This week has been all about ‘Gladiator’. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s 20 years this week since the movie was released.
That makes me feel old.
I went to the cinema to see it, as a Classics undergraduate with (admittedly) only a vague knowledge of the period in which it was set. I was… not too offended by it. That, at the time, was high praise. A group of us got kicked out of a showing of ‘Troy’ a few years later for heckling. And don’t even get me started on what happened with ‘Alexander’.
The funny thing is that I’m not sure I’ve seen ‘Gladiator’ since then. Lots of people have been talking about how it inspired them or fascinated them – but for me, it mostly represented the bits of Roman culture that I’ve always done my best to ignore. My literary Romans are idly whiling away the day in the shade of a tree with a nice bottle of wine, or contemplating unlikely schemes to restore the Republic. Yes, I’m aware of the slavery, blood-lust and general nastiness… but if I thought about them too much I might not be as fond of the Romans as I am.
So ‘Gladiator’ is not entirely my cup of tea, impressive and dramatic as it is. However, there is a watch-along happening tonight (9pm UK time; classicists will be on Twitter using the hashtag #Gladiator2020) – so maybe I’ll give it another go…
A lot of people will likely be critical of my determination to ignore reality – and they’re probably quite right. Certainly a clear-sighted, warts-and-all view of the Roman world is more objective, more scholarly and possibly healthier. But ignoring reality is one of my talents. For instance, I’m pretending that there’s a possibility I might watch a movie tonight, instead of marking till midnight. I’m pretending that I’m looking forward to yet another dinner of frozen pizza (at least it’s better than my cooking!). I’m also pretending that I have this sofa to myself, and that every move of my arm doesn’t have to be approved by committee.
Reality is over-rated, I think.
For those who want to read more about the Gladiator-related fun this week, here are some links:
Legacy of Gladiator – Film School Rejects
Things you might not know – London Indoors
Gladiator at 20 – The Guardian
Did Gladiator deserve the Oscar? – The Guardian
Gladiator at 20 – Variety
Gladiator at 20: interview – Yahoo
Finally I’d like to say a big thank-you to my lovely Comfort Classics guests this week – most of whom (by sheer coincidence) have a north-east England connection. On Monday I talked to Newcastle professor Jaap Wisse, who a long time ago had the very dubious privilege of supervising my PhD; then on Tuesday I heard from Dr Emma Bridges, who works now in London but comes originally from the North-East. Frederick Armour – a self-taught reader of Greek and North-East railway man – kindly contributed his views on Pindar on Thursday. Then today I got to catch up with an old friend, Susan Raikes, who helped me out enormously when I first started teaching (badly!) in North-East comprehensive schools, and who went on to have a fabulous career in museum education.
And of course – at the request of several readers – I also talked to Professor Michael Scott. The things I do to make you all happy…
I’ve got some great interviews lined up for next week – but if you’re reading this and would like to join in, do get in touch with me through the Contact form!
Have a good Bank Holiday weekend, everyone!
This week’s links from around the Classics Internet
Extraordinary Roman sinkhole – Ancient Origins
The Pictish diet – The Scotsman
Roman fish argument – The Times
Comment and opinion
Northern warriors in Scotland – The Scotsman
Everything you wanted to know about Roman Britain – History Extra
Civil engineering wonders of the ancient world – Obscure Antiquity
Women in Classics: Barbara Gold – Society for Classical Studies
What to do with a Classics degree – Eidolon
Classics and cannibalism – Obscure Antiquity
Fake antiquities – British Museum Blog
How the Romans built ships – iTech Post
Scapegoating foreigners for plagues – Sententiae Antiquae
Podcasts, video and other media
Electra read aloud – Classics For All
Putin, clouds and gladiators – There Will Be a Test
Translating Suetonius – Emperors of Rome
Syrian Matriarchs – History Hack
PhD on Alexander in later culture – British Library
Stephen Spender Translation Prize – The Stephen Spender Trust
Free e-book on Agamemnon – Apple Books
Review of Rob Cromarty’s Tacitus commentary – Classics for All [by me!]