above questions. The review must contain:

1) Introduction: Give the title of your movie, the year and country where it was made, and a list of its starring cast and crew. Was it a big budget blockbuster, an indie film, a made for TV movie or an educational resource? Include any awards it won.

2) Content: Give a BRIEF plot summary of the movie.

3) Research and Analysis: Do you think that your movie portrays the ancient world with a great deal of historical accuracy? You will need to conduct research for this section and make connections between the film and the historical period or event that it portrays. Be sure to cite any quotations you use in this section properly (either in-text citations or footnotes and a works cited page).

4) Conclusion and Review: State whether or not you would recommend this film to others in order to enhance their appreciation of Classical Civilizations and include any questions you may still have after viewing the film.

Due Wednesday July 18

Examples of Films:

–       Agora (2009)

–       Rome (2005/2006)

–       Alexander (2004)

–       Spartacus (1960)

–       Ben-Hur (1959)

–       Clash of the Titans (2010)

–       The Trojan Women (1971)

–       Cleopatra (1963

–       The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

–       The Last Legion (2007)

–       Gladiator (2000)

–       Antony and Cleopatra (1972)

–       Hercules (1997)

–       Caligula (1979)

–       I, Claudius (1976)

–       The Eagle (2011)

–       Julius Caesar (1970)

–       Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

–       The Odyssey (1997)

–       Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010)

–       Alexander the Great (1956)

–        300 (2006)

Here is a link to the Odyssey movie we were watching in class today. We stopped at 1:38.


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Seminar: An Introduction to the Classical World

Discussion Question 1: What comes to mind when you think of the word “classical”?

Classical Periods:

  • Greece: Athens, 600-400 BCE
  • Rome: Roman Empire, 100 BCE – 14 CE

Discussion Question 2: How do we study Classical Civilizations?

History: The Greeks were the first to attempt to record history.

Herodotus (484 – 425 BCE): “The Father of History” – attempted to record events and human actions for the sole purpose of preserving them for future generations.

  • Wrote Histories (450’s 420’s BCE) – 9 books about the events and causes of the Greco-Persian wars and other conflicts
  • Criticized for including myths, folk legends, and outrageous tales

Thucydides (460 – 395 BCE) Wrote a History of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE), the first attempt to present history in an “objective” way, and to make correlations between cause and effect and observations about human behaviour and its relation to events

  • Placed value on eyewitness testimony (he was a soldier in the Peloponnesian war and survived the Athenian plague), and did not write about divine intervention in human affairs

Discussion Question 3: Fox focuses on three main THEMES: Freedom, Justice, and Luxury. Why do you think Fox chooses these themes? (See Fox page 7-9)


The Homeric Epic (Fox p. 13-23)

-An epic is a long work of heroic poetry that succeeded in becoming traditional, helped to establish a sense of national identity, and reinforced accepted values. Recited orally,  they would take 2-3 days to recite.

-Homer lived in 8th C. BCE but his major works (The Iliad, The Odyssey) are about the Bronze Age, “The Age of Heroes,” (c. 1100 BCE) and they are not factual histories.

Discussion Question 4: Why are the Homeric epics useful for learning about Greek Civilization even though we know they are not factual?


Values in the Homeric epics include:

  • Courage in battle and noble conduct
  • Physical strength and beauty
  • Loyalty
  • Hospitality between equals – Xenia
  • Rigid social order
  • Wit and cleverness in speech and actions
  • Religious devoutness and loyalty to the Gods
  • Luxury – ornate palaces, precious clothes and adornments
  • Love between men (Achilles and Patroclus) and heterosexual love (Penelope and Odysseus)
  • Freedom from enslavement to a foreign power
  • Justice – human and divine (theodicy)

Discussion Question 5: Think about the values evident in works written about our society. Do you think humanity is mostly the same, or have we changed significantly since ancient Greece?



Works Cited

Cahill, Thomas. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter. New York: Anchor Books,             2004.

Cantor, Norman F. Antiquity: The Civilization of the Ancient World. New York: HarperCollins,              2003.

“History of Greece: Introduction.” Ancient-Greece.org. N.p., June 2007. Web. 21 June 2012.             <http://www.ancient-greece.org/history/intro.html&gt;.

Lane Fox, Robin. The Classical World: an Epic History of Greece and Rome. London: Penguin             Books, 2005.


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