Weekend Reading: Ignoring Reality

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.


I spend a lot of time feeling judged.



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 


Pics this week from Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens (on Twitter and Facebook), which is far too funny.



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



Other stuff

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!]




2 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Ignoring Reality

  1. I’ve never watched Gladiator nor Alexander and could only manage the first half hour of Troy; on the other hand I enjoyed 300, and can watch time after time Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, with Ray Harryhausen special effects. These latter seem to me to have something of the spirit of wonder associated with the Greek myths….and what is reality?…and those cats look very jealous of their rights to that couch!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eating a frozen Pizza?!, at least put it in the oven Cora.. .!
    Yes, good old Roman gladiator hollywood.. bit ridiculous really, but I have to admit.. I do like those films for the cinematography.. and music… purely entertainment.


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